Okolona, Mississippi

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Okolona is a city in and one of the county seats of Chickasaw County, Mississippi, United States.[1] The population was 3,056 at the 2000 census.

Contents

Geography

Okolona is located at 34°0′21″N 88°45′2″W / 34.00583°N 88.75056°W / 34.00583; -88.75056 (34.0057, -88.7506)[2].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (16.5 km²), of which, 6.3 square miles (16.4 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.31%) is water.

The community is at the junction of U.S. Route 45 (Church Street) and State Highway 32 (Monroe Avenue).

History

Okolona began its development as the settlement of Rose Hill in 1845, but it was later discovered that another location had this name. When a post office was located there in 1850, it is reported by the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce that the postmaster of nearby Aberdeen Colonel Josiah N. Walton remembered an encounter with a Chickasaw brave while traveling in the area years earlier. The brave’s name had been Oka-laua meaning peaceful, yellow, or blue water. Walton renamed the town in the brave’s honor as Okolona.

Due to the destruction brought to the area by the Civil War, few structures from this early period remain. However, the Elliot Donaldson House, constructed in 1850 and added to the National Register in 1980, as well as a handful of other homes, has survived.

In the mid nineteenth century, Okolona and the surrounding Black Prairie sometimes called the Black Belt or Prairie Belt, became what has been called the "Bread Basket of the Confederacy." The area was part of the original Cotton Belt of Mississippi well before the more famous Delta region gained fame and notoriety for major cotton production.

The Mobile and Ohio Railroad completed its tracks though Okolona in 1859 making the town a center for the ginning of cotton and its shipment to markets. The town grew along Main Street as a result of the railroad; however, virtually all commercial buildings from this period, including the depot were burned during the Civil War.

Five skirmishes or battles between Union and Confederate forces occurred in and around Okolona, the most famous of which occurred in February, 1864. In a running cavalry clash between Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union General Sooy Smith, the Federals were defeated just north and west of town. General Forrest's brother, Jeffery, was killed in the engagement. The Battle of Okolona was fought nearby in 1864.

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