THE COAST 69 Pearl County Revived When the New Orleans & Northeastern Railroad laid tracks through the former Pearl County as lumber enterprises sought the seemingly inexhaustible stands of longleaf pines, people seeking a livelihood in the lumber and trade businesses moved into the region, particularly along the rail lines. This area also witnessed a remarkable increase in population, and as a result, the Mississippi legislature in Senate Bill 119 passed the motion once again to create a county with the same boundaries as Pearl. This new county was named Pearl River County, and it was officially established on February 22, 1890, with a population of 2,957 and an area of 663 square miles. Marion and Lamar counties provide its northern boundaries, while Perry and Harrison counties are to its east. South is Hancock County. The Pearl River, its namesake, provides its western boundary between it and Louisiana. Because Pearl River County is in the Long Leaf Pine region of the state and had transportation lines, many flocked to it in order to take advantage of the lumber and turpentine opportunities. Railroads provided a solid mode of transporting the harvested timber, and the Pearl River offered another means of moving the felled logs to profitable markets. Therefore, from 1890 to 1900, the population of the county more than doubled, to 6,697. With this increase, the citizens of Pearl River County constructed their first courthouse in the county seat of Poplarville. This town had previously been incorporated on March 4, 1886. Its namesake was “Poplar” Jim Smith, an early settler who also has Poplar Creek named after him. At its incorporation, 236 people lived there. Smith had been a resident of the region when it was Pearl County, and one source states that he had traded ten bushels of corn with the Native Americans for his land claim. Regardless, his name lives on in the town. Poplarville is situated on the New Orleans & Northeastern Railroad that ran north and south through the county. When it became the county seat by an act of the Mississippi legislature, Poplarville had a population of 1,500. A local lumber company, Camp & Hinton, built the two-story brick courthouse. Because the soil of the county was unsuitable for large- scale agricultural endeavors, tending to livestock had become a part of the economic makeup of the county. The piney woods people who lived in Pearl River County herded beef and dairy cattle and also sheep. By the 1940s, dairy and beef cattle became even more important factors in the economy as the yellow pine forests were depleted from overharvesting. Even though the soil was not as conducive to planting crops for profit as in other parts of Mississippi, it produced plentiful forage that supported the vast herds of cattle and sheep. In addition to raising cattle, in the 1920s residents planted citrus and peach trees, grew strawberries, and cultivated pecan orchards. Prior to World War II and through the following years, tung trees were also an important crop, as the oil from their fruit was a component in the manufacture of paint. People in the county grew the tung trees on tracts of land called plantations. In fact, people called this region the Tung Oil Capital of the World. Only when synthetic products appeared and Hurricane Camille roared onto the Mississippi coast in 1969 destroying groves of the tung trees did tung oil production cease to be a major economic factor in Pearl River County. By 1900, the inhabitants of Pearl River County found successful employment opportunities based on natural resources, primarily in the lumber business. In 1904, the citizens of Lumberton, a lumbering town founded by the Hinton brothers and H. A. Camp earlier in the 1880s, voted to become part of Lamar County. Hancock County then ceded nine miles more of its territory to Pearl River County in 1908, with the town of Picayune included in that cession. As a result, Pearl River County then had a new town and 828 square miles of land. It became the fourth largest county in Mississippi. Pearl River County saw an upsurge in growth through the twentieth century. Towns, such as Picayune, developed. Citizens founded Picayune, located on Interstate 59 approximately three miles from the Louisiana line, in 1904. Eliza Jane Poitevent Nicholson, the owner and publisher of the New Orleans Times, named the town after the Spanish coin called a picayune, which was less than a cent. Since the region at one time belonged to Spain, this gesture harkened back to Pearl River’s colonial history. At the same time, the Picayune Item began service to the area, reporting the latest news. In 1919, the East Side Colored School opened to provide educational opportunities to the African American citizens of Picayune. The 1930 census revealed the county then had 19,405 citizens, with 5,149 of that count African Americans. Even with the boll weevil appearing in the county and attacking the cotton bolls before they could develop their white fleece, cotton producers were still able to persevere and make a profitable crop in the early twentieth century.