THE NORTHEAST CORNER 407 Mississippi Land Company, wrote to his employer warning the company what to expect. He said that the wheat crop had made only half its normal harvest. There was widespread fear that bread would be in short supply. The corn and cotton crops had been damaged by excessive rain, and while some small farmers were managing fairly well the planters would lose money. Thus, Bolton predicted, there would be no buyers for the company’s land and no money to pay off debts. Bolton’s predictions proved prescient. In 1867, the bottom fell out of the cotton market and three of Pontotoc County’s largest investors lost large tracts of land because they could not pay their taxes. The number of sharecroppers and renters increased and the size of farms shrank. In 1860, there had been 1,259 farms spanning more than 100 acres. By 1870 there were only 786. In 1860, 4,375 farmers worked less than ninety-nine acres. By 1870, the number grew to 9,868. As the cycle of debt increased, sharecropping grew to dominate the region as well as the state. In 1880, the Northeast Corner had 5,564 sharecroppers and renters, and by 1900 the number had grown to 11,449. The Northeast Corner had been invaded by “carpetbaggers” before the Civil War when investors from New York and New England bought most of the region’s land and sat on it awaiting profits. The region therefore saw no new wave of northern opportunists during Reconstruction; the fortune seekers were already in place. The Republicans found local Northern sympathizers—labeled “scalawags” by those loyal to the Confederacy—and placed them in control during Reconstruction. The Corner had no local elections between 1866 and 1871. Typical of the class of local men who were placed in leadership by the conquering Republicans was Robert Worth Flournoy. Flournoy owned a plantation near New Albany and held sixty-five slaves before the war. He voted for secession at the convention thinking the vote would be submitted to the people, and that they would reject it as they had in 1851. He enlisted, but resigned his commission before fighting broke out and returned home. Although he lost his plantation, Flournoy sold his stored cotton at a high wartime price enabling him to re-establish his family comfortably in Pontotoc after the war. Out of what he described as Christian concern for his fellow man, Flournoy adopted the idea that the freedmen deserved to be treated as equals. He edited a paper entitled Equal Rights, worked to provided freedmen with an education, and favored admitting African American men to the University of Mississippi. The Republicans appointed him deputy post master at Pontotoc and he served as county school superintendent when the Republican Mississippi legislature created the first state school system in Mississippi history. Remarkably, Flournoy kept the respect of his neighbors in spite of his (for the time) radical ideas. In 1875, when the Democratic Party and the Ku Klux Klan through force and intimidation managed to throw the Republicans out of office in Jackson, Flournoy stayed on in Pontotoc and fought for his belief in racial equality. Flournoy was in a decided minority, however, and the Democrats proceeded to build a political machine that controlled the state for the next 100 years. The merchants in the Northeast Corner took control over the small farms which they seized for debts, and by the late 1880s the size of farms began to increase again in the region. These merchants cooperated with the Democrats, and they collectively became known as Bourbons. Their new southern mantra became “build railroads and attract industry in order to make a better society and economy.” In the region, they dreamed of building a Memphis- Birmingham line to link the region to the bustling cities of the new South. Nathan Bedford Forrest headed one company trying to establish the route and he travelled the area collecting stock subscriptions. Corinth, as the rail center of the northeast, “industrialized” first. There were no mills before the The Northeast Corner had been invaded by “carpetbaggers” before the Civil War when investors from New York and New England bought most of the region’s land and sat on it awaiting profits.