Because of the onset of the “Great Depression,” Statesboro’s tobacco prices dropped from an already low price of 8.9 cents a pound in 1930 to 6.2 cents a pound in 1931, but then rose very slightly to 7.8 cents a pound in 1932.
In order to curtail the continuing overproduction of tobacco, in 1934 the U.S. Congress passed the “Kerr-Smith Tobacco Act,” which severely penalized farmers who didn’t limit the amount of tobacco they planted.
Bulloch County’s tobacco allotment for 1935 was 1,674,634 pounds. T. G. Tillman and E.A. Smith opened new warehouses. In 1936, Bulloch County’s allotment rose again, this time to 2,319,424 pounds.
Tobacco giants Liggett and Meyers, Imperial Export, R. J. Reynolds, and Chino-American, Venable, Dixie Leaf, L.B. Jenkins, and W.T. Clark Tobacco sent buyers. A total of 3,629,528 pounds of tobacco sold for an average price of 18.7 cents per pound.
Joe and Julian Tillman, Charlie Randolph and Lucius Anderson opened the new Bulloch Tobacco Warehouse. Three more warehouses soon opened up: R.E. Sheppard and Aulbert Brannen’s, Walter Aldred Jr.’s, and Cecil Wooten and Norman Swain’s.
By 1947, the Statesboro tobacco market was the largest in all of Georgia. The Cobb & Foxhall Company was the biggest company, with five warehouses, but Sheppard and Brannen’s warehouse was the largest facility in the city.
In 1950, Statesboro was the top producing market in the state with 16.4 million pounds of tobacco being sold. In 1953, the Statesboro market was again the top producer in the state, with 18.6 million pounds of tobacco being purchased for an average price of 47.14 cents a pound.
In 1954, Guy Sutton opened the New Statesboro Warehouse and the Farmer’s Warehouse. By 1959, Aulbert Brannen had opened the Brannen #1 and Brannen #3 warehouses.
Almost immediately, J.T. Sheppard, H.E. Akins, and Hardin Sugg opened the new Sheppard-Sugg Tobacco Warehouse.
The tradition continues today. Local farmers have been quoted saying that tobacco crops in Bulloch and surrounding counties were the best they’ve seen in the last 50 years, in both quality and yield per acre.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at rogerdodg email@example.com