Leland, Mississippi (population 5,500) founded in 1886 and located on the western side of the state, was once referred to as “The Hellhole of the Delta” but has undergone dramatic changes. Cotton sparked the development of the region, and railroad building ignited it. Once the worst of bawdy railroad towns, Leland was eventually cleaned up by its residents, who turned the city’s centerpiece Deer Creek into a showplace and built beautiful homes along its banks.
Established in 1974, the Leland Historical Foundation has celebrated the town’s heritage by directing the city of Leland’s 1986 Centennial Celebration and sponsoring the publication of a book about the history of the town entitled Leland, Mississippi: From Hellhole to Beauty Spot. The foundation has also been instrumental in Leland becoming a Certified Local Government, acquiring a Main Street Community designation, and establishing a National Register Historic District.
Leland is today best known as the boyhood home of Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and affectionately bears the title “Birthplace of Kermit the Frog.” Jim Henson’s Delta Boyhood Museum was named the “Best Mississippi Museum” by the Blue Ribbon Travel Show, and more than 10,000 visitors pass through its doors each year.
In 1999, the Leland Blues Project was created by the Leland Historical Foundation to “honor the Mid-Mississippi Delta Blues artists and educate the public on their contributions to music and influence on the world.” The Blues Project has worked toward completing several downtown murals, hosting the Highway 61 Blues Festival, and opening the Highway 61 Blues Museum.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2006.