Stone County, Mississippi, was formed in 1916. It was named after John H. Stone, the governor of Mississippi from 1876 to 1882. Stone County is located approximately 30 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the small towns that make up Stone County are Maxie, Perkinston, Bond, McHenry, and Wiggins.
Wiggins, MS, is the largest town in Stone County and is the county seat. It located on a railroad thirty-eight miles north of Gulfport and the same distance south of Hattiesburg.
The center of the local economy in Stone County during the Civil Rights Era came from Finkbine Lumber Company and the pickle plant. Lumber was shipped all over the country.
The pickle plant also created a boost for Stone County’s economy. Hundreds of workers that lived in Stone County were employed by the plant. Most of the pickles were shipped in from farmers south of U.S. Highway 80. About 90 million cucumbers went through the pickle plant each year.
Blacks and whites were allowed to work at both the lumber company and pickle plant. Many high school students worked at the pickle plant during the summer breaks.
During the Civil Rights Movement, there were not a lot of retail stores in Stone County. Most of Stone County’s citizens would travel to Wiggins to purchase groceries and clothing. Downtown Wiggins, consisted of only one main street with shops, cafes, the post office, and one bank – The Bank of Wiggins.
The grocery store was named Ernest Yeager’s. Black people were allowed to shop in Ernest Yeager’s; however, there was a black owned general store named Ms. Beasley’s, which sold basic food such as meal, milk, eggs, beans, rice. Ms. Beasley also sold “penny candy.”
Hattiesburg American, January 30, 1952 edition