Quitman County’s industrial life, with the exception of the cotton and lumber businesses, is of comparatively recent development.
The economic progress of the county depended mainly upon the increase in the number of inhabitants to work in the field and forest.
Ideal climate, and labor conditions, and late transportation facilities have made possible progress in her industrial life, and the next generation will doubtless see a great advance in industrial production.
The exact date of the introduction of agriculture in Quitman County is not easily determined, but it is evident that it has remained the sole industry of importance save that of the timber or lumber business. Large plantations owned by whites or negroes, with both white and negro tenants, are the main bases of the agricultural system, the chief agricultural product being cotton. Immense quantities of corn, oats, vetch, and other legumes are raised also. Between the seasons of 1935 and 1936, the cotton crop of this county increased from a production of 29,000 bales to approximately 50,500.
The cotton warehouse has become a factor, bearing a considerable influence on the local markets. Cotton, when properly protected from the weather, offers great resistance to deterioration. Compared with other farm products, it is by far the least liable to “damage” if given a reasonable amount of protection. Here the advantage of the warehouse cannot be overestimated.
The Federal Compress and Warehouse in this county is located at almost an equal distance between Lambert and Marks, in Beat 5, Highway 3. It was organized in 1930 by local capital being forty-nine per cent of the stock, was supplied by P. M. B. Self, L. A. Graeber, Sr., T. W. Hawkins, T. J. Barrow, of Marks, and Van Savage, C. W. McCullar, and John A. Allen, Sr., of Lambert. At this time it was known as the “Quitman County Compress.” But after two years the above mentioned stockholders sold out to the Federal Compress of Memphis, who are present owners.1
Bankers and business men generally regard cotton, when properly stored and insured and represented by negotiable warehouse receipts, high class collateral. The warehousing and compressing facilities being combined under one management has proved entirely practicable. This warehouse stores approximately 22,000 bales of cotton at a time; since its erection it has been filled to capacity twice. Forty thousand bales were received and cared for this season (1936). Storage charges per bale is twenty-five cents for the first three months; thereafter, being fifteen cents per bale. Forty-four persons are employed during the busiest season, earning from $600 to $800 weekly. At other times, from four to five men are required, who receive a salary of $50 per week. Annual operating expense is about $11,000.
Since cotton raising is the outstanding means of making a living in Quitman County, cotton gins are a great advantage. In 1890 there were only a few of these here; one of them being operated by horse power, was located at the mouth of the Coldwater River and owned by Perkins and Jones of Batesville; the other, a combination gin and grist mill southwest of Belen, was owned by J. J. Burleyson. As the population increased, and the majority of people raised cotton, there was a demand for more and better equipped gins with a greater capacity.
Today, there are twenty-three gins located at different points in the county. Several are operated by oil and steam, while the majority are electric. These gins require about five employees, who are paid eight to nine dollars each per day, and average eighty bales of cotton ginned each day. The gins of the county are now adequate to meet the needs of the people, and make reasonable rates for ginning, giving employment to several persons, and conveniently located at close range to the farms.2
It’s a fact:———-
That during the period from 1933 to 1935 active lumbering establishments in Mississippi increased 323.5 per cent.
That Mississippi’s present forest lands have a potential permanent yield three times as great as the 1935 cut.
That in 1935, Mississippi led all the states in the Union in the production of four species of wood—yellow, pine, sycamore, cottonwood, and hickory.
That in 1935, Mississippi ranked third among the states in total production of lumber; ranking second in hardwood, and third in softwood.
Quitman County contributes largely to the lumber production of the state, as given above. The natural resource of greatest commercial value, next to the fertile soil of Quitman County is the forest. About fourteen sawmills, owned by different persons, and located at various points in the county, produce and ship an estimate of 300,000 board feet of lumber, ten carloads of piling, and two carloads of posts annually. Quantities of this kind of wood product are used locally. The Southern Sawmill at Crowder, operated by steam, is reported as being the largest in the county. Approximately 125 men are employed at the different mills during the busy season, and receive about $4.50 each, daily.
