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History of Tupelo

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Featured Story
Tupelo, Mississippi played an important role in the Civil War.
All About Tupelo HistoryOrigins of the All America City

Tupelo, MS is the largest city in Lee County. The city’s population exceeds 36,000 people. The city has great historical significance besides being the famous birthplace of Elvis Presley. What is now the city was once very hallowed ground. It was first discovered by Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto in the 1500s. There, the explorer met a Chickasaw Indian civilization that lived amongst the hills and valleys. These Indians were formidable fighters and eventually drove De Soto west, all the way towards the Mississippi.

Tupelo history continues into the 1700s, right as the French and Indian War was taking place. In the year 1736, a bloody battle erupted near the Tupelo area between the British-supported Chickasaws and the French armies that were assisted by the Choctaw Indians. This battle, called the Battle of Ackia, ended in favor of the British. The historic Natchez Trace was the Tupelo’s link to the rest of the country as a commercial route.

The Tupelo National Battlefield site is a state landmark. This site commemorates the Battle of Tupelo in the 1800s, which saw Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest attempting to cut the railroad that supplied the Union's march upon Atlanta. This site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been listed since the 1960s. The city became incorporated in the year 1870.

Before the American Civil War, the town was known as Gum Pond, because of the high volume of tupelo trees, or “black gum.” After the American Civil War, the area became the official site for a railroad crossing, which really encouraged industry. When the town started to grow into city status, officials chose Tupelo as the new name. This name is derived from the small Civil War battle that took place on the site: that’s right, the Tupelo National Battlefield. The modern success of the city is due to the convergence of several important railroads in the year 1887. Many landmarks and buildings from one hundred years ago still stand in the downtown area today.

Originally a town of 61 people, the city has now grown to a 36,000+ city of national importance. Tupelo was one of the first cities in the Tennessee Valley Authority to be visited by President Roosevelt. It was also the first city in the whole U.S. that provided its citizens with inexpensive and consistent electricity. The history of this city is fascinating! Visit a local museum to learn more about Tupelo heritage.

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