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.
The first record of tobacco being grown in Bulloch County was in the Bulloch Times issue of Jan. 11, 1894, which reported “Nick Foss talks of trying tobacco growing the present year.”
Foss reported he would “send to Quincy, Fla, (for) the seed of the variety that has been grown so profitably in upper Florida for several years past." He said he might put in eight acres of “the weed.”
The editor of the Times wrote that “The Times feels impelled to remark that 1/2 the cotton lands of Bulloch County might be more profitably cultivated in Tobacco.”
In the Times issue of Aug. 22, 1895, Nick Foss announced he had planted five acres of tobacco. For his 1,750 pounds of tobacco he hoped to make the handsome sum 0f $70.
Eight years later, in 1903, W. Smith of Pineora held a meeting at the Cone farm in Ivanhoe. He wanted to erect a tobacco warehouse at Pineora. In 1909, he planted tobacco in Effingham.
Then, H. Robertson began planting tobacco in Brooklet in 1915. Cone announced he was planting tobacco in Ivanhoe. In 1917, E. Anderson and T. Cook reported they were now growing tobacco in the Sinkhole district.
The March 25, 1920 issue of the weekly journal Tobacco contained a lengthy article entitled “Tobacco Growing Becomes Important in Georgia.” The story was dated March 19 and originated in Macon.
It stated, “Tobacco seems to have gained a remarkable hold on the fancy of Georgians (and) every farmer in the tobacco section (intends) to make a killing with tobacco as a money crop.”
Tobacco growing, as a commercialized industry, was new in Georgia, until in 1914 “tobacco fever” took over farmers in and around the Pineora, Ga. area.”
“Gignilliat & Johnson erected the Golden Leaf Tobacco Warehouse, the ﬁrst of its kind in the state. They were fairly successful with their sales in 1914, and sold a little tobacco in 1915.”
Unfortunately, “since that time the warehouse has not been used. The tobacco growers about Pineora were discouraged by the low prices realized by the poor grades produced by inexperienced men.”
“Georgia owes much of its tobacco development to the agricultural and industrial departments of the railroads serving the Southern part of the state.”
In 1914, the representatives of the Atlanta, the Birmingham & Atlantic, the Seaboard Air Line, and the Central of Georgia railroads began talking to farmers in Southeast Georgia.
“In 1915 the Georgia & Florida got into the game, and in 1917 the Southern Railway got going along this line. In 1918 the Atlantic Coast Line took hold of the question and pressed it with farmers along its lines. “
In 1918, W. and J. Anderson, Dr. Kennedy, and the Starlings announced that they too were growing tobacco. J. Fields began giving away free seed to those interested in growing tobacco.
Central of Georgia Railroad Agricultural Agent J.F. Jackson told farmers to “grow something besides cotton” suggesting the area’s farmers grow wheat and tobacco instead.
Georgia’s planted tobacco acreage in 1919 included 200 acres in Bulloch county. The total acreage was 30,700. The “tobacco expert of the Georgia State College of Agriculture” provided these figures.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at email@example.com.