(Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the history and evolution of agriculture in Georgia and Bulloch County.)
John Rolfe, who is considered the first Virginia tobacco planter, established his plantation in 1616 “at West and Sherley Hundred… (with) twenty-five (workers)…imployed onely in planting and curing tobacco” (sic).
Colonists soon discovered that tobacco was a hardy annual plant. It ranged in size from the dwarf variety at 18 inches to as much as seven or eight feet in height. Tobacco even began to be used as a form of payment. In many areas, public, county and parish taxes were payable in tobacco.
Soon, the crop was being introduced into other colonies: first to North Carolina, then Maryland and then into Kentucky. Ironically, Georgia was one of the last colonies to begin growing tobacco.
In the August 22, 1895 edition of the Bulloch Times, Nick Foss announced he had planted five acres of tobacco which he expected to produce 1,750 pounds of tobacco, for which he should get $70.
In 1913, W.P. Smith of Pineora, who had been growing tobacco in Effingham for the previous four years, 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 reported he was growing tobacco in Brooklet and Judge Cone announced he was preparing to start growing tobacco on his land in Ivanhoe.
In 1917, E.L. Anderson and T.H. Cook reported they were growing tobacco in the Sinkhole District. Then, in 1918, W.R. and J.H. Anderson, Dr. R.J. Kennedy and the Starlings announced that they too were growing tobacco.
In 1918, J.F. Fields began giving away free seed to those interested in trying to grow tobacco. He also gave pamphlets on how to best prepare the land and then grow the crops.
Central of Georgia Railroad Agricultural Agent J.F. Fields told his farmers, “Bulloch County can grow something besides cotton. What are these new crops? There are two on our mind at the moment: wheat and tobacco.”
In 1924, E.G. Cromartie formed the Tobacco Farmers Club, and announced that he would plant at least 200 acres of tobacco. In the same year, J.E. Brannen of Stilson announced that his 4 acres had produced 4,000 pounds of tobacco.
By 1927, a move was underway to set up auction houses in the area for tobacco sales. Cecil W. Brannen, R.J. Kennedy and J.L. Mathews established the Statesboro Tobacco Warehouse Company.
S.J. Proctor was given a contract to build two warehouses for them at a cost of $12,000 apiece, but they ended up costing 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 were almost immediately leased out: one to H.W. Gauchat and one to W.E. Cobb and H.P. Foxhall.
J.C. Hurdle, a “Tobacco Demonstrator,” grew 500 acres of tobacco in Bulloch as a test crop. N.J. Cox of Nevils announced his intention of growing 400 acres. Varieties being grown at this time were Gold Dollar, Bonanza, and Virginia Bright Leaf.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.