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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/447

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MISSISSIPPI


395


MISSISSIPPI


mation. The southern portion is generally sandy and loamy.

The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta constitutes the cotton- producing region of the state, the finest and most fer- tile cotton lands in the world, not excepting the valleys of the Nile and the Ganges. It begins at the Tennessee line and follows on its eastern boundary a line of hills or bluffs to Vicksburg, and is bounded on the west by the Mississippi River. It lies low and its general aver- age level is not higher than the high- water level of the Mississippi. It comprises an estimated area of 4,480,- 000 acres or 6480 square miles. It is now protected by a scientifically constructed system of levees extend- ing on the Mississippi River from the Tennessee line to the hills at Vicksburg, and up the Yazoo River and its tributaries above the danger points. The levees are maintained by local assessments by the two levee boards in the delta and by appropriations from the Federal Government, made for the improvement of the rivers and for the maintenance of the levees. The cost of maintaining this levee system is great, but is far more than compensated for by the protection secured for this large area of cotton lands. These levees are substantially constructed of earth from 15 to 30 feet high with bases broad in proportion. With the levee system, it is the general opinion of levee engineers that any general overflow of the delta is impossible. In very high water an occasional break in a levee, called a "crevasse", may overflow a small local area, but with the present scientific skill and equipment, these breaks are generally closed promptly, with but little damage to land affected. The water level in the Mis- sissippi and in the rivers of the delta varies very much during the year. The highest water is from January to April, followed often, in the Mississippi, by what is termed the June rise which is caused by the melting of the snow and ice in the upper Mississippi and in its tributaries. There are good landings at various points on the Mississippi River, among them being Green- ville, Vicksburg, and Natchez.

Climatic Conditions. — The climate is mild and tem- perate. In the summer, breezes from the Mexican Gulf in the middle and southern portions, and variable winds elsewhere in the state, render the heat moderate and tolerable. In the southern portion the temperature rarely falls as low as -1-32° Fahr., and generally does not exceed 95° Fahr. In the middle part the maxi- mum is about 98° and the lowest is rarely lower than + 20°. In the northern portion the temperature rarely falls to + 10°, and for a few days, in an excep- tionally cold winter, may go to 4- 5°. There is a fair and moderate rainfall extended through the year, with a greater fall during the winter and spring. Near the coast the fall is about 65 inches per annum, and else- where it averages about 50 inches annually. The state is as healthy in all of its climatic and other conditions as any of the ailjacent states. In the low-lying por- tions that are not well drained there are some malarial fevers, but these conditions are being steadily im- proved. The death rate for the state does not exceed, annually, 1-20 per cent. Yellow fever, that was the scourge of the state for years in recurring epidemics, no longer exists, since the discovery of the mosquito theory, except in rare and sporadic form. The yellow fever experts are unanimous in the opinion that with ordinary precautionary measures there can never be another yellow fever epidemic in the South.

Geohigij. — The geology of the state is not compli- cated and is similar to that of adjacent states. There are four groups of cretaceous strata: (1) The Entaw or Coffee group; (2) The Tombigbee group; (3) The Rotten Limestone group; (4) The Ripley group. Seven groups of the Tcrtiarv .strata have been distinguished as follows: (1) The Flat Woods group; (2) The La Grange group; (3) the Buhrstone group; (4) The Clai- bonie group; (5) The Jackson group; (6) The Vicks- burg group; (7) The Grand Gulf group.


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Fauna and Flora. — In Mississippi we meet with all the different animals that are found in the gulf states. There are about forty different species of mammalia in the state. Among them is the American opossum, which is abundant, and is highly prized as an .'irticle of food. The deer and the black bear, that once ex- isted in great numbers, are disappearing owing to the clearing up of the country and the inefficient enforce- ment of the game laws. About one hundred and fifteen varieties of birds are found, about twenty of which are migratory, coming from the north during the fall and winter months. The mocking bird, exclusively a southern bird, and the most remarkable songster in the world, is found in the state, especially in the mid- dle and southern portions, in great lunnliers. The wild turkey, a native of this country, is found in nearly all parts of the state. Quail are also very abundant. The game laws are more effective and are \ more vigorously en- forced than here- ' tofore. More than fifty species of rep- tilia are found here, prominent among them being the alli- gator {A. Missis- sippiensis), existing

mainly in the middle and southern portions of t he state on the rivers and lakes. It attains a inaximiun length of from 14 to 15 feet. There are at least sixty species of fish, the majority of which are edible. The oysters and crustaceans of the gulf exist in great quantities and are of the finest quality for food.

The state, in almost its entire area, was covered originally with a magnificent growth of forest trees. More than one hundred and twenty species exist at present. Among them are fifteen varieties of oak, mcluding live oak and white and red oaks which are the most valuable. Cypress is still abundant in the river bottoms and on the lakes. Besides several species of hickory, the black walnut, chestnut, sweet gum, red cedar, red gum, elms of various varieties, maple, ash, sycamore exist here, among many other valuable varieties, all of large growth and valuable as timber. The long-leaf pine, the most valuable tree for timber for various uses, abounds in the southern por- tions of the state. The short-leaf pine, not quite so valuable, is widely distributed throughout the middle and northern sections. Next to cotton, timber is the most valuable product of the state. The value of the pine timber in the state was estimated in 1880, ap- proximately, at $250,000,000. Allowing for the cut- ting since that time and also for the increase in the price of lumber, a conservative approximate estimate of its value should not be less than $300,000,000 at the present time.

Agriculture. — This is the principal industry in the state; of the male population 77.7Vo and of the female 7 1 .89r are engaged in agricultural pursuits. Fully one half of the state is of extraordinary fertility. The only portion that is unproductive is the small strip of terri- tory known geographically as Flat Woods, where only the bottom lands are fertile. Cotton is the principal product, being probably three times grciilcr lli.'in the other industries of the state combined. 'I'lie vahicof the cotton crop as shown by tlie census of 1!)()() was $54,032,341. The crop of i,S79~l,S,S0 was vahied at $46, 000, 000, showing an increase during that period of over $8,000,000. Among other minor products are Indian corn, oats, hay, peas of every variety, wheat, cane, sorghum, rice, potatoes, and almost ever.v vari- ety of orchard and garden product. In the southern