THE LOWER RIVER 125 for cotton and brought military contracts to area factories. The Southern Packaging Company in Port Gibson made wood products for the U.S. Navy. In 1942, Camp Van Dorn opened near Centreville on the county line between Amite County and Wilkinson County. The camp was named for Confederate major general Earl Van Dorn of Port Gibson. It operated as an infantry training camp. Many regiments received their basic training there before being shipped off to war. Among the regiments that trained at Camp Van Dorn was the 364th Infantry Regiment (Colored), which arrived in May 1943 filled with African Americans from northern states. Considerable friction developed between local whites and soldiers of the 364th Infantry. The most notable incident took place when a group of soldiers from the regiment went into Centreville without passes. Efforts to send them back to the camp resulted in the shooting of one by the local sheriff. Enraged fellow soldiers attempted to obtain guns from a supply room at the camp but were dispersed by Military Police. In 1945, Camp Van Dorn was closed and declared army surplus. By the end of the war, many changes were afoot in the Lower River counties that would continue afterward. The system of cotton raised by sharecroppers plowing with mules and picking cotton by hand was on the way out. Mules were slowly being replaced by tractors and hand picking by mechanical cotton pickers. Sharecropping itself was more and more a thing of the past. Between 1940 and 1950, the decline in the number of sharecroppers was drastic. In 1940 in Adams County, there were 363 sharecroppers. In 1950, there were only forty-nine sharecroppers. The other Lower River counties followed suit. In Warren County from 1940 to 1950, the decline was from 526 sharecroppers to 128, in Claiborne County from 631 to 192, in Franklin County from 286 to seventy-three, in Jefferson County from 745 to 143, and in Wilkinson County from 521 to 128. The steepest drop during these years was in Amite County, which went from 1,133 to only 321 sharecroppers. Crop diversification began to make real headway during this time. In 1925, 22 percent of Mississippi farm income came from agricultural products other than cotton. By 1948, 37 percent of Mississippi farm income came from those sources. Another trend, accelerated by the farm foreclosures of the Great Depression, was the consolidation of agricultural land into fewer and fewer hands. The farmers and planters were left raising cotton on fewer and fewer acres. Between 1925 and 1948, cotton acreage was reduced by a third with little loss of production. Enid Richmond of Claiborne County explained how this bounty was achieved. According to her, “such modern methods as planting of cover crops, rotations of crops, terracing the land to hold moisture and prevent washing and quick maturing seed are used. On level land, tractors and discs are used, but, on rough land the plow and the hoe must still be employed. The value of commercial fertilizer designed to hasten maturity has been recognized. Experimental stations have been helpful in developing new varieties of cotton.” Another change in the Lower River counties was the birth of an oil and natural gas industry. In the summer of 1943, the California Company began drilling Mississippi’s first gas condensate well into a salt dome near Cranfield in Adams County. By October, the well was producing 106 barrels of distillate fuel oil and 10 million cubic feet of gas per day. The result was a rush to tap the tremendous oil and gas reserves of what became known as the Cranfield Field. By 1945, thirty-three wells were in production at the site. Fayette Field in Jefferson County had also been brought into production. The postwar years were very kind to the lumber industry. The promotion of soil conservation and timber reforestation by the CCC paved the way for better forestry practices. In 1940, the Mississippi legislature passed a severance tax on timber. Revenue was collected from cut timber rather than standing timber, encouraging more judicious cutting and discouraging the wasteful clear-cutting that had ravaged the southern half of the state at the beginning of the twentieth century. After the war, the use of young second- growth pine for pulpwood made it economical to replant cutover land. By 1950, timber products were second in value only to cotton as agricultural products. This growth was spearheaded by the rise of the pulpwood industry in Mississippi and in the rest of the south. By 1950, half of the nation’s pulpwood came from the south. The Lower River counties, and especially Natchez, benefited from the new industry. In the late 1940s, the Johns Manville Corporation built an insulating board plant at Natchez. In 1950, International Paper built a new pulp mill at Natchez that was the first in the world to produce rayon pulp from hardwoods by the use of the sulfate process. These two plants, along with theArmstrong Tire Company, would be the primary employers in Natchez for decades to come. Crop diversification began to make real headway during this time.