Admitted To Be The Fastest Growing County In Mississippi Today. Right In The Best Part Of The Renowned Mississippi Delta.
Quitman County, Mississippi, lies in the heart of the great alluvial land section known as the Mississippi Delta. A half century ago the Mississippi River was spreading her annual flood waters without human restriction over this fertile valley each year adding to the fabulous richness of her soil.
Other sections of the Delta have been exploited and developed, some of them, many years in advance of Quitman County, so that this may be properly considered one of the youngest counties in the Delta with respect to date of beginning a more rapid development such as others have already undergone. And that is where lies the great opportunity.
Quitman County is unquestionably the fastest growing county in Mississippi today. The census of 1910 credits the county with a population of about eleven thousand, while the estimate of a present population of not less than twenty thousand is considered accurate. And most of this increase has occurred within the last five years.
The richness of the soil, the abundance of artesian wells, the proximity to such a large market as Memphis, which is less that seventy miles north of Marks, the county site, natural flowing streams that are found in every quarter of the territory comprising the county–and many other advantages not at first recognized by outsiders, are greatly responsible for this remarkable sudden growth.
The purchase by the State of five thousand acres of land near Lambert for a State convict farm, a few years ago, and which has proved to be one of the best investments the State has ever made, also had the effect of drawing attention to the advantages of Quitman County. [In 1916, the Mississippi Department of Corrections purchased the O’Keefs Plantation as a convict farm. This farm later became known as Camp B.] Strong competition was encountered in the effort to get the State to buy Quitman County land, but after the most careful investigation and consideration it was decided that the property in this county was to be preferred over any that was offered by the people of other sections.
Quitman County is being settled with the wide-awake, progressive type of people, and they are receiving every encouragement from those of them being pioneers of the real sort.
As evidence of what is going on let us refer to projects now under way in the nature of public improvements.
No less than $700,000.00 has been appropriated for construction of better highways.
About $200,000.00 is being spent in the three separate drainage districts for cutting drainage canals.
About $125,000.00 has been provided for school improvement in Quitman County.
In the matter of schools this county has reason to feel proud.
Public School System
It is safe to say that there is not another county in the entire country that has made as rapid progress in the development of its public school system than has been made in Quitman County within the past few years. From a small number of one-teacher schools of a few years ago, the school system has grown to such an extent that today there is not a child in the county but who is in easy reach of a good public school taught by competent and well paid teachers for eight months in the year.
In addition to the splendid school buildings that have been and are being erected in the thriving railroad towns, there are a number of consolidated schools in the interior of the county where the rural boys and girls have equal educational advantages with their heretofore favored town cousins. To these rural consolidated schools transportation facilities are furnished by the county for the benefit of those children living two miles or more from the school. As the system throughout the county progresses, other school districts will be consolidated and modern school buildings with teachers’ homes erected.
The Walnut Consolidated School is located in the southwest part of the county, about six miles from the railroad. The district comprises 30 sections of as fine farming lands as can be found in the Delta. The new school building and teachers’ home for this school cost $18,000.
The Sabino Consolidated School is located in the western part of the county about eight miles from the railroad. This was the first consolidated school to be established in the county and was built in 1910. This school district is also in a highly developed community. The teachers’ home belonging to this school, together with the school building proper, was erected on 16th Section school lands.
The Belen Consolidated School, located in the town of Belen, one of the best inland towns to be found anywhere in the South, and which town prior to 1911 was the county site, is domiciled in the splendid two-story brick courthouse building.
The Griffin Consolidated School, located four miles from the railroad at Darling, is in comparatively new country, but is being developed very fast by generally small land owners. This school, together with the teachers’ home, which is now being erected at a cost of $15,000, will be modern in every respect and the people of this community are enthusiastic in their support of the school.
In all these schools the children will have the advantage of securing in addition to the course of study prescribed for the public schools of the state, at least two years of high school work, together with domestic science, manual training and music.
The two largest schools of the county are at Marks and Lambert, each employing from seven to eight teachers, besides the teachers of music and expression. Pupils attending these schools can finish four years of high school work. The Marks Separate School District will soon have a new high school building which will cost $50,000.
The Lambert School District is also building an addition to their present school building at a cost of $25,000.
Bonds are being issued for new school buildings for the town of Vance, also at Crowder, in the sum of $15,000 each, and these buildings will be completed at an early date.
