Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
There were three basic types of agricultural farm ownership in Bulloch County.
There was private ownership of the land and there were two types of tenancy arrangements: where the landlord collected rent from the tenant, and where the landlord collected a percentage of the crops.
Many merchants had created a system of liens so that they could give merchandise to customers without receiving payment in exchange, but, unfortunately, many merchants charged excessive interest of as high as 54 percent of the items’ values.
By 1872, the state Supreme Court clarified the difference between a sharecropper and a tenant. First, they declared that a tenant had possession of the premises exclusive of the landlord and owned his crops.
Secondly, in the case of a sharecropper, the landlord furnishes supplies and equipment to the farmer. Therefore, the cropper’s share of his crops at harvest time is really a way of paying him wages. The sharecropper never actually owns his crops.
While only 42 percent of Georgia farmers were tenants in 1902, by 1912, 77 percent of all Georgia farmers had been forced into some sort tenancy arrangements. There were three basic type of tenant arrangements used in Bulloch County.
The first arrangement was a simple cash payment agreement between renter and landowner. The second was sharecropping. The landlord would provide the home, land, tools and stock for the farm. The tenant would supply the labor.
The third arrangement, referred to as the “Third and Fourth” system, the landlord would provide the tenant with the house to live and the land to farm, in return for which the tenant would agree to give the landlord 1/3 of his grain and 1/4 of his cotton once the crops were harvested. The tenant made all the decisions.
In the early 1900s, records show that In Bulloch County, 60 percent of the farms were family-owned, while 22 percent were run on a sharecropping arrangement and 18 percent were run on a cash-renting basis.
In Bryan County, landowners held 68 percent of the farms, while 15 percent were sharecroppers and 17 percent were renters. In Screven County, only 43 percent of farms were family-owned, 31 percent were sharecropped and 35 percent were cash-rented.
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.