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'Goober peas' become huge crop in Bulloch County
Bulloch History
peanut plants

Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.


A 1951 publication from the National Fertilizer Association entitled “The Peanut: The Unpredictable Legume” stated the true origin of the peanuts was still being hotly debated.

Sir William Watson’s report in the “Philosophical Transactions” for October 1769 labelled them “a plant well known and much cultivated in the Southern colonies…called groundnuts, or ground pease.”

None other than Thomas Jefferson mentioned peanuts as being grown commercially for local consumption in Virginia, but he also said the crop was of little real significance. In fact, he grew his own crop of peanuts.

David Ramsay’s 1858 “History of South Carolina” stated that groundnuts were used as a food, as a substitute for cocoa, and as a source of oil for domestic markets.

Emily Burke wrote in her 1850 “Reminiscences of Georgia” about life near Savannah, that “Great quantities of peanuts are raised there, not only as an article of export, but to fatten swine upon.”

In Bulloch County, Henry Keebler Harville was the first local peanut farmer to grow peanuts as a commercial crop. He also assisted other area farmers who began growing their own commercial peanut crops.

The commonly-heard term, "Goober Peas" came from a traditional folk song popular with Confederate soldiers. It was sung by scores of artists, amongst them, Burl Ives, Tennessee Ernie Ford and The Kingston Trio.

The lyrics of the song described how after being cut off from food supplies, they often had nothing but boiled peanuts (also called, colloquially, goobers or pinders) as an emergency ration.

The song is believed to have been written in 1866 by A. E. Blackmar of New Orleans, who credited A. Pindar with the lyrics and P. Nutt for the music composition.

Statistically, more than half of America’s peanut crop goes into making peanut butter. Believe it or not, it takes 540 peanuts to make each 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.

Currently, Americans eat some 700 million pounds of peanut butter per year, amounting to more than 3 pounds per person. Of those peanuts, nearly one-half were grown by Georgia farmers.

To be specific, Georgia harvested over 3.3 billion pounds and almost 1.9 billion pounds of peanuts. Of those peanuts, Bulloch County’s farmers harvested 87.5 and 49.7 million 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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