Biloxi’s first roadways

Can you guess which of Biloxi’s streets is the oldest?  You might be surprised.  When the first settlers made landfall on the southernmost shores of this city’s peninsula, they did not encounter a ready-made path to travel east and west.

 Indeed, the first documented byway appearing on maps through Biloxi is drawn as a narrow line near the future site of the railroad. Laden with thick trees, this thin path would have been lonely and dirt-based.  It was on this original passageway that the early Native Americans traveled. Probably chosen for its highest altitude and away from ponds and streams, the early inhabitants traveled along this wiggly line, safe from the erosion and waves of recurring storms. Thus, the first official street of Biloxi was actually today’s Howard Avenue and Pass Road.

We have no idea what the early Native Americans called this path, but we can research various names for this street through recent times.  Originally, the road was called “Pass Christian Road” because it was the path that folks used to travel from Point Cadet (“Pointe Caddie”) to Christian Ladner’s property on the western end of Harrison County.  As times changed, so did the roadway names. More than a century ago, in appreciation for the donations from the Howard Family, Biloxi renamed its easternmost section of Pass Road as “Howard Avenue.”  Interestingly, there are various names for this original road:  West Howard, East Howard, the Pass road, Pass Christian Road, and, now, Pass Road. 

Even the roadway itself has changed, from dirt roads, shell roads, brick pathway, and now asphalt. Traveling through time in history books and photos, one can imagine journeying by barefoot, moccasin, horseback, buggy, streetcars, and automobile.

Once upon a time Pass Christian Road even traveled through the middle of the present-day Keesler Air Force Base.  Did you know that the western segment of Biloxi’s Pass Road was occupied by both a busy speedway racetrack and a popular drive-in movie theater?

Popp and his ferry: With the new Popp’s Ferry Causeway Park about to open, it’s a good time to reminisce about the old Popp’s Ferry Road, named after John Popp, who operated a ferry service near the present bridge. Beginning as a simple dirt road, history records that, in 1914, this popular passageway was upgraded to a safer shell road to accommodate increased traffic. In 1970, infrastructure improvements uncovered a section of logs strewn under that roadbed, revealing the remnants of an old corduroy road.  These were roads fabricated by utilizing fallen logs, allowing more stable rides over muddy areas.

 911 help: Still looking for Grandma’s old address when she lived in Biloxi back in the day?  During the late 1980s, when the emergency 911 calling system came in place, many streets were renamed and renumbered.  Even though her old tattered love letters might indicate that she lived on West Beach, the secret to that location might need to be translated. Visit the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Biloxi Library to find the answer.


The writer is manager of the Local History and Genealogy section of the Biloxi Public Library. Email her at