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Bulloch Co. becomes largest tobacco market in GA
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

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.


Between the years of 1929 and 1932, because of an overproduction of tobacco, an infestation of “Blue Mold,” and the arrival of the Great Depression, Statesboro’s tobacco prices varied widely.

Prices dropped from 8.9 cents a pound (1930), down to 6.2 cents a pound (1931), then rose to 7.8 cents a pound (1932), and then rose further to 10.9 cents a pound (1933).

While there were 32,000 acres planted in tobacco in 1929, by 1932, less than 1,700 acres were planted in tobacco. In 1934, the U.S. Congress passed the Kerr-Smith Tobacco Act, which restricted the planting of tobacco.

Bulloch County’s tobacco allotment for 1935 was 1,674,634 pounds. Two new warehouses had opened in Statesboro that year: J.G. Tillman’s facility, on Holland’s lot; and E.A. Smith’s facility, in Brannen’s Park.

In 1936, Bulloch’s allotment was 2,319,424 pounds. National buyers Liggett & Myers, Imperial Export, R.J. Reynolds, and Chino-America were joined by newcomers.

These included Venable, Dixie Leaf, L.B. Jenkins, and W.T. Clark Tobacco Companies. It turned out that 1936’s tobacco sales were the best ever: 3,629,528 pounds, which sold for an average of 18.7 cents per pound.

Joe and Julian Tillman, Charlie Randolph and Lucius Anderson opened the new Bulloch Tobacco Warehouse just in time for the 1937 auction. Present were representatives from at least 23 tobacco companies.

In 1938, Gov. Rivers opened the 1938 auction, praising Bulloch countians for “their enterprise in developing tobacco.” A 105,000 sq. foot warehouse opened, operated by R.E. Sheppard and Aulbert Brannen.

In addition, a 51,000 square foot brick warehouse, built by Walter Aldred Jr., opened on South College Street; and a 70,000 square foot warehouse opened, operated by Cecil Wooten and Norman Swain.

By 1947, the Statesboro tobacco market was the largest in all of Georgia. The Cobb & Foxhall Company was now the biggest tobacco buyer in Bulloch. Two new warehouses of theirs opened in Statesboro.

They also rented three more warehouses: two from Walter Aldred, and one from Joe and Julian Tillman. The Sheppard and Brannen Warehouses were the largest in Statesboro.

In 1950, Statesboro was the top producing tobacco market in the state with 16.4 million pounds of tobacco being sold. Unfortunately, prices were the fourth lowest in the state (41.74 cents a pound).

This was because of the influx of poorer-quality Florida and South Carolina tobacco being brought to the Statesboro auction. In 1953, the Statesboro market was now the northernmost tobacco market in the entire state.

Bulloch was the top producer as well, with 18.6 million pounds of tobacco passing through its warehouses, which sold for an average of 47.14 cents a pound. In 1954, two more new warehouses opened up.

They were the New Statesboro Tobacco Warehouse; and the Farmer’s Tobacco Warehouse, operated by Guy Sutton. By 1959, Aulbert Brannen had built two more warehouses.

They were the Brannen #1 and Brannen #3 Warehouses. J.T. Sheppard (the son of R.E.), H.E. Akins, and Hardin Sugg opened the new Sheppard-Sugg Tobacco Warehouse at the old Sheppard Warehouse.

By 196o, Akins had acquired the controlling interest in the Cobb and Foxhall Company, after both of the partners died. Bulloch County still grows tobacco today.

According to the 2019 Georgia agricultural overview, compiled by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bulloch produced 9,000 bushels of tobacco, which weighed some 18,900,000 pounds.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

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