The sawmills prove beneficial to the county by conserving the local timber, giving employment, and enabling the people to obtain lumber at a reasonable price for use on the farms. Grist mills are also common in the county.3
In 1924, Gratz Jones, Sr., organized and operated the first and only wholesale grocery in Quitman County, under the name of Malone and Hyde. It flourished, and in 1928 became Marks Wholesale Company; it has continued as such with O. B. Wooley as manager. During the busy season, eight or twelve men are employed, with an annual pay roll of $15,000; owing to its central location, it is convenient to deliver groceries to all parts of the county at little expense.4
Ice and Meat-Curing Plant
In 1923, M. Price founded the first ice manufacturing plant in this county. As a site for the location of his industry, he chose the town of Marks, which is the county seat and occupies a central position in the county. The choice of a well-selected location greatly facilitated the distribution of ice to the various parts of the county. The ownership of this plant was passed into the hands of L. A. Graeber, and is now operated by his two sons, Louis and Jimmie. The annual ice production is 1200 tons; four men employed throughout the year, with an annual payroll of $2,226. This list of employees is more than doubled during the summer months, as trucks run to all parts of the county, making it possible for people not living directly in town to have an accomodation which is not a luxury any more, but a necessity. Food is preserved, and in addition, ice is a boon to those suffering from summer illnesses, which are only too common in any extremely hot temperatures.5
In recent years, a meat curing plant has been incorporated with the ice plant. Here, people of the county preserve their meat, which would, otherwise, have been lost because of warm temperature. This plant cures and preserves approximately 97,000 pounds annually, at the cost of two and one-fourth cents per pound.
One result of the Boys’ Corn and Pig Clubs has been to make stock raising an important industry of the county, with signs that it will soon vie the states of the West in the production of cattle and hogs.
Many things favor livestock raising in Quitman County, as pastures are green for the greater part of the year, and hay crops grow well; the winters are so warm that the farmers find it unnecessary to put up expensive buildings in which to house their stock; no stock farms are here, although all farmers raise cattle and hogs in a small way.6
Numerous small dairies supply milk to town folk, but the only commercial dairy in the county with modern equipment is owned and operated by Mrs. Mary Shotwell, of Belleview. The diary building, contains concrete floors; windows and doors are screened; walls and ceilings are painted white, and it is equipped with electric lights, cream separators, apparatus for cooling the milk, and hot water for sterilizing purposes. Fifty cows are milked daily, and the milk is delivered to Clarksdale, where it is sold.7
Within the past two years Quitman County has developed two coffin factories, its newest industries. Although this industry is in its infancy, marked progress has been made.
In 1934, John Jamison of Marks, with one helper, established a coffin factory in his back yard. The business flourished and it became necessary to have a larger building and to add three more employees; it is now located next to the colored burial establishment, on the west side of the railroad.8
F. M. Bizzell, also of Marks, opened a coffin factory in 1936, with six employees; the production averages five coffins per day, and marketing extends to all parts of the United States.9
In the summer of 1936, Don Gorton, ingenious young business man of Lambert, installed an ice cream plant in his drug store at Lambert. This plant supplies cream for his drug stores in Lambert and Crowder.
