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Cotton seed oil evolves into huge local commodity
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.

Part II

At long last, the Statesboro News of Dec. 4, 1903, declared “The plant of the Bulloch Oil Mill is (open, and) expert machinists have been at work for the past week or two (and) operation will begin in about 10 days.”

And, the Statesboro News of Dec. 4, 1903 reported “the ginnery which is fitted up with six Sea Island and one short staple gins have been running for some time.”

In addition, “An electric plant has also been installed so that the mills and all the buildings are now lighted by electricity. They have an eight horse-power engine which runs the electric dynamo.”

So, Manager Wilson says they could light the city as well as furnish power to run all the machinery in the different parts of the city (for less) than the city can do it buy their own plant.”

Continuing, “Around the mill are a number of cottages for the workmen, and also a neat dwelling for the superintendent. Mr. J.W. Wilson is manager. He is assisted by Mr. S. Landrum George.”

Then, in the Dec. 22, 1903 Statesboro News it was reported “The Bulloch Oil Mill is now running on full-time. Major J.W. Wilson says that have a good lot of seed on hand.”

On Jan. 1, 1904, Asst. Plant Mgr. S.L. George explained that, first, a machine stripped the lint from the seed (which were) made into rolls which were sold for padding. Next, “the black seed was separated from the green, ground up and formed into cakes, (then) squeezed, with the oil (falling into) vats. The seed cakes, were (feed) for animals. In May 1904, the plant (was to be) doubled in size.”

The Statesboro News issue of Aug. 19, 1904, the Bulloch Oil Mill’s owners revealed, “your cotton can be ginned from your wagon and you can get the cotton and seed the same day.”

In addition, they stated, “We will always have a good stock of bagging and ties at the gin...We will charge 60 cents per 100 pounds to gin Sea Island cotton, and 30 cents per 100 pounds to gin upland cotton.”

Finally, it was revealed, “we have...Mr. J.A. Fulcher as our bookkeeper, which will assure you that all accounts will be kept correctly...we have not built the mill for personal gain alone, but for the upbuilding of the county.”

The guano fertilizer plant was now in operation, and the mill used ground-up cotton meal as an extender. On Oct. 11, 1904, a large fire at the mill destroyed six sea island gins, two upland gins, two presses, and more.

The plant had closed because of water problems. In 1910, Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner T.G. Hudson’s Bulletin #52 listed the Bulloch Oil Mills products.

They were Low Grade Sandy Land Guano, Acid Phosphate, and Kainit. Nearly a decade later, on July 31, 1913, locals W.H. Elliss, F.E. Fields, J.G. Blitch and M.E. Grimes bought the Oil Mill.

The Blitch-Ellis Manufacturing Company’s Oil Seed Mill was bought and sold several times, and then closed for good. The magazine The Iron Tradesman (May 1917) heralded a new oil mill.

It announced the E. A. Smith Grain Co. (will) erect a mill at Statesboro...and wants to get into communication with different manufacturers.

Jack Averitt’s book, Families of Southeastern Georgia (1964) explained that E.A. Smith, “The Cotton King,” was the largest cotton-seed oil operator in Statesboro, opening in 1911.

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

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