Mississippi GenWeb Project State Logo
US GenWeb Project National Logo

W. P. A. History of Pontotoc County, Mississippi


Old Settlements

TOCCOPOLA, one of the oldest settlements in Pontotoc County, near the Lafayette County Line on the west, derives its name from the little stream that borders the village from north to south, Toccopola Creek.  The Indian word for the name is , Tokalopulli, "an old crossing place."  (1)

From prehistoric times an Indian trail led from the Chickasaw towns, southeast of the present town of Pontotoc, to Chickasaw Bluffs, the present city of Memphis.  In this immediate section, the trail was known as the Toccopola Trail; it intersected another trail from the south, said to have been used by the Choctaws in their intercourse with the settlements at the Bluffs, on the hill to the south.  From thence to the trail was jointly used by the two Indian tribes to its terminus at the Mississippi river.

Local tradition is that after the disastrous defeat and rout D'Artaguette's French army, March 20, 1736, at the battle with the Chickasaws on Pontotoc Creek the fugitives under Voisin, the sixteen year old youth who assumed command after D'Artaguette's capture, stopped on the site of the present Toccopola to rest and recuperate from the ravages of battle.  Here they were joined on the following day by Montcheval, commander of the Arkansas post, with 160 warriors from the Illinois country (who was delayed in his march to assist D'Artaguette) who assumed command of the army in leading the survivors back to the point of embarkation.

History of Toccopola began with Major John L. Allen, a native of Tennessee, who was a sub-agent of the United States Government at the time the treaty of 1832 was signed.

Major Allen married Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry Love, a Chickasaw half breed who lived in what is now Marshall County.  The family was quite wealthy and was intermarried  with the noted Colbert family.  At his death, in 1834, or 1835, ,a noted law suit was developed, in which his widow vindicated the principles of law that married women retained property rights separate  from those of her husband.  This is now the common law in all English speaking countries.  Their children migrated with the Chickasaws to the west in 1838 or 1839. 

Betsy Allen died in 1837 and was buried in the Indian burying ground at Toccopola, which is now a pasture in the rear of the home of Alex Revill.

The citizens of Toccopola decided in the fall of 1933 to remove the ashes of a woman, whose name figures so uniquely in the history of Mississippi, from this neglected resting place, and place them on the campus of Toccopola High School and to erect a suitable monument in her memory.

Plans for the removal ceremony were made by the local Parent Teachers Association.

The history class of Toccopola High School volunteered to do the work of removing the remains.  When bits of ashes were recovered they were replaced in a small casket made from the wood of a tree which had stood in Betsy Allen's yard; the flowers used were grown near her grave.

A great crowd witnessed the ceremony staff. (2)

Photograph ," Tobias Furr, Founder of Toccopola"

The first of our pioneer families to settle in the Toccopola vicinity was that of Dan Alexander, in 1832, who was called "Revolutionary Dan."  He located one mile north east of the present Toccopola, in a log house, yet standing and occupied  by Tommie Lamar.  The house was built by a master mechanic; the huge logs were bolted together and the ceiling and weather boarding were cut and shaped by slaves.  The gabled house was one and a half stories in height.  The name of the architect who designed it was Hardy, a brother to Frank and Joe Hardy.

Alexander was a farmer and owned about ten slaves  One of these slaves, Calvin Alexander, was bought in Memphis; Alexander paying $2000 for him when he was six years old.  He was trained as a farm overseer.

There were a few Indians near this place, so Mr. Alexander built a store and blacksmith shop; Calvin running the latter, until he was "free", when he went back to Memphis to live.  Uncle Calvin is still living in Memphis, 1936.

Most of the land where Toccopola town is located belonged to the Allen estate.  In 1837 Tobias Furr bought some of the land and first located south of Toccopola Creek on the Present Pontotoc Oxford Highway.  He opened a small store on the hillside, to the right of the road as it enters Toccopola from the east, and later erected a water mill on the creek.

About 1840 a number of families from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, came into that section and located on Yocona Creek (Yakni), about two and a half miles southeast of Toccopola.  These immigrants were Scotch-Irish Protestants, of the purest Covenanter stock.  Their first consideration was a church and a schoolhouse, so pretentious ones were erected near by.  Thus, far remote  from the beaten paths of men was laid the foundation for one of the best communities in Pontotoc County.

Among these North Carolina immigrants was Allison Furr, a brother of Tobias.  The Furrs were Protestant Dutch.  Together the Furr brothers purchased the remainder of the Allen estate and laid out Toccopola in town lots, streets, etc., again making adequate provision for churches and a school.  Tobias located within the present town, while his brother chose farming lands as his portion of their r joint estate and established his permanent home about two miles northwest of Toccopola.  Tobias Furr opened the first store in a frame building on the ground now occupied by the Wingo store.  By the time the War Between the States came on, Toccopola was a thriving community.

The watermill, where both meal and flour were ground, was the center of "gatherings" in early days; here news was disseminated, political questions discussed, and neighborhood gossip scattered abroad.  Customers, while waiting their turn, had ample opportunity to discuss any topic that interested them.

Besides the families already mentioned, Dr. A. Bryant, a practicing physician, was one of the oldest and most beloved  citizens of the community.  It was Dr. Bryant, who desiring to retire from active practice, persuaded Dr. Winston to settle in Toccopola about 1869.  In 1870 Dr. Winston married Emma Eloise, daughter of Tobias Furr, and they built the house now occupied by Dr. W. H. Reid.  This residence, built at the time of Dr. Winston's marriage, has been solely occupied by families of physicians since its construction.

The bigger families were also prominent in early days.  Wilson Bigger operated the Furr watermill after Tobias Furr began a mercantile business in Toccopola; later Mr. Bigger built a mill on the Lafayette Springs Road, five miles east of Oxford.  Uncle Alex and Aunt Mary Bigger were patriarchs of the village for a decade or more after the War between the States.

The Pickens, Morrison, Ferrell, Gilmer, Rodgers, Bevil, Sledge, McEacherry, Gathwright, Shive, Waugh, Inmon, Wingo, East, and other families constitute the innumerable hosts who have made a community of more than ordinary interest, and contributed largely to the sum total in education, child life, and religion.

The old hotel now operated by Mrs. Ed Short (1938) is a historic old building.  It was long known as the Jesse Terry  place.

It is difficult to determine just when a post office was established but likely in the 1840s.  The point was of some importance on the stage line, as the route, in effect, followed the ancient Chickasaw trail from Pontotoc via Toccopola, Lafayette Springs, Oxford, into Memphis.  The stage line turned north at Toccopola to avoid the long sand hills on the due west route.  The Federal government had cut out and improved a road  to Memphis for the purpose of removing the Chickasaw Indians to Indian Territory.  This route crossed a number of streams and stretches of soft soil which made the road practically impassable to the point of intersection.

The graveyard at old Lebanon was the chief burying ground for Toccopola citizens until well into the present century, though the village now has a cemetery which is neatly and attractively kept..  The first person buried in this cemetery was a transient mechanic, named Paulette, who was a carpenter employed in building the Jesse Terry residence about 1875, and whose death was the result of a fall.  Being a stranger in the community, he was buried on this community burying ground.  The cemetery grew around this isolated  stranger's grave. (3)

(1) Ibid.

(2) George M. Moreland, Commercial Appeal, Nov. 12, 1933.

(3) Story of Pontotoc, E. T. Winston

Back   Contents   Next

MSGenWeb   USGenWeb  Pontotoc County Home Page