THE NORTHEAST CORNER 401 an annual salary of $250. At year-end, Leake paid Gilliam $125, which represented the sum earned after expenses. Gilliam took the cash and left Mississippi, no doubt seeking a better life. Poor whites often had to work at menial labor with slaves. Joseph Kenedy, a yeoman neighbor of Leake, relied on Leake to gin, market, and transport his small cotton crop. In return, Leake pressured Kenedy along with his wife and young daughters to pick cotton alongside his slaves. There were only thirty-seven free African Americans in the Northeast Corner by the 1850s. They were not allowed to stay without the permission of the legislature, which required testimony from white neighbors supporting the free African American person’s residence application. The slave-owning class often experienced problems enforcing a law prohibiting commerce between poor whites and the slaves. Fines were ineffective since whites who traded with slaves usually had no money to pay fines, so jail time was added. Slave patrols were established to suppress the “obnoxious” trade. In 1854, a Pontotoc court convicted James Hiler, an extremely poor young man with a large family, for buying corn from a slave. The court fined him $50 and sentenced him to two months in the county jail. Hiler would probably never see $50 in is life, but he did serve the jail time. The slave owners presided over a society ripe with social problems. In 1850, a Tippah County court levied a heavy fine and sent two brothers to jail for whipping a young white worker in front of their slaves with the same whip that the brothers used on the slaves. Maintaining slavery in a society containing so many poor whites who worked alongside slaves seemed to produce acute sensitivity to separating the races. Economic developments did not improve the lives of the white workers. In the late 1840s and 1850s, the land companies began to evict squatters from the land that had lain idle since they bought it. With the return of better cotton prices, the company wanted to either sell the land or find paying tenants. The company agents handled the situation by encouraging neighbors to help drive out the squatters and identify men who might make paying tenants. With the coming of railroads, sawmills provided some additional jobs but not many. In 1860, twenty-nine mills employed only eighty-two people, so the large landless class continued to rely on employment in agriculture. As the Civil War approached, the Northeast Corner’s electorate demonstrated no desire to leave the Union. In 1851, there was an election to decide whether to hold a secession convention, and Tishomingo voters rejected the idea by an overwhelming 76 percent. The slave owning class controlled the system, but they could not completely ignore the mass of voters. For example, the elite wanted the state to pay off the Planter’s Bank bonds, but they did not dare do so because the mass of the voters refused to accept it. Poor whites occasionally practiced a sort of direct democracy such as when they formed mobs to prevent debt sales during the 1830s. Seventy percent of the eligible voters turned out on polling day, primarily because it was a popular social event at which the liquor flowed freely and, in Tishomingo County, shooting matches provided entertainment. By 1860, anti- secession sentiments among the masses in the region remained strong. Yet, when Mississippi began to prepare for war, poor whites enlisted in large numbers. Following secession, almost half of the military age men in Pontotoc County, for example, joined some Confederate military organization. Because of the crossing of the two railroads in Corinth, northeast Mississippi became the focus of military attention. The Confederacy made the small town an assembly point for its forces and the townspeople got an early look at the deadliest killer of the war—disease. A British journalist passing through Corinth was appalled by the sickness among the Confederate soldiers lying untreated on the train platform and he chanced to meet the commander of Mississippi’s forces on the train after he had shared his meager medical supplies with the suffering men. The journalist asked why the army was so ill prepared to treat the diseases that the bringing together so As the Civil War approached, the Northeast Corner’s electorate demonstrated no desire to leave the Union.