Some were named after founding fathers and families, others after important people early in their history such as a railroad man or landowner.
Many took the name of a tree, an Indian, a war or war hero, or even the scenery around them. And there are those who brought a name from their old homestead to the place where they eventually settled.
Regardless of where they came from, the names of Lee County’s cities, towns and communities have as much history behind them as the county itself. Some names have changed over the years, though many has survived since the 1800s.
Lee County Neighbors will take a look this week and next week at how Lee County’s cities, towns and communities got their names. If your hometown is not listed in this week’s story, find out how it got its name and give us a call at 842-2612 or 678-1600 with your information.
Tupelo The name comes from the Indian word “Topa-la,” which means a lodging place. The city, first called Gum Pond, took the name from a grove of Tupelo Gum Tree located around a swampy area north of what is now the city’s downtown district. The Tupelo Gum Tree was used to build shelter for camping.
Shannon The town was named for the pioneer family, Shannon. While Samuel Shannon bought the land from the Chickasaw nation and was the first settler in the early 1800s, it was his sons – R.L. and E.G. Shannon – who started Shannon.
Saltillo – There are different versions on how Saltillo got its name. It has been documented that a group of soldiers who returned to the area after fighting in the Mexican War in 1845, and named the town Saltillo in memory of friends who died in battle. Another reference said the town was named in honor of an Indian chief named Saltillo by early town pioneer James Waugh Kyle in 1845.
Verona – The town was named by a daughter of early town businessman John Ratliff. She had been reading a book about Verona, Italy, and liked the name.
Nettleton – The town was named in honor of George Nettleton, president of the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham Railroad. Nettleton’s railroad laid a line through the new community in 1887, marking the beginning of Nettleton’s growth.
Baldwyn – Like Nettleton, another railroad boss left his name on a railtown in the 1860s. A man named Baldwyn who surveyed the land for the railroad.
Mooreville – The naming of Mooreville has been credited to a “Hatter” Moore, a hat maker who moved from Tennessee in the 1830s. However, a WPA county history research report on file at the Lee County Library also gives credit to the town’s naming to a Dr. Moore who was “beloved by the citizens.”
Plantersville – The town, founded in 1872, was named Plantersville, supposedly by the railroad company that ran a line through the town. However, it could have been named for the surrounding farming region and the planters who worked in the fields.
Guntown – There are two versions on how Guntown got its name.The best-documented evidence links the naming to a gunsmith who ran a shop there in the mid-1800s. Another source said it was named for James Gunn, a Virginia native who gave the land for the town in the early 1800s.
Palmetto – One the earliest settlements in what is now Lee County. The first settler, arriving in 1836, was Christopher Orr, a native of South Carolina. He and others who arrived from South Carolina named the community after the state’s nickname, the Palmetto State.
Chesterville – Another community with ties to South Carolina. The pioneer families, which included the McPhersons and the Lillys, who came from Chester, S.C., named Chesterville for their native land.
Belden – According to library records, Belden was once called Leighton. However, the mail and frieght for the town were often sent to Leighton, Ala. The name was changed to Belden in honor of the Bells family who lived there.
Pine Grove – A grove of pine trees may have inspired the naming of this south Lee County community that was settled by former slaves. A church was built in 1868 on land owned by George and John Grice; it was located next to a pine tree grove.
Bissell – The community (annexed by Tupelo seven years ago) was once known as Walker’s Crossroads until the 1910s, when it was changed to Bissell. It was reportedly named in honor of Wilson S. Bissell, who was Postmaster General between 1893-95 under President Grover Cleveland.
Richmond The early settlers of this once boom town that today is a small community were Virginians. They named the town after the capital of their native state.
Skyline – This east Lee community was given its name by a group of Civil Conservation Corps workers from Colorado during the early 1930s. The CCC boys helped with the construction of Tombigbee State Parks, and according to stories, the hilly roads in that area reminded them of a road in Colorado called Skyline.
Harrisburg – The extinct town of Harrisburg, was located at what is now west Tupelo. It named after Judge W.R. Harris, a wealthy planter who sold the land where the town was built.