182 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI geographically segregated, as each race had separate churches and schools. While the mill attracted both African American and white workers, African Americans usually worked for less pay and in more dangerous conditions than their white counterparts. Despite these limitations, and the preference of the Newman Lumber Company to employ white workers, when wage labor jobs were available, African Americans pursued them vigorously. For many African American residents this was a temporary sojourn; they left sharecropping to pursue wage labor but still faced rigid segregation. This lack of autonomy in part explains the Great Migration or Great Diaspora of the early twentieth century. From 1910 to 1920, Mississippi experienced a population loss as African Americans left in large numbers for better opportunities in the Midwest. The New South era disproportionately impacted the Piney Woods region of Mississippi because the new emphasis on manufacturing coincided with a boom in railroad construction and a spike in national and international demand for a cheap source of quality timber. The number of manufacturing establishments in the Piney Woods increased from 106 in 1880 to 484 in 1900. The total value of manufactures increased from $596,049 in 1880 to $8,101,636 in 1900. In Jones County alone, the value of manufactures increased from $9,305 to $2,087,650 over the twenty year period. The New South also meant new cities. In Lamar County in 1910, 42 percent of the county’s 11,740 residents lived in one of three towns: Purvis, Lumberton, or Sumrall. For many of the towns in the Pine Belt, this prosperity was short-lived. Of the largest towns in Covington and Lamar Counties—Collins, Lumberton, Mount Olive, Purvis, Seminary, and Sumrall—all but one suffered population declines between 1910 and 1940. Four of the six lost at least half of their population as sawmill production dwindled. In Sumrall, the First Baptist Church, which constructed a new brick sanctuary, weathered both the Great Depression and the departure of the Newman lumber mill only by receiving an emergency loan from the Baptist Foreign Mission Board in Atlanta. When the mill in Lumberton cut out, much of the machinery and some of the workers relocated to the West Coast. In Covington County, even the county seat suffered depopulation, as the population declined from 2,581 in 1910 to 1,100 in 1940. The larger, more diversified towns in the region—Brookhaven, Columbia, Hattiesburg, Laurel, and McComb—grew quickly until 1930, when the rate of growth slowed due to the Great Depression. All except McComb grew slightly between 1930 and 1940, but the tremendous growth of the timber boom was over. In an era of “cut out and get out” timber harvesting, owners could not afford to pay taxes on cutover timberlands. The federal government incorporated millions of acres into national forests in the 1930s, and in the Piney Woods formed De Soto and Homochitto National Forests. The De Soto contained lands that large landowners literally donated to the federal government to escape the burden of taxation. Widespread reforestation and timber management did not become a common practice in the industry until after 1940, although some early adopters such as Hattiesburg businessman W.S.F. Tatum saw their long-term value. While the longleaf prospered when it had long periods of uninterrupted growth, it took decades to mature. Reforestation therefore focused on pines that would grow to harvest size more quickly, such as loblolly or slash pine. In the succeeding decades, some residents turned to pulpwooding, or utilizing modified pickup trucks and chainsaws, to cut smaller timber for regional mills. The great longleaf pine stands were gone, and the majority of the people of the Piney Woods were left to find an alternative means of economic success. Piney Woods Governors: Conner, White, and Johnson, 1932–1943 At the same time the timber industry was on the decline in the Piney Woods, its politicians rose to political power in the state. Between 1932 and 1943, all of Mississippi’s governors hailed from the Piney Woods. Martin S. Conner (1932 to 1936) and Hugh White (1936 to 1940) helped Mississippi weather the Great Depression and sought new industrial opportunities for the state. Paul B. Johnson, Sr., campaigned to bring relief to the common man but instead found himself guiding Mississippi through the initial years of World War II. The policies and programs instituted by these three men shaped modern Mississippi. Martin S. (Mike) Conner was a native of Hattiesburg and educated at the University of Mississippi and Yale University. He opened a law office in Seminary and, at age twenty-five, embarked upon a political career as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and was elected Speaker of the House during his first year of office in 1916. At the same time the timber industry was on the decline in the Piney Woods, its politicians rose to political power in the state.