120 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI individuals. The boll weevil crisis sped up existing efforts to organize locals of the Farmers’Union to promote cooperative cotton marketing and better agricultural practices. The Farmers’Union had been organized in 1906, and their lobbying efforts led to the creation of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture the same year. In 1908, a law was passed allowing the establishment of county departments of agriculture. Earlier, in 1905, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program of hiring local farmers to demonstrate up-to-date farming techniques had been brought to Mississippi. One of the first three of these county agents was W. M. Bamberg of Natchez. County agents quickly became active throughout the river counties. According to Enid Richmond of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) when the farmers of Claiborne County were advised by their county agents on how to fight the boll weevil: “…they did learn by new methods of cultivation and by planting varieties of cotton that ripen early, by destroying hibernating places, frequent cultivation, thick spacing, and dusting with Calcium- Arsenate, to grow a cotton crop in spite of the enemy.” Between the coming of the boll weevil and start of the Great Depression, efforts were made to diversify agricultural production in the Lower River counties. In Adams County, some farmers cultivated pecan and peach orchards, and a thriving poultry industry also took hold. Production of poultry products went from $1 million in 1912 to $15 million by the late 1930s. In addition, cattle raising saw tremendous growth in Claiborne County. In 1910, there were 2,603 head of cattle. By 1920, there were 20,408 head of beef cattle and 4,447 dairy cattle. This development was encouraged by county agent G. H. Alford. According to Enid Richmond, he “has concentrated on beef cattle, better pastures, more feed, cover crops, and soil conservation.” The lumber industry in the Lower River counties enjoyed considerable growth, benefiting from the deforestation of most of South Mississippi and the Piney Woods due to industrial logging of longleaf pine and some hardwood. This was partly caused by state and county tax policies that encouraged fast clear-cutting of timber in order to reduce taxes based on land value and standing timber. By the second decade of the twentieth century, the stands of virgin pine and hardwood in the Lower River counties attracted some of the logging companies that had exhausted much of the pine forests to the east. Thriving lumber mills already existed in the Warren County towns of Vicksburg and Waltersville. After 1908, other mills opened throughout the Lower River counties, helped by the building of the Mississippi Central Railroad through Franklin County. One of these mills, founded in 1912, was the Homochitto Lumber Company. That same the Mississippi & Yazoo River Packet Company and commonly known as the P. Line after its owner. Thanks to a favorable agreement with the New Orleans–based New Orleans and Vicksburg Packet Company, Parisot controlled the Yazoo River trade and ensured decent rates from Vicksburg to New Orleans for his customers. In order to survive as a port, Vicksburg needed to maintain access to the Mississippi River. On April 26, 1876, the river broke through the isthmus of the bend on which Vicksburg was located, diverting the main channel away from the city. For the rest of the twentieth century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintained access to the Mississippi River for Vicksburg with a series of stop- gap engineering projects. Finally, in 1902, the Corps diverted the Yazoo River past Vicksburg and into the Mississippi River below by completing the Yazoo River Diversion Canal. Keeping the port open was not the only way in which Vicksburg courted prosperity. During the last years of the nineteenth century, the city slowly began to develop as a manufacturing center. In 1882, the Refuge Cotton Mill Company began operation and expanded by taking advantage of new uses for cottonseed such as feed and cooking oil. In the 1880s, S. S. Spengler founded Spengler’s Mill, a new lumber mill that serviced its own sash and blind factory. In 1894, a newAmerican industry, soft-drink bottling, was born in Vicksburg when Joseph Biedenharn first bottled Coca-Cola. By the 1930s, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, and Nehi all had bottling plants in the city. Despite such manufacturing inroads, cotton remained the economic mainstay of the Lower River counties. Finance, transportation, and some manufacturing depended on the health of that one cash crop. The cost of such vulnerability became apparent in 1907 when the cotton-eating boll weevil came to the Lower River counties. The weevil’s destruction set off a wave of crop losses and bankruptcies that depressed the local economy. In one sad example, the boll weevil dealt the final blow to Rocky Springs in Claiborne County, a town already being abandoned because of the soil erosion caused by the cotton monoculture. The people of the Lower River counties were forced to rethink their dependence on cotton and many of their traditional agricultural practices. The first step was admitting that they could not handle the problem as Between the coming of the boll weevil and start of the Great Depression, efforts were made to diversify agricultural production in the Lower River counties.