Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
After John Rolfe of Virginia established his plantation in 1616 “at West and Sherley Hundred (he) imployed onely in planting and curing tobacco.”
Tobacco-growing spread to other counties. Georgia’s first crop of 350 pounds of tobacco was sold in 1871.
In the Bulloch Times of August 22, 1895, Nick Foss announced he had planted five acres of tobacco, expected to produce 1,750 pounds of tobacco.
In 1913, W.P. Smith of Pineora, an Effingham tobacco grower, held a meeting at the Cone farm in Ivanhoe to announce his intention of erecting a Tobacco Warehouse at Pineora.
By 1915, H.M. Robertson was growing tobacco in Brooklet, and Judge Cone in Ivanhoe. In 1917, E.L. Anderson, T.H. Cook, and others reported they were growing 10 acres of tobacco in the Sinkhole District.
Then, in 1918, local merchant J.F. Fields began giving away free seed. W.R. and J.H. Anderson, along with Dr. R.J. Kennedy and the Starlings, announced that they would grow tobacco outside of Statesboro.
After E.G. Cromartie formed the Tobacco Farmers Club in 1924, he announced that he would plant 200 acres of tobacco. J.E. Brannen of Stilson announced his 4 acres of tobacco had produced 4,000 pounds of tobacco.
Cecil W. Brannen, R.J. Kennedy, and J.L. Mathews soon established the Statesboro Tobacco Warehouse Company. S.J. Proctor built two warehouses that cost nearly $40,000.
Other investors were Hinton Booth, Howell Cone, Fred Hodges, S.W. Lewis, S.L. Nevils, C.P. Olliff, J.C. Parrish and Brooke Simmons. They leased one warehouse to H.W. Gauchat and the other to W.E. Cobb and H.P. Foxhall.
J.C. Hurdle, a “Tobacco Demonstrator,” came down and grew 500 acres of tobacco in Bulloch. N.J. Cox of Nevils planted 400 acres of Gold Dollar, Bonanza and Virginia Bright Leaf.
When the tobacco market auction opened for the 1927-8 season, buyers came from tobacco giants Imperial Export, R.J. Reynolds, Liggett and Meyers, J.P. Taylor, Chino-American and P. Lorillard.
Area farmers sold 2,684,192 pounds of tobacco for $289,199.04. As a result, the Southern Tobacco Journal wrote “Statesboro is located in one of, if not the best, tobacco sections in the state of Georgia.”
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.