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.
The Jan. 4, 1939 edition of the Bulloch Herald had a front page article which announced “Co-Op Meat Curing Plant First of a Kind in U.S.” It also reported that the name was “Briar Patch Meat-Curing Association.”
Built to serve the Ivanhoe and Stilson cattle and hog farms in the county, the Briar Patch Meat Curing Association was constructed in early 1932 to combat the costs of using commercial meat curing plants.
It stated “Hogs were selling for less than 3 cents a pound on the foot and the commercial curing plants were charging around 3 cents a pound for sugar cure.”
Led by J.W. Davis and the Georgia Agricultural Extension Service, plans were drawn up for a community meat curing plant. Funds were raised, deposited in the bank, and materials were ordered.
Unfortunately, by the time the materials arrived, the bank had actually closed. Nevertheless, the community went ahead and built the plant, which had operated successfully for seven years.
The article declared “the 50 farmers of that community cured their own supplies of meat and did the work for 96 neighbors. It cost the co-operators 1 cent a pound to sugar-cure 37,000 pounds of meat.”
“That is said to be a saving of 2 cents a pound as against the cost of individual curing. In addition, each of the co-operators received a dividend of $5.77 a share.”
The article stated “W.A. Groover is the community leader of the Ivanhoe Community. H.C. McElveen is chairman of the Briar Patch Meat Curing Association, and A.D. Sowell is Secretary and Treasurer.”
The Georgia Agricultural Extension Service helped get the plant up and running. The Co-Op Extension Service’s Extension Service Review printed an article in 1933, entitled, “Georgia Farmers Cure Own Meat Supply.
It declared, “farmers (needed) a method of curing their meat...a farmer-owned, farmer-operated, meat-curing plant...curing their meat for 0.3 cent per pound” was the solution.
The investors “invited their neighbors in Stilson (to) join forces.” Shares were offered to farmers at “$25 each (with) $5 being paid down...a ton-twin-cylinder compressor, (and) a 6-horsepower gasoline engine”
Unfortunately, “The day the machinery arrived, the bank in which the company’s money was deposited closed and again the money had to be raised. These farmers liked the idea (so) this was not a very hard problem.”
It was named “Briar Patch Meat Curing Plant” after the area’s militia district. The meat was to carry that brand.” It added, “The house was built to plans drawn by G. I. Johnson, extension agricultural engineer in Georgia.
Johnson intended the “building (to be) is large enough for a cooling room and to house the machinery.” Meat was “being cured (to) Mr. Warner (USDA) and Mr. Marlatt (Animal Husbandry Agent)'s” directions.
The article concluded, "Several other plants in Georgia and South Carolina have been patterned after the initial project.” In 1938 the Meat Curing Association sugar-cured almost 37,000 pounds of hog meat for 1-cent-per-pound.
Local producers received a healthy profit, and the Association paid dividends from its inception. By 1941, it was paying out stock dividends of $10 per share, after performing minor repairs on the plant.
Mr. McElveen, who served as business manager, stated that whereas the original facility handled 30,000 pounds of meat, with a new 10-foot by 14-foot processing room handled 70,000 pounds of meat a year.
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.