Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
In writing about the Southern Farmers Alliance, W.F. Holmes said: “The agency would obtain loans from local banks at 6 percent interest and then loan money at 8 percent interest to groups consisting of at least three members each.” Thus, the risk of loss was very small.
Holmes explained that “the alliance worked to uphold the interest of yeoman farmers whose way of life faced a variety of threats...not least was the danger of losing ownership of their farms and falling into tenantry.”
At the 1889 Georgia State Alliance meeting, there were 2,062 alliances, with 54,528 members, including 15,089 women. The Georgia Farmers Alliance president was Leonidas Livingston.
The Southern Alliance’s political demands were that our nation’s leaders would save public lands for settlements; establish a gold standard; and create more coinage for conducting business.
At this time, the National Economist, newspaper for the National Farmers Alliance and Industrial Union, the Agricultural Wheel, and the Farmers and Laborers Union, addressed the main women’s issues.
The Southern Farmer’s Alliance newspaper the Progressive Farmer’s issue of Sept. 4, 1888 answered those questions; there were “thousands and tens of thousands” of farm wives who “worked to their graves.”
The Progressive Farmer on June 23, 1891 shared a “Mrs. Brown’s” speech about how “that “Drudgery, fashion and gossip are no longer the bounds of woman’s Sphere.
Of 219 candidates for state representatives, 192, along with six out of 10 state senators in the 1890 campaign were Georgia Alliance members. The Southern Alliance now formed its own “Peoples’ Party.”
Delegates pushed for railroad regulations, national bank closures, and unlimited coinage of currency. They also pushed for a tax on earnings, shorter working hours, and limits on immigration.
General James Weaver became the alliance’s presidential candidate. In the national election, he received over 1 million popular votes and 22 electoral votes.
By the mid-1890s, the Georgia State Alliance claimed a membership of over 100,000 farmers in almost 2,000 lodges. The Georgia State Farmers helped to elect William Atkinson as the new governor of Georgia in 1894.
The Bulloch Times of Nov. 18, 1908 announced that “Build Big Cotton Warehouse. Farmers’ Union Make Plans to Store Million Bales.” It stated that “the building of a large central warehouse at New Orleans.”
Then, the Bulloch Times of Sept. 9, 1908 printed an article entitled “Farmers Union Warehouses. Over 50 Were Erected in The State in The Past Four Years.”
It continued, “There have been erected in Georgia some 50 or 60 small cotton warehouses in the last three or four years, owned and controlled exclusively by the Farmers Union.”
“In some cases it has been a struggle with the farmers to hold onto these warehouses, but (mainly) they are now out of the woods. The (Farmers Union) warehouse system is the most practical and substantial plan.”
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.