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Located in Coal County, Tupelo is ten miles northwest of Coalgate and one-quarter mile south of the intersection of State Highways 3 and 48. In 1903 a group of men headed by Charles M. Witter had the land surveyed, and the town was named Tupelo after Tupelo, Mississippi, the hometown of entrepreneur William Napoleon McCary. Tupelo grew as businesses moved from Owl, Jeffs, Moller, and Kittie. The post office was moved unofficially from Jeffs to Tupelo. Consequently, mail had to be directed to Tupelo (Jeffs P.O.), Indian Territory, until April 1, 1904, when the post office officially became Tupelo. In 1904 the town supported a bank, two hotels, four general stores, a blacksmith shop, livery stable, cotton gin, bowling alley, and newspaper. At 1907 statehood Tupelo had 289 residents.

By 1907 approximately fifty thousand peach trees had been planted in the surrounding area. In 1908 a canning factory was built to process peaches and tomatoes. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, the Oklahoma Central Railway, and the Missouri, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (MO&G) provided rail service to the town. Population stood at 387 in 1910. The local economy was stimulated after a committee consisting of Thomas Edward "Ed" King, Charles M. Witter, and R. D. Jones obtained right-of-way to extend the MO&G southward twenty miles, and the railroad paid local farmers and owners of teams of draft horses and mules to build railroad beds. On April 21, 1910, Tupelo became incorporated.

Numerous fires occurring between 1910 and 1912 destroyed many business buildings. The Commercial Hotel, the canning factory, and the newspaper office were among them. Most of the establishments had little or no insurance, and none were rebuilt. In the 1920s, economic downturn continued as the railroads discontinued service to Tupelo. No census statistics for the town are available for 1920, 1930, and 1940. By 1950 Tupelo had 376 citizens. Numbers declined to 261 reported in 1960. By 1980 population peaked at 542.

At the turn of the twenty-first century only one original building, built in 1905, existed, serving as a storage building at the corner of Main and Fourth Streets. Tupelo had a facility that served prekindergarten through high school, and four churches welcomed worshippers. With a city hall, a volunteer fire department, and a new community building, the town of 377 was considered a "bedroom" community, because most citizens worked in other towns.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Betty Poe, comp. and ed., History of Coal County, Oklahoma (Dallas, Tex.: Curtis Media Corp., 1986). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). Tupelo (Oklahoma) Times, 1904-1912.

Lorene Caruthers

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