172 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI The western Piney Woods communities of Brookhaven and McComb were the first sizable towns to develop in the region, primarily because of their location along the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad. Both towns relied on two major products: cotton and lumber. While cotton had long been a staple of local production, large- scale timber mills first arrived in the Piney Woods after the Civil War. Founded in the antebellum era, Brookhaven saw significant growth after 1880 by attracting manufacturing interests and serving as a regional retail center. When the state formed Lincoln County from portions of Pike County in 1870, Brookhaven became the county seat. Two sawmills, the Pearl River Lumber Company and the East Union Lumber and Manufacturing Company, operated in the city during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Ferdinand Brecker operated the Brookhaven Cotton Compress Company, and John and Willard Seavey formed a brick manufacturing company. Two mercantile stores, one owned by the Seaveys and the other by John McGrath and Sons, served the surrounding area. Whitworth College offered a first-rate education for young women and further diversified the local economy. Tallulah “Lula” Ragsdale, a Brookhaven native, graduated from Whitworth College in 1878. After studying acting in New York, she returned to Brookhaven and taught at Whitworth College. She became the first female Mississippi author to have a book adapted as a screenplay: the 1917 work Miss Dulcie from Dixie. In 1900, Brookhaven’s population was 2,678, and the city reached a population of 6,232 in 1940. Brookhaven’s population leveled off and remained fairly steady between 1910 and 1940. In adjacent Pike County, the development of McComb, one of the first major industrial towns in the Pine Belt, spurred manufacturing development. Founded in 1872 by former Union Colonel Henry McComb, the carefully planned town was a precursor to many other railroad towns that would rapidly populate the Piney Woods during the next several decades. After taking control of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad, McComb put in motion a plan to build a town fifteen miles north of the Louisiana state line in Pike County. Hoping the town would attract a thriving lumber business, he also ensured the success of the new city by selecting the site to house the railroad’s machine shops. The town attracted a sawmill owned by J.J. White, and by 1880 it contained 1,972 residents and was one of the largest towns in the Pine Belt. White was one of the early sawmill operators in the Piney Woods, having run a small sawmill near Summit before the Civil War. He served in the Confederate army, was captured at Port Gibson in 1863, and spent the last two LEONTYNE PRICE Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born in Laurel on February 10, 1927, as the daughter of a lumber mill worker and midwife. Her music career started early with piano lessons, the church choir, and high school chorus. Although she wanted to be a teacher, Price landed in opera programs in the early 1950s and started down the path to become of one of America’s greatest sopranos, with her first operatic debut in 1957 at the San Francisco Opera and later performances at New York’s Town Hall, NBC Opera, and Carnegie Hall. The next decade led Price to the Teatro alla Scala Milan and, finally, a debut with the prestigious Metropolitan Opera for the 1960 and 1961 seasons. During the 1970s, Price’s performances in Madama Butterfly led to her last new role in 1977 and a farewell appearance at the Met in 1985. Price retired from the stage with international fame and over a dozen Grammy Awards. PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY