Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Final Frontiers, 1880-1930: Settling the Southern Bottomlands

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Final Frontiers, 1880-1930: Settling the Southern Bottomlands

Article excerpt

The Final Frontiers, 1880-1930: Settling the Southern Bottomlands. By John Solomon Otto. Contributions in American History, No. 183. (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, c. 1999. Pp. xii, 189. $59.95, ISBN 0-313-28963-8.)

John Solomon Otto's new book provides an excellent overview of development in the bottomlands of the lower Mississippi valley between 1880 and 1930. The area under investigation stretches along the Mississippi River and encompasses southeastern Missouri, eastern Arkansas, northwestern Mississippi, and northeastern Louisiana. In some ways the title, The Final Frontiers, 1880-1930: Settling the Southern Bottomlands, is misleading, since the book opens with a chapter on developments prior to 1880 and closes with a chapter on the impact on the region of the Great Depression and World War II. The first chapter, however, provides valuable context that enables the reader to understand why the region was left undeveloped for so long, and the final chapter reveals how New Deal programs and the advent of the war accelerated the transformation of the bottomlands plantations from labor-intensive to capital-intensive enterprises.

Chapter 2 details how settlers discovered the "southern bottomlands" in the period between 1880 and 1900. A compendium of interrelated factors provided the stimulus for increased settlement in the region. Railroad development, the emergence of the lumber industry, and drainage of swamps and lowlands drew attention to some of the richest land in the South. The population grew dramatically between 1880 and 1900, from 390,014 to 648,322 (p. …

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