Tupelo is recognized around the world as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The small, shotgun house where Elvis was born, and the adjacent Elvis Presley Museum and memorial chapel, draw nearly 100,000 visitors each year. They are centerpieces of Tupelo’s $46 million tourism and hospitality industry.
A major part of this growing industry is the scenic and historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Tupelo is the headquarters of this elongated national park that stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Here, visitors discover the natural beauty of Northeast Mississippi and the history of the Chickasaw Indians and the region’s early travelers.
The modern city of Tupelo stands upon ancient, hallowed ground. When Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto passed through this area in 1540, he encountered an established Chickasaw Indian civilization nestled in the wooded hills and valleys. The Chickasaws, who had a reputation as fierce fighters, ultimately drove De Soto westward toward his discovery of the Mississippi River.
In 1736, at the height of the French and Indian War, a bloody battle erupted near Tupelo between the British-armed Chickasaws and the combined invading forces of the French and the Choctaw Indians. Known as the Battle of Ackia, the engagement left the area in firm British control and contributed to the Crown’s eventual domination of North America. From the earliest Indian settlement, the Tupelo area was linked to the outside world via the now-historic Natchez Trace. The Trace was established by the Chickasaws as a route of commerce with the Natchez Indians to the south. Traveled by the British in the 18th century, the Trace increased in importance as settlers poured into the frontier.
The Civil War also left its mark upon the Tupelo area. The Battle of Tupelo, in mid-1864, pitted Union troops against Confederate cavalry bent on controlling railroad traffic supplying the Union campaign against Atlanta.
Incorporated as a city in 1870 and named after the native Tupelo gum tree, Tupelo’s modern history can be traced to the convergence of the Mobile & Ohio and the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham railroads in 1887. As a rail distribution and manufacturing center, Tupelo achieved several firsts, including the first city in the nation to provide its citizens with dependable, inexpensive electric power through the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Tupelo is a manufacturing, retail and distribution center–a model city of 38,000 citizens offering a high quality of life and a broad range of attractions for both residents and visitors.