On Nov. 14, 1902, a Mr. Preston asked the citizens of Statesboro to subscribe to his plan to build a seed mill in Statesboro, estimating it would take $30,000 to build the plant.
Local investors included John W. Olliff, J.L. and Lester Olliff, B.E. Turner, the Foys, Hollands, Cones, Brannens, Donaldsons, Grimes, Groovers, Elliss, Parkers, Smiths, Colemans, Rogers, Johnsons and Caruthers.
On May 3, 1903, it was announced that N. Olliff would be company president; J.W. Wilson would be general manager, with J.L. Donaldson, S.C. Groove and B.E. Turner serving on the Board of Directors.
In the plant, at first, the lint was stripped from the seed to be made into rolls which were sold for padding. Next, the cotton seeds were ground into cakes. After the oil was extracted from the seed cakes, the cakes were then ground up into seed meal for animals.
On Oct. 11, 1904, after water supply problems, a large fire at the mill destroyed the ginnery and the cotton house. Lost in the inferno were six sea island and two upland cotton gins, two cotton presses, 21 bales of seed cotton and one mule.
After a nearly a decade of inactivity, W.H. Elliss, F.E. Fields, J.G. Blitch and M.E. Grimes bought the Oil Mill on July 31, 1913 .Blitch and Elliss then bought out their partners and opened the plant as the Blitch-Ellis Manufacturing Co.
The plant changed hands several more times: in July of 1915, R.L. and H.E. McMath, L.W. Brown and L.L. McLesky bought and renamed the plant the Statesboro Oil Company; and two years later F.S. Perry and Alfred Montsalvage bought the plant.
After another disastrous fire, Montsalvage rebuild the ginnery. At this time, virtually nothing of the Bulloch County cotton crop was wasted: the stalks were ground up to be added to livestock feed, “linters” were processed to create cellulose, while from the cotton seed “kernels” the plant extracted cottonseed oil and cottonseed meal.
Bulloch County’s Oil Mill played a vital part in expanding the value and usefulness of Bulloch County’s cotton crop. Without it, the lives of many Bulloch Countians farmers might have been much different indeed, and the future of cotton as a mainstay of Bulloch's economic prosperity would have been in serious doubt.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. Email Roger at rogerdodg firstname.lastname@example.org.