In the matter of drainage, this is one of the most beneficial tasks that has been undertaken. It requires proper drainage of the lands to enable the farmer to produce his profitable crops without hindrance. It requires good roads to take his children to school. So that the amounts being expended, that is, for schools, roads and drainage, all tend to one purpose–a better citizenship.
In this connection Quitman County is fortunate in having a Board of Supervisors that reflects the progressiveness of the people in general. These gentlemen rarely fail to meet promptly every demand of progress. They are in hearty accord with every movement that is designed to bring about better living conditions for the people, and to make Quitman County right up to date in everything. The Board is composed of A. B. Shelton, of Lambert, president; E. W. Taylor, of Sledge; G. W. Barnett, of Sabino; J. W. Carter, of Vance, and J. J. McPherson, of Essex.
In their work they have the cooperation of all the county officials and authorities in the respective communities.
And conditions now as compared with the past speaks for their acts. It is said that twenty years ago Quitman County had one brick building–and that was the former courthouse at Belen; there was only one physician in the county; three lawyers represented the entire bar; there were only four post-offices; improved roads were seldom heard of–in fact it was just like a different county altogether when comparison is made.
Great Cotton Country
The soil of Quitman County, while it raises most anything that can produced anywhere on earth, is renowned for its superior fibre of long-staple cotton. This county, which is a “baby” in a sense, among the Delta counties, ginned last year over 31,000 bales of cotton. And with the new land opening up right along, this output will naturally increase each year, adding that much to the wealth of the county.
The railroad facilities offer splendid opportunities for marketing the timber resources of Quitman County also. As stated, it is still a young county, and naturally, the greater part of the land is still uncultivated. But rapid headway is now being made in clearing the timber and making the land ready for cultivation which is soon made possible by drainage. There is lots of valuable hardwood timber in the county for which there is a strong demand. Oak and gum are the principal woods.
Quitman County has not until of late been inclined to exploit the opportunities awaiting newcomers, but a new and progressive inclination now prevails, encouraged to a great extent by the large number of new investments in farm lands and timber lands, and by the flood of inquiries that are being made from day to day concerning conditions and land offerings in this section.
The streams that run through the county offer good natural drainage as well as the drainage ditches. The lands along these streams, and in other parts of the county, vary between sandy loam and the buckshot land, the sandy loam predominating. The soil is generally designated as black alluvial, and ranges from four to twenty feet deep. It is inexhaustible, needs no fertilizer, has plenty of moisture, and is capable of producing every imaginable agricultural product.
The main crops are cotton, corn, hay and alfalfa, and the raising of cattle and hogs is on the increase each year. Under normal conditions it is not unusual to produce a bale of cotton to an acre of ground in Quitman County, and this production is exceeded on occasions. And although a bale to the acre does not represent the average, the present price of cotton, and the strong demand for the particular variety raised in this section, gives an idea of the profit that is possible when the staple is properly cultivated, and the price is right.
Over a hundred bushels of corn to the acre can be raised in Quitman County where intensive cultivation is brought into play, such as is found in competition among the boys of the corn clubs, but from fifty to sixty bushels to the acre will probably represent the average yield.
From 75 to 100 bushels of oats to the acre can be produced without great effort, and from 3 to 6 tons of alfalfa hay. All the different varieties of forage can be produced in abundance, together with sorghum, broom corn, velvet beans, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and Irish potatoes. The seasons permit of two crops, and sometimes three crops in a year, and afford an all-year cattle range. Hogs thrive on the natural products of the forest.
Land in Demand
Recently E. W. Taylor, of Sledge, in Quitman County, sold a plantation of some 1,700 acres for over $300,000. This is said to be about the largest land deal thus far transacted in this county as far as value is concerned. Many other sales are being made almost daily, ranging from the small farm of only a few acres to the large plantation of over a thousand acres. Quitman County land seems to be in great demand. One very palpable reason for this lies in the fact that so many people can be pointed out who have moved to this county within the past few years, and who have become wealthy through the proper cultivation and marketing of their crops from this fertile soil.
The center of Quitman County is about seventy miles south of Memphis, a mild climate of about sixty degrees Fahrenheit, with about three months winter, with a freeze about twice during the season–and a summer that, while longer than points further north, is not near so intense as in the west. Sunstroke is seldom known to occur in this country. The spring season is renowned the world over, and the fall season in the Delta is ideal. The annual rainfall will average around 56 inches.