The years of 1900-1902 witnessed the development of the Y. & M. V. Railroad as a successful agency for the transportation of freight and passengers through this section. The railroad could surmount the difficulties of poor roads and unfavorable climate, as it traversed the central part of the county, by way of Vance, Denton, Lambert, Marks, Hinchcliff, Essex, Darling, Falcon, Sledge and Crenshaw. In 1908 the Legislature created a railroad commission to take care of freight rates and also to supervise the express, telegraph, and telephone companies. In 1914, the railroad company saw the need of a branch line for transportation of express and heavy freight, which extends from Memphis to Swan Lake. Now there are two passengers, two locals, and several freights which run daily on regular schedule. Forty-four persons are employed throughout the year, with an annual payroll of $38,500. Without this excellent service many Mississippi industries could not exist, and the railroad is beneficial to the county in the way of taxes.10
LIGHT PLANT: Because the system was so poor and water supply so inadequate, the town officials made plans for a drainage and water supply system in Marks. These two systems were finished in 1917, along with a 25-horsepower light plant, built and owned by James Feitzel. Seeing the need of a larger plant in 1919, Feitzel increased his plant to 50-horsepower. During this time the plant also furnished lights for the town of Lambert. In 1922, the Feitzel plant burned, and was replaced by a 225-horsepower plant, owned by the Home Power and Light Company. In 1921, Lambert purchased a light plant, but in 1926, it was sold to the Mississippi Power and Light Company. Marks plant was sold to the Mississippi Power and Light Company to be used as a reserve plant, and this company furnishes electricity for all the homes in Quitman and County.10
WATER SYSTEM: Lambert, Marks, Belen, Sledge, and Darling have a sufficient water supply at the present time; late in the summer of 1936, the people of Marks saw an immediate need for a better water supply, consequently, and according to contract, a well 800 feet deep, and flowing 300 gallons per minute through an 8-inch pipe was drilled by the Lane Central Company, near the Kyle Chevrolet building, at a total cost of $3,718.40. Sledge also has a well which was constructed in 1930, with an eight-inch pipe, having a depth of 1300 feet, and has natural pressure. This, and three other privately owned wells in Sledge, afford all water needed locally.
Belen well, drilled in 1905, has a six-inch pipe with a depth of 1200 feet, the pressure consisting of sixty gallons per minute. It was not until 1910, however, that distributing pipes were laid to supply the town; the old well that was drilled for use at the time the courthouse was in Belen is now being used for the school.
Lambert has an artesian well with a six-inch pipe and a depth of 900 feet. The cost of the construction was $2,900, and it gives a sufficient supply for the town, and water is also furnished the railroad company from this well. A reservoir is placed to catch all waste water, and it is pumped into the railroad tank. The water has been analyzed and rates as the second purest in the state.
A community well at Darling supplies the town, and one is also located at the schoolhouse.
All other towns and communities of the county have privately owned artesian wells.11
TELEPHONE EXCHANGE: In 1909, the Southern Bell Telephone Co. installed in the Cox-Turner building the first Exchange in the county, which is now owned by T. C. Potts, of Crenshaw. This Exchange has remained throughout the years, and at present requires the attention of the efficient manager, Mrs. Mary Blackmon, and two other regular employees with an assistant occasionally.12
As the towns have progressed, merchantile business has claimed first attention, being a necessary and growing business; stores are located in the different towns of the county, with from one to two shoe shops, barber shops, markets, and cafes in the larger towns–Marks, Sledge, Lambert, Crowder, and Darling.
In 1935, there were 128 retail stores in the county, doing a volume of business for the year of $1,095,000. These stores, owned by 125 proprietors, had 109 people engaged at a total salary of $63,000 for the year. In 1933, the county had in operation 159 retail stores, and total sales amounted to $961,000.
1 W. V. Turner, Marks, Mississippi
2 Mississippi Advertising Company
3 J. H. Manning, Walnut, Mississippi
4 O. B. Wooley, Marks, Mississippi
5 L. A. Graeber, Marks, Mississippi
6 Clint Henderson, Vance, Mississippi
7 Mrs. Mary Shotwell, Belleview, Mississippi
8 John Jamison, Marks, Mississippi
9 F. M. Bizzell, Marks, Mississippi
10 W. A. Cox, Marks, Mississippi
11 Mrs. Blanche Denton, Jackson, Mississippi
12 Mrs. Mary Blackmon, Marks, Mississippi
Industry, Chapter XIV, pages 185-193, Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, Source Material for Mississippi History, Quitman County, Vol. LX, Compiled by State-Wide Historical Research Project, Susie V. Powell, State Supervisor, Illustrated 1936-1938.
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