THE COAST 51 economic thread along the entire Gulf Coast. However, Jackson County quickly established its reputation as the center of boatbuilding in Mississippi. Significant shipyards developed in the 1830s that secured Jackson County’s place as a shipbuilding hub. The shipbuilding operations that began in the state’s early history established the boatbuilding trend for Jackson County that has endured into the present day. The population of the county at that time was 1,356 whites, 400 slaves, and thirty-eight “free colored residents.” The BeBee Boat Yard on Bayou Cassotte began constructing ships early in the 1830s. The boat yard originated in Maine but had been relocated to Jackson County to capitalize on the growing economy of the region and its strategic location between Mobile and New Orleans. Another entrepreneur, Ebenezer Clark, established his shipyard north of present-day Moss Point on the Pascagoula River. Clark hailed from New York and also had businesses in Mobile. Today the area where his home and shipyard existed is known as Clark Bayou. Clark constructed flat- bottomed schooners for the coastal trade and repaired all types of ships at his yard. His journal lists some 200 vessels either repaired or built at his business. In the twentieth century, Ingalls’s Shipyards credited Clark with beginning the master craftsmanship that still characterizes ships from the Pascagoula region. However, it was Captain John Grant who made steamboat travel more cost-effective along the coast. In 1827, Captain John Grant moved from Baltimore in 1840 and established a home in Pascagoula on what is now Grant’s Lake. He came south because the United States government hired him to dredge Mobile Bay after his previous success at dredging the Baltimore harbor. While operating in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, he dredged a pass in 1839 between Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound still called Grant’s Pass. He also dredged the mouth of the Pascagoula River, supported the construction of lighthouses between Mobile and New Orleans, and served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1842 to 1844. Grant cut transportation time, made water travel safer, and saved money for steamboat operators. With Grant’s improvements, steamboat travel became the primary mode of travel because it became more efficient and safe. Communities within the wide delta of the Pascagoula River were often isolated because of travel difficulties over unsafe waters, so the improvement and opening of the maritime trade and transportation routes were vital to the success of the region’s maritime economy. Grant is buried in Grant’s Cemetery in Pascagoula. In 1836, as a result of an increase in steamboat travel between the anchor cities of Mobile and New Orleans, officials erected a lighthouse on Round Island. Two years later Pascagoula incorporated as a municipality, and sawmills began opening along the Pascagoula River. Even though the Panic of 1837 caused cotton prices to plummet and the national economy to spiral downward, in Jackson County it appeared to be business as usual as steamboats brought visitors to the area and hauled merchandise from the more interior reaches of the vast river system. Despite the drive to wealth and the improvements that were making the coast counties more modern and diverse, the area was still not far removed from its wild frontier origins. In 1837, the James Copeland gang burned the Jackson Courthouse in Americus. James, born on January 18, 1823, in northern Jackson County, was the son of Isom Copeland and Rebecca Wells and began a life of crime while still an adolescent. James Copeland associated at an early age with Gale H. Wages, a known criminal, and these two men devised a plot in 1837 to burn the Jackson County Courthouse, which housed evidence against the young Copeland in the theft of a pig. Copeland and Wages soon embarked on bolder and more deadly crimes, and for years they terrorized the region from Florida to Texas. Once they set fire to downtown Mobile to divert attention so they could loot stores while the townspeople fought to save the city from incineration. When Copeland was finally captured, law officers hanged him in Perry County, Mississippi, on October 30, 1857. The Growth of County Governments With an influx of people as a result of improved transportation coastwide, the first public school in Bay St. Louis opened in 1831. Officials also erected a lighthouse in Pass Christian to guide the boats now plying the waters more frequently. In 1837, the Hancock County seat once again relocated. Gainesville became the center of the county government. With the Panic of 1837, however, some towns were unable to thrive as their commerce dried up, unlike the situation in Jackson County. The onetime county seat of Center became an abandoned town as a result. Despite the drive to wealth and the improvements that were making the Coast counties more modern and diverse, the region was still not far removed from its wild frontier origins.