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Beyond Tupelo

Northeast Mississippi is made rich by smaller towns and communities beyond tupelo and oxford. New Albany, Corinth, Water Valley and Amory, to name only a few. Each place boasts surprising small-town treasures worth a visit.

Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem | Illustrated by Sarah Godwin

 

New Albany

The county seat of Union County, New Albany has been lauded as the Best Southern Small Town by USA Today, Mississippi’s Coolest Small Town by Far & Wide and Most Beautiful Small Town in Mississippi by House Beautiful. Downtown New Albany offers a plethora of dining and shopping options.

New Albany includes part of the 43.6-mile Tanglefoot Trail, a historic asphalt trail running through six Mississippi communities: New Albany, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, New Houlka and Houston. Located in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, the trail was an abandoned railroad corridor constructed in 1871. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff or just into exercise, the trail has something for you.

Also in New Albany is the impressive Union County Heritage Museum, which boasts permanent exhibits in its six galleries and an outdoor exhibit with the William Faulkner Literary Garden, only a brief stroll away from Faulkner’s birthplace.



Corinth

Only a few miles from the Tennessee state line, Corinth has been given many nicknames through the years because of its role as a railroad junction. Some of those are Cross City, the Crossroads of the South and the Gateway City. Corinth is also known as the birthplace of the slugburger, which consists of a mixture of beef and an inexpensive meat extender, then deep fried in oil and served on a bun with mustard, pickles and onion. One story has it that John Weeks came up with the slugburger in Corinth in 1917. At first, he called them Weeksburgers, but as the burgers got more popular, they received their new name. Corinth has an entire festival dedicated to the burger each year in July.

Lovers of history will also appreciate the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center’s interactive exhibits, lots of information on the Battle of Shiloh and a video of the Battle of Corinth. The Corinth Contraband Camp is also a must-see gem. The Crossroads Museum has something for Civil War buffs as well as those interested in aviation, archaeology and more. And you can’t miss the Coca-Cola Museum.



Water Valley

A city in Yalobusha County, incorporated in 1858, Water Valley was once home to the headquarters of the Mississippi Central Railroad. Today, it has become an arts mecca and surely a must-see stop in north Mississippi. Water Valley is about 20 miles south of Oxford and should be on your list of the top five day-trip destinations for a visit to north Mississippi.

To experience how the past meets the present in Water Valley, visit the B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery, on North Main Street. The B.T.C., which stands for Be the Change, was opened by Virginia native and Water Valley resident Alexe van Beuren and husband Kagan Coughlin who bought a historic red brick building in need of some TLC. At the B.T.C., they have offered products grown or made by locals, imported cheeses and coffee since 2010. More than a unique grocery, the B.T.C. is also a popular place for a delicious lunch. Water Valley native Yalonda Ramsey is head of the B.T.C. kitchen.


In a back corner of the B.T.C., regulars might notice an addition. Van Beuren has been secretly training as a coffee roaster for the past two years.


“We have a big, beautiful coffee roaster,” she said. “It’s super fun, and I love doing it. We are making coffee that is not an acquired taste, but old-school, deep, dark and delicious.”

A few years after renovating the building and opening The B.T.C. Grocery, Coughlin bought several more buildings that were in dire need of repair. With a small crew, he renovated, hands-on, the buildings now known as the Blu-Buck Mercantile, including one where the Magnolia Coffee Shop is today. Rooms to let are on Airbnb.


Another spot not to be missed in Water Valley is Turnage Drug Store, an old-fashioned pharmacy that still boasts a soda fountain and gift shop. And the Water Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum is a great stop for lovers of all things railroad related. The legendary train engineer, who died when his Illinois Central train collided with a stalled freight train in Vaughn, Mississippi, once called Water Valley home.


For shoppers and art enthusiasts, Water Valley also has plenty of specialty gift shops and art galleries showcasing the work of artists local and beyond. And don’t miss the town’s annual Watermelon Carnival the first weekend in August.


“Water Valley has always been a wonderful place, and I’m so proud to be a part of this community,” van Beuren said. “All the iconic Water Valley businesses are still here as well as some fun new ones. It’s a historic and compelling blend that makes Water Valley a great place to visit.”

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