THE NORTHEAST CORNER 409 Tupelo becoming an urban center took decades to achieve. In 1870, the new city had a population of 618. By 1880, it had reached only 1,008. Five years later, the city had still not built a school, had no minister in residence, and had no medical providers. However, Tupelo’s sluggish performance did not deter others from following Lee County’s example. In 1870, Corinth persuaded the Republican government in Jackson to create Alcorn County with the Corner’s leading town, Corinth, as the county seat. The same year, Booneville became the center of Prentiss County, named for the famous antebellum Whig orator, Seargent S. Prentiss. Union County, centered in New Albany, and Benton County, with Ashland as its seat, completed the division. This left Jacinto, the old county seat of Tishomingo, with a magnificent courthouse (that still stands today) but with no reason for being except the lingering memories of Old Tishomingo. Tupelo began to grow and emerged as an economic beacon for the region. City leaders began crusading for a second railroad to cross the Mobile & Ohio and provide Tupelo with an east-west route linking Memphis and Birmingham. Other towns had the same idea and they also began maneuvering to become the site of the proposed crossing. Two new railroads were chartered, and they soon had the towns trying to outdo each other in offering incentives to secure the crossing. “Private” John Allen earned his nickname in a run for U.S. Congress against a former Confederate general. The general gave a speech in which he described a restless, rainy night in his tent before the battle of Shiloh. In a speech immediately following the general, Allen claimed to have been the private who was out in the rain that night guarding the general his tent. He then asked all the former generals to vote for his opponent and for all the former privates to vote for him. Allen bridged the divide between the Bourbons and the populist sentiment that had caused the suffering sharecroppers to revolt against the Democrat machine that controlled the state after 1875. A constant populist complaint was that the railroads charged unfair rates for small farmers to ship their crops. The Greenback and Populist parties gained some support in the northeast corner, but the Farmer’s Alliance had more success as a faction within the Democrat Party. Lee County farmers nominated an Alliance slate within the Democrat Party, but the Bourbons, fearing a Farmers’Alliance takeover of the Democrat party, left them off the ballot. This heavy handed move sparked a mass protest rally. Tensions ran so high that the populist leader, Frank Burkitt, was assaulted and his newspaper office was burned. Pontotoc County sympathizers raised the money to pay for bodyguards. In 1891, when the Alliance challenged U.S. Senator James Z. George, the Bourbon candidate, the Pontotoc Bourbon Democrats stole the county registration books and prevented an election, which they would have lost. Allen ran that year as a Democrat with a populist theme. When Burkitt’s brother challenged him for his seat, Allen and the Democrats circulated a letter that Burkitt allegedly wrote to an African American teacher and implied that the populists favored cooperating with African Americans. Allen may have used folksy language, but he was a member of the Bourbon establishment, and the Bourbons were firmly in the camp of the railroads. John Miller, editor of Tupelo’s newspaper, joined Allen with an evangelical fervor editorializing and publishing articles glowing with the benefits of the proposed railroad. In addition, John Blair, who represented Tupelo in the legislature, helped by providing support for shifting the line from Verona to Tupelo. Rail survey crews were wined and dined by the city leaders. One crew leader had a principal street, Gloster, named for him. The city’s efforts paid off when the Kansas-Memphis-Birmingham line arrived in 1886. Lee County’s bank moved from Verona and other businesses from surrounding communities followed. Fifty new buildings went up Taking advantage of the hardwoods made accessible by the railroad, furniture manufacturers opened factories.