THE PINEY WOODS 179 sawmill, extended a dummy line into the pine woods to supply logs, and purchased rail equipment. The new improvements occurred just before the Panic of 1893, and the young company struggled to remain solvent. The mill survived the 1893 depression and was the economic engine driving the town by 1900, at which time Laurel contained 3,193 residents. The Gardiner interests in 1900 opened the Laurel Cotton Mill, which employed 400 workers. A second major business soon called Laurel home. In 1898, brothers John and S. W. Lindsey began production of a specialized eight-wheel wagon used to haul timber from the forest to the dummy line railroads. Fire destroyed the first company plant at Sandersville, at which time they decided to relocate to Laurel. The Lindsey Wagon Company began operation in Laurel in 1901, and the two brothers also financed the Laurel Machine and Foundry Company, which opened in 1904. The wagons were popular with timber operations and were also put into service in France during World War I. As in Hattiesburg, the real impetus for the growth of Laurel was the opening of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad from Gulfport to Jackson. This line provided an international outlet for the yellow pine timber harvested in the region. In 1904 the Eastman Gardiner Lumber Company opened a more efficient modern facility that employed 800 workers. Other sawmills soon located in the vicinity, including the Gilchrist-Fordney Company, Wausau Southern Lumber Company, and Marathon Lumber Company. By 1910 Laurel’s population had grown to 8,465, making it the second largest city in the Pine Belt, trailing only regional rival Hattiesburg. In 1924, William H. Mason discovered that wood chips could be formed into a high-density fiberboard. To promote development of the project, the Mason Fibre Company, later known as Masonite, formed in September of 1924. In 1926, the company opened its first plant in Laurel. Over the next two decades, Masonite production expanded, and the young company became an industry leader in fiberboard production. The board was cheap to purchase and held up well to the rigors of construction, making it highly marketable. By the time of Mason’s death in 1940, Masonite fiberboard was in widespread use. Despite the success of Masonite, Laurel’s growth slowed dramatically during the decade of the 1930s. In 1940, the city had a population of 20,598, slightly less than its regional rival Hattiesburg. Other smaller Pine Belt towns, villages, and hamlets along the region’s railroads prospered in the period between 1877 and the start of World War I. Those able to attract a sawmill also attracted laborers, although the heyday of some of the communities was fleeting. Along the Gulf and GERALD MCRANEY Known as “Mac” to his friends and family, actor Gerald McRaney was born in Collins in 1947. His acting career began when he injured his knee playing football and subsequently joined the drama club in junior high school. After high school, McRaney supported himself and his family by working in the oil fields of Louisiana, although he did not give up acting. During this time, he took minor roles and guest appearances whenever possible. McRaney’s breakout role came in 1981 when he was granted the role of Rick Simon on CBS’s Simon & Simon, which lasted eight seasons. He later starred and produced the hit show Major Dad. Since the late 1980s, McRaney has starred in a number of made-for-television movies and has also appeared as a guest star on many popular television shows, including Designing Women and NBC’s new hit drama, This is Us (2016). PTA The Congress of Parents and Teachers, now Parent Teacher Association (PTA), was organized by delegates from five cities in October 1909 at Lake Chautauqua tabernacle in Crystal Springs. The founder and first president was Mrs. R. B. Stapleton of Hattiesburg. PHOTO COURTESY OF HENRY CARNEY AND DOROTHY ALFORD PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NEWS-COMMERCIAL, COLLINS, MISSISSIPPI