400 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI for example, built a connecting toll road along the Pontotoc-Tippah line. He stationed slave families in houses at each end of his road to collect the tolls and to feed hungry travelers for a fee. The settlers of the northeast soon became impatient with ox wagon transportation. They demanded railroads, hotels, churches, and newspapers. Investors stepped forward to meet these demands. New houses and buildings sprang up seemingly overnight, urban amenities soon followed, and visionaries dreamed of prosperous cities connected by the railroad, the nation’s new engine of commerce. There were high hopes for a thirty-mile railroad to connect Pontotoc to Aberdeen on shipping points along the Tombigbee, but this dream fell victim to the Panic of 1837 (a financial crisis in the United States that was the start of a major recession that lasted for the next decade.) It took over a decade for the railroads to reach into the northeast corner, but in the 1850s they finally did with the building of and the Mobile and Ohio and the Memphis and Charleston. Despite the low development of transportation, the population exploded following the opening of Chickasaw lands. Soon there were so many people in the northeast that existing county government could not service them all. The legislature responded with the division of the region into four large counties: Tishomingo was located in the northeast bordering Alabama and Tennessee, below it lay Itawamba, and Pontotoc and Tippah were situated to the east. Having removed the Chickasaw, the legislature at least recognized their legacy by giving each of these new counties a Chickasaw name. Between 1840 and 1860, the population of the four counties increased 235 percent. It should be noted that in the northeastern counties, only 11 percent of the white population owned slaves, and slaves made up a relatively small portion of the overall population. Most of the farmers grew corn, peas, and pumpkins along with some cotton. They raised a few cattle, hogs, sheep, and horses, but nothing to compare with the stockmen of the piney woods in south Mississippi. The region’s farmers tanned leather and made their own shoes. Their women wove cloth to clothe themselves. Game had disappeared compared to the early 1800s so they had to rely on what the land would produce. Everything above subsistence had to come from cotton. A family usually made from one to three bales each year. They either hauled it to Memphis or relied on a merchant or planter neighbor to handle the sale and to transport the cotton for them. Either way their cotton bought them a barrel of molasses, a sack of coffee, maybe 100 pounds of sugar, and some mackerel to add variety to their diet. Their “shopping” did not resume until the next cotton harvest had been sold. The Panic of 1837 wiped out the branch banks that had moved into the Northeast Corner, and money became scarce. Everyone lived from cotton crop to cotton crop. When a wealthy Tippah County farmer, Charles E. Harris, died in 1855, his cash on hand came to $12.38. He owned land, slaves, and personal property and others owed him $8,000, but he would have been unable to put his hands on much of that sum in cash because no one had any currency. Everyone except slaves and poor whites participated in the credit system. And 40 to 50 percent of the white population remained landless by 1860. This fact made northeast Mississippi different from much of the rest of the state before the Civil War. William Gilliam’s story was not unusual. In the 1840s, he ran up a debt with Francis Leake, who farmed and owned a partnership in a store. Gilliam sharecropped for Leake in 1843, receiving half of the corn and fodder that he produced. He also worked as a hired hand for 50 cents per day. During the picking season, he picked cotton alongside Leake’s slaves for 50 cents per hundred pound. Gilliam made no cash for that year after Leake deducted Gilliam’s expenses. The next year Gilliam rented land from Leake and was paid $20 for the cotton grown, but his expenses for the year totaled $40. In 1845, Gilliam planted only cotton on his rented land, bought all of his food from Leake’s store, and continued to pick cotton for cash wages. In addition, he hauled Leake’s cotton to Memphis. At the end of 1846, he owed Leake $21. The next year Leake hired Gilliam as his overseer at The Panic of 1837 wiped out the branch banks that had moved into the Northeast Corner, and money became scarce.