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Courtesy of the Tishomingo County Historical & Genealogical Society
Original files are housed in the John Marshall Stone Research Library
Tishomingo County Archives & History Museum
203 East Quitman Street, Iuka, MS 38852
Phone: 662-423-3500

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(Transcribed by RaNae Vaughn from The Vidette, Vol. XXXIX No. 48, August 2, 1923)

The town of Iuka was named in honor of an Indian chief of that name who so tradition says, lived at what is now known as the Brinkley place. Long before the foot of a white man had trodden the primeval wilderness, the mineral springs, which still constitute the greatest attraction here, were patronized by the aborigines. The sick were brought here for many weary miles that they might drink of the life-giving waters, which have given Iuka a world-wide reputation. Wigwams, occupied by Indians in search of health, were scattered over the adjoining hills.

The building of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad (now known as the Southern), was the direct cause of the town’s location. When the first surveys were made there were only two families living inside the limits of the first incorporation. These were David Hubbard, who lived at the Brinkley place, and Lem Hubbard, who lived at the S. M. Dean place.

Eastport was then the commercial metropolis of this section. It had several hundred inhabitants and did an immense business. Situated at the head of low water navigation on the Tennessee River, it was the shipping and buying point for a hundred miles south. Great caravans of wagons were plying almost incessantly during the fall and winter, bringing cotton and carrying back goods. When the railroad surveys were made those in charge of the enterprise made propositions to the people of Eastport. Looking to the building of the road to that place. They asked for a donation of $50,000 as a bonus.

The short-sighted people of that flourishing place refused to do anything, thinking the railroad be forced to come by. After it was too late, they saw their error and red the doom of their town. The first train passed through Iuka in 1856. The town was not then incorporated. Indeed, a strong effort was made to locate the depot at Blythe’s Crossing, 1 miles east of the present depot. Shelby Ussery and his son-in-law, J. J. Blythe, lived there and were men of influence, but the superior attraction of the mineral springs decided the contest in favor of Iuka.

The first mayor of Iuka was named William Settle. The town grew quite rapidly. Gradually the business men of Eastport, finding they could not compete with steam transportation moved through business to Iuka. Just as the town was getting on its feet, so to speak, the Civil War came on and stopped further developments. Situated on the border line between the contending forces, it was in the possession of each alternately until the close of the war. An important battle was fought two miles southwest of town on September 19, 1862, between the Confederates under General Price and the Federals under General Rosecrans. Both sides claimed the victory but he advantage lay with the Confederates, though general Price was forced to evacuate the town next morning because of a flanking force under Gen. Grant which was advancing from Burnsville. Other historical events connected with the war occurred in and around Iuka, but we have not space in this article to go into details. The battlefield is now the site of the beautiful home of Mr. R. U. Woodley, “Battle Heights.”

When the war was over it left the people of this section greatly impoverished. It was in a worse condition than many other portions of the state because of its location on the border line of warfare. But the recuperative powers of an indomitable race, such as the Anglo-Saxon, are beyond calculation. The soldiers returned in rags and penniless, and in many cases to behold the charred and blackened ruins of what had been happy and prosperous homes, but despite the accumulated misfortunes of war and poverty they set themselves to work to rebuild their shattered fortunes. Gradually but surely Iuka began to grow. Business was again opened up and the tide of commerce and trade began to move.

The first mayor of Iuka after the war was John M. Stone, afterwards county treasurer, state senator, and governor. The first Marshall was J. T. Weaver, the noted scout. The first postmaster was G. P. Hammerly. He was appointed by President Johnson and served six months.

The first merchants to resume business after the war were J. D. Martin, W. T. Matthews, G. P. Hammerly, James H. Doan, and Dan Coleman. There were three or four saloons in the town at this time, but in 1882 they were banished after a bitter fight and no saloon has been in the town since.

The old hotel, occupying the site of the present brick, was built before the war and escaped destruction, although a bombshell pierced its roof during the bombardment of the town by Rosecrans, September 20, 1862. This was opened up for business after the war by J. M. D. and C. M. Miller. This old building was burned in 1860. The brick building was erected by a stock company called the Southern Cooperative Hotel Company in 1872 with R. W. Price, President, and G. P. Hammerly, Secretary and Treasurer. The cost of the building was $20,000. Afterward, the annex was built at an additional cost of about $10,000. In 1870, as has been before stated, the county of Tishomingo was divided and the county site of the new county of Tishomingo was fixed at Iuka. This gave a great impetus to the town. In 1883, Prof. H. A. Dean established the Normal Institute in the Iuka Seminary building. It prospered and grew into great prominence as an education institution. In1894, Prof. Dean purchased the Mineral Springs Hotel property and transferred his school there where he continued to run it until 1902, and afterward leased the building to R. L. McKnight to run as a hotel.

As there had been considerable trouble over water privileges, or rather the water tax imposed by the different parties into whose hands the property had passed, a sentiment was created among the property owners of the town that the springs and the park should be the property of the corporation and should always be free to the world.

This sentiment grew and finally crystallized in the purchase of the park by the town in 1901. The town floated bonds to the amount of $12,000 and from the sale of the bonds purchased the park for $5,00 and expended the residue in the erection of an electric light plant. The park with its majestic forest trees, its well kept hedge, and its concrete walks is the beauty spot of the town, and its healing waters are free to all the world.

Iuka has two splendid hotels where the traveling public is well served. They are the Mineral Springs and Leatherwood. The town has a well organized Chamber of Commerce which is ever active in promoting its best interests. Iuka may well be called a “City of Churches,” five denominations having houses of worship here. These are the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Christian, and Presbyterian. It also has a handsome modern High School building.

The cultural atmosphere of the town is greatly enhanced by the efficiently organized women’s clubs. Among these are the Thursday Club, a Federated Literary Cub, a live Parent-Teacher organization, a Civic Improvement Club, U. D. C., W. C. T. U., and active societies in all the churches.

Notwithstanding the fact that Iuka has had several disastrous fires, its growth has been steady, and it may be truly called an attractive little town with its stately ante-bellum homes, its many beautiful modern bungalows, its concrete walks, gravel streets, and up to date business houses.

Situated in a splendid agricultural and lumber section in the Muscle Shoals district, in the Lee Highway, and having several miles of gravel roads in every direction, no town has a brighter future.

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MSGenWeb Tishomingo Co. Coordinator: Jeff Kemp


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