THE CLAY HILLS 371 THE CLAY HILLS 371 Mansion could insulate themselves from some of the war’s hardships. African American slaves generally welcomed the war and the Union Army as their liberators. There were stark contrasts of experience amidst all the suffering. Postwar World—Reconstruction and Beyond (1865-1900) The Confederate loss in the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the coming of Reconstruction brought a new social, economic, and political order to the Clay Hills. The state was defeated and devastated. African Americans had been freed. The state’s cotton economy was in shambles, industrial production sites and miles of railroad tracks had been destroyed, and much of the Clay Hills, like other parts of Mississippi, was occupied. Clay Hills residents reacted to these profound changes differently. African Americans celebrated, for many of them had been praying for freedom since the war’s start. Whites, by contrast, intensely mourned their losses, which were considerable. They had lost family members, property and livelihoods, and their slaves. And some of them reacted by clinging to the past and violently resisting change. Everyone in the Clay Hills—rich or poor, white or black—adapted to the postwar world. It was a time of pivotal shifts for the region, not all of them negative. Grenada (1870), Clay (1871), Montgomery (1871), and Webster (1874) counties were all founded postwar. These four new counties brought the Clay Hills to its current form and its current count of sixteen counties. Two of them, Clay and Grenada, which were founded in the region’s traditionally most productive cotton growing areas, had predictably large black majorities, while those at the region’s center, Montgomery and Webster, where smaller farms continued to predominate, were either mostly white (Webster) or about even in their racial mix (Montgomery). Parts of the region’s economy began to see a gradual boost as the Mobile and Ohio resumed service and extended rail lines across the Clay Hills through Starkville. African Americans took the lead in founding their own independent churches and schools such as the Noxubee Industrial Training Institute. The establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi in 1878 and the Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls in 1884 marked the beginnings of what would become two of the state’s most important institutions for higher education, Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women. In establishing these institutions, positive groundwork was laid for the region’s future. FRANKLIN CORPORATION Furniture executive Hassell H. Franklin founded Franklin Corporation in 1970 in Houston. Production began in a rented warehouse with thirty-two employees manufacturing four recliner styles. As CEO of Franklin Corporation, Mr. Franklin has led his company to become one of America’s largest privately-owned furniture manufacturers. Today Franklin employs over 1,200 employees and produces four categories of furniture. Franklin’s total facilities measure over 1.1 million square feet, all on one campus. Three generations are involved in the company—Hassell Franklin CEO, his sons, Mark Franklin – President and COO, and Hank Franklin – Senior Vice President, along with grandsons Rob Franklin and Baxter Price. PHOTOS COURTESY OF FRANKLIN CORPORATION