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.
John R. Allen of Donaldson’s Creek, Texas convinced area farmers in September 1875 to form the “Knights of Reliance,” a new farmer’s alliance. This group eventually became the “Southern Farmers Alliance.”
In Georgia, the effort to organize a Farmers Alliance was led by Oswald Wilson and J.B. Wilkes. Wilkes set up the first four local groups (sub-alliances) in Carroll, Heard, Coweta, and Troup counties, starting in the fall of 1887.
In December 1887, the first state alliance assembly was held in Fort Valley, Georgia, and was attended by members from 15 counties. The Rev. Robert H. Jackson of Heard County was elected the first state alliance president.
W.F. Holmes’ article, entitled “The Southern Farmers Alliance,” was published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly (1988). 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.
In 1890 Georgia politics, 192 of 219 candidates for state representatives and 6 out of 10 state senators in the 1890 campaign were Georgia alliance members. The Southern Alliance now formed its own “Peoples’ Party.”
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 Fifty 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.