Lula, in northern Coahoma County, was chartered as an incorporated community by act of the Mississippi Legislature on February 24, 1890. However, it was founded and platted in 1884, soon after the Louisville, New Orleans, and Texas Railroad began operating from Memphis to New Orleans. This railroad line crossed another line being used by the Mobile and Northwestern across Northern Coahoma County to the Mississippi River. Two plantation owners competed for a station on their property near this intersection. These plantations were Rose Bud owned by Dr. Frank R. Van Eaton and his wife and Magnolia Plantation owned by Eugene A. Lindsley and his wife. The railroad company picked a site for their station closer to Lindsley so he won out. Lindsley was soon selling lots near the station and was named the first post master of the town. Lula was named after Eugene Lindsley’s only daughter, Lucy, who was nicknamed Lula. There is a competing story though. Lula was named after a child born to a worker in the village constructing the railroad. Whichever story is true, Lula became the name of the new town. The Lula post office opened on September 16,1884. The first passenger train made it’s run from Memphis to New Orleans on October 6, 1884. Lula was on the move.
Eugene Lindsley’s first plat of Lula was simple and included Front Street where the businesses would be located. Lindsley Street and Sharp Street were bisected by First Avenue, Second Avenue and Third Avenue. Later Fourth Avenue was added. The town grew slowly though and the 1900 U.S. Census listed the town’s population at 174. Craven’s Saloon was the first business in Lula. N.R. Sledge & Company was one of the main businesses in town soon after. He not only ran a store, but farmed much of the land in southern Tunica County. Sledge later took a partner in a store called Sledge and Norfleet. People from both southern Tunica county and northern Coahoma County came to Lula to buy their supplies. You can tell how much land was owned by Sledge by looking at this 1929 map of southern Tunica County. Other landowners on this map were also from Lula.
The Lula Light and. Water Company was chartered September 16, 1916, with G.F. Perryman, J.J. Dillard, and W.P. Moore, T.G. Wilsford, and T.H. McKenzie as incorporators. A similar company was organized in 1926 with Kate B. Hamlett, T.C. Crawford, and Walter G. Barnett as incorporators. The telephone exchange started operating in 1913. Today, AT&T still has a building in town.
Lula soon became an important hub of business in the 1920s. By that time, two trains were running to Helena and crossing over the Mississippi River on a ferry. Four trains were going north and four going south from the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad which had taken over the line. Starting in the 1930s and lasting up until 1960 when the Helena Bridge was built, the Pelican Ferry transported railroad cars across the Mississippi River from Lula to Helena. Below is a picture of the Pelican.
Front Street became home to a line of businesses, including many Chinese owned grocery stores. The Bank of Lula was organized in 1908 with W.P. Moore as president. There were car dealerships, service stations, restaurants, a hotel, and even Helena Wholesale operated a business here.
Lula and the nearby community of Rich formed a school in 1921 called the Lula-Rich Consolidated School. It would remain open until the 1960s. Lula also had a newer elementary school on Highway 49, but it was closed as well. Today, the children either go to private schools or the Coahoma County School System.
A number of churches were founded in the community and four still operate today. They are Lula Methodist, Lula Baptist, Seek Well Baptist, and Bethlehem Missionary Baptist.
Things began to decline for Lula in the 1970s and 1980s as the railroad cut back, closed the depot, and then eventually closed the line. Although a train occasionally still runs through Lula, an independent company operates a line from Jonestown to Lula and then to Clarksdale, the tracks have been removed north of town.
Fires destroyed many Front street businesses and others closed because of the declining population. Below are pictured Lula Grocery and Johnny B’s service station. Both are closed now.
Some still operate though including Home Oil Company and Johnson’s Gin. One store remains open on Front Street, but a gas station and restaurant operate on Highway 49. Several night clubs also operate on weekends and some week nights. There is a little life left in the old town.
Although technically not in the city limits, Isle of Capri casino and hotel at the Helena Bridge calls Lula home.
The town hall is found in the old Bank of Lula building. Southern Bancorp operates a bank across the street. Lula continues to be the center of commerce for southern Tunica county and northern Coahoma County.
Front Street in Lula today. Things are sorta quiet.
On the north end of Lula, the town operates a park for the children of the community. The town water tank looms above it.
The old American Legion Hut hosts reunions and get togethers. The cannon that was out front for years is gone, but the place is still important and used for voting as well. There is a volunteer fire department that is on call to handle emergencies.
There are a number of nice homes in Lula, and the town government does it’s best to maintain things. Overall, Lula is a pleasant little community.
Lula has a marker on the Blues Trail honoring the famous singers who resided here through the years. A number of clubs, or juke joints, operated in Lula where these musicians earned a living and had the town hopping on Saturday nights.
Although, it has a lot going against it, Lula remains. People haven’t given up. Kids still play in the yards and streets. There is a mayor and board of aldermen, town services, and some extremely nice people who are more than willing to talk about the town and welcome you to visit. Old men gather to talk about glory days. Men and women go to work and come home to keep their yards up and enjoy themselves. You can hear choirs singing from the churches every Sunday and there is still a little wildness on Saturday night from a few clubs and the casino. That’s what Lula has been for more than a 100 years. Don’t count it out. Lula is gonna be here for a 100 more.