According to Mr. Alfred Jamison, one of the oldest citizens of the county, Quitman County was first formed in 1877, and the first courthouse was established at Marks. In 1883 the county site was removed to Belen, but back to Marks it again came about 1906-07. Mr. Jamison has a very fine place about two miles south of Marks. He has been here a long time, but does not claim to be the oldest resident of his neighborhood. Mr. J. J. Burleyson, it is said is rightfully designated as the first citizen as the records show that he paid the first poll tax receipt in the county. This has been verified by Hon. C. C. Barringer, the newly elected sheriff.
Quitman County has an area that comprises about 252,000 acres of land, with between 65% and 70% of this in cultivation or open for cultivation. Approximately 75% of the land is usually devoted to cotton. In many instances, but not in all, sufficient feed and forage crops are produced to take care of local or home requirements.
Very successful has been the experience with soybeans in this section, according to Mr. C. S. Steele, County Demonstration Agent in this county since 1916. Mr. Steele, who is a graduate of Mississippi A. & M. College [Mississippi State University], constantly encourages an increase in the production of feed crops, as well as in the raising of livestock. He says, in this connection, that Quitman County is way ahead of most other counties in the breeding of pure-bred hogs. More attention is paid to the pure breed than to the common hog found so numerous in other districts.
In the fall of 1918 the first large shipment of hogs was prepared for market from Quitman County. Before the shipment was made, however, local bidders offered and paid two cents a pound more that the St. Louis market was offering the same day–two cents higher than would have been obtained had the hogs been shipped to this leading market for the packers. This not only kept this needed pork at home for local consumption, but netted more money to the farmers themselves.
Good Health Essential
Dr. F. M. Brougher, County Health Officer of Quitman County, is one of the most enthusiastic workers for good health and modern sanitary conditions necessary to maintain it. When asked for an expression on this all important subject Dr. Brougher said:
“The effort of the present health officer is to put Quitman County in line with modern preventive medicine. Health is first with an active, progressive population. Capital comes and better citizenship follows where there is good health to be had, coupled with good opportunities to better one’s fortune.”
“I find my fellow citizens are, all of them, uniformly ready and willing to co-operate with me in the work needed to better the sanitary conditions all over the country.”
“Time was when this Delta country suffered from malaria, most fearfully widespread. Nowadays, what with these broad cleared acres in the fields of cotton and corn, forests removed, bayous, brakes and sloughs drained, the mosquito is seeking other climes. At this time such few water beds as are in existence receive attention and are either drained, or else oil is poured on these ‘troublesome’ water beds.”
“In the great future I can see for the Delta a climate salubrious and healthy and prosperous–the equal in healthfulness of that far-famed ‘Flowery Kingdom’ of China. Since the past winter, with its epidemic of influenza , our people have had a phenomenal record of good health. We are actually safer from typhoid fever here than the people of the highlands, due to our deep wells of flowing water–everywhere you go. Dredge boats have come to us at last, and will in due time find the lower levels through which all the lowest lands will find a vent for every drop of stagnant water in the brakes and slashes, thus giving assurance of future freedom from our old time enemies, mosquitoes with malaria.”
“Sanitary laws are going to be enforced. The State Board of Health is an institution whose duty it is to prevent disease–to ‘put the doctor out of business.’ This can only be accomplished by strict obedience to the ordinances or laws passed for the benefit of the general public. In every man’s home we are in the fight against the mosquito and the fly. In the public places we fight against the spread of tuberculosis and various other diseases, mouth diseases and venereal diseases.”
“The soda fountains are at once a luxury and a menace unless the oft-used glasses are thoroughly sterilized, or a paper cup is used. Your child, your friend or yourself may be contaminated by one unclean glass which was previously used by someone with a diseased mouth. Groceries and meat markets have long been under the closest surveillance, and compulsory laws are enacted for their control. The soda fountain must serve in a cleanly way, or their patrons will suffer unwittingly and unjustly.”
“The State is becoming more and more cognizant of the fact that the State is responsible for the health of its citizens, and is paying out good money to employ competent men to guard and maintain the health of all within the Commonwealth. The United States is fostering all such interests. I believe that some day it will be unlawful for one to have a preventable disease.”
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