THE CLAY HILLS 375 activities between 1868 and 1871; its members were especially active in the eastern counties of the Clay Hills where Alabama’s Klan likely had a strong influence. Klansmen instituted their “beatings, scouragings, and warnings” on black voters and white Republicans alike. They whipped black voters until they promised to vote Democratic, killed a white magistrate in Noxubee County, and drove off the white mayor of Aberdeen by threatening his life. They terrorized African American landowners in counties such as Noxubee and Winston. Sometimes, they would police the color line through lynching, and Winston, Lowndes, Oktibbeha, and Monroe counties all saw lynchings during this period. Klan violence got especially bad after a white jury acquitted three African American men of assault on five whites in Monroe County. According to one U.S. Marshall writing to President Ulysses S. Grant in 1871, the area became “one continued scene of persecution” in consequence. In a frenzy of violence, the Klan lynched at least three local African Americans, killed three U.S. Colored Troops, and severely beat several others before the U.S. Army, acting under the provisions of the 1871 Enforcement Act, quelled the actions of the estimated 300 to 400 “outlaws” who operated “under masks, and arms.” Indeed, it was only with passage of the Enforcement Act that the Klan’s policing of the racial line and obstructing Reconstruction took less violent forms for a time. The end of Reconstruction in 1877 ushered in a new period of legalized segregation to keep the state’s African American majority from exercising control.Yet even under this time of forced stability, residents both white and black faced many challenges. Economic depression was primary among them. Cotton prices were falling, and statewide overproduction made the situation worse. Consequently, by the 1870s and 1880s, farm values declined and farms shrank in size across Mississippi. Depressed cotton prices and land values meant that many white farmers had to survive on credit, while others found themselves in the humiliating position of being forced to give up lands to become sharecroppers alongside African Americans. A major yellow fever outbreak that swept the state in 1878 only compounded the economic challenges. The small town of Grenada lost more than 100 people alone during this outbreak. In Columbus, after a horse thief died of the disease, locals refused to remove his body from the jail out of fear of contamination. The lives lost in the Clay Hills were among the approximately 15,000 people who died in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana during the epidemic. Clay Hills residents were resilient and resourceful, and that meant that they took advantage of opportunities where they could find them. With the state’s cotton-based agricultural economy in precipitous decline and its farmers suffering intensely by the 1870s, some in the state embraced the idea of establishing more formal agricultural and industrial education programs to improve the state’s fortunes. Their goal was to encourage the diversification of the state’s agricultural base and to strengthen it with new industries. Aiding their ambitions was the Morrill Act that had been passed by northern Republicans during the war in 1862. Many Mississippians had opposed the Morrill Act and viewed it as federal intervention in education, a matter they thought best handled by the states. But their attitudes changed during the economic hard times of the 1870s when they used it to their advantage to propose the founding of an agricultural and mechanical college for the state’s white youths. The Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi (now Mississippi State University) was authorized by the state legislature in 1878 with strong support from the Clay Hills counties of Monroe and Lowndes, as well asYalobusha, Clay, and Choctaw. According to its charter, the white agricultural college was to be a “first-class institution at which the youth of the State ...may acquire a common school education and a scientific and practical knowledge of agriculture, horticulture and the mechanic arts... without...excluding other scientific and classical studies, including military tactics.” The college was a pet project of the Mississippi Grange, an organization founded in 1867 and brought to the state in 1871 as a vehicle to promote agricultural interests by uniting farmers against industrial interests in the state. The Grange promoted sectional reconciliation and called for cooperative buying efforts. The Grange drew its greatest support from those farmers, including many in the Clay Hills, who were generally dissatisfied with contemporary political and economic conditions. The appointed trustees of the new college, many of them Grange men, chose Starkville for its location. With a university already in Oxford, they sought a spot in the east, and sought one that was well served effectively by railroads, the most profitable industry the state at the time and the focus of its growing transport and communications network. Starkville fit the bill. Although it was a small town with “a few frame stores, some residences …; three churches; bad roads,” it was the center of its county, had plenty of land, Clay Hills residents were resilient and resourceful, and that meant that they took advantage of opportunities where they could find them.