(Note: This is the second in a series of articles on the Agrarian Movement in the nation, the south and Bulloch County in the 1800s.)
John R. Allen of Donaldson’s Creek convinced area farmers to organize in September of 1875 as the “Knights of Reliance.” This group changed names many more times, eventually becoming known as the “Southern Farmers Alliance.”
In Georgia, the effort to organize the Alliance was led by two men: Oswald Wilson and J.B. Wilkes. Wilkes set up the first four local groups (or sub-alliances) in the counties of Carroll (600 members), Heard (400 members), Coweta (400) and Troup (300 members), starting in the fall of 1887.
In December of 1887, the very first State Alliance Assembly was held in Fort Valley, Georgia, and was attended by members from 15 counties. Reverend Robert H. Jackson of Heard County was elected the first State Alliance President.
In 1888, the Southern Farmers Alliance decided to exercise its muscle and boycott the “Jute Trust.” Jute was used for bagging cotton. A Saint Louis firm gained control of all jute supplies, and then raised prices from 7 to 12 cents a pound.
Alliance farmers stopped buying jute, devised alternative methods for securing cotton bales, and in less than a year the cartel was forced to drop the price of jute to below pre-boycott prices.
In June of 1888, the Georgia State Alliance set up its first Cooperative Exchange in Atlanta on the corner of Fulton and Forsyth Streets.
A March 8, 1889 New York Times article stated “the purposes of the Exchange are to conduct a general merchandise business, to act as agent for the purchase and sale of all kinds of farm and orchard products and as general forwarding agent for all kinds of commodities.”
In Bulloch County, sub-alliances were established throughout the county: in Statesboro, George Emmitt was President; in New Castle, G.T. Brewtor was President; in Nellwood, T.F. Brannen was President; in Echo, R.F. Stringer was President; in Harville, John I. Lane was President; In Eureka (meeting at Smith’s Chapel) C.R. Davis was President; and in Mill Creek, W.E. Gould was President.
By the mid 1890’s, the Georgia State Alliance claimed a membership of over 100,000 farmers in almost 2000 lodges. Numerous County Alliances opened their own “Co-Ops”, in conjunction with county agricultural agents.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger email@example.com