BROUGHT THE COTTON TO TOWN
August rolls around each year, I am always reminded of a word I closely
associate with the month: cotton. And
there is good reason for the month and the word to be related since years ago
Monroe was called the unofficial “Cotton Capital” of Georgia and it was in
August when the first bales of cotton would come to town.
My knowledge of this part of Monroe’s history is limited at best but
some memories I have retained since my grandfather, father and uncle were cotton
merchants and had the distinction of buying twice the cotton from the farmers as
any other cotton merchant in Georgia.
I never had any real “hands-on” experience when it came to grading
the cotton samples brought in by the farmers for an actual price point.
My experience came in riding with my father in the summers on Saturday
& Sunday afternoons as he toured Social Circle, Gratis, Bostwick and Good
Hope checking out the various cotton fields to see how the cotton was growing
and the effects the weather and Boll Weevil’s were having on the individual
Those rides in his un-air conditioned station wagon with the windows down
were not pleasant at all as the hot air poured into the car along with red dust
if we happened to be riding down a dirt road. Every time I think of cotton, I
associate those hot rides in the country with the horrific smell of the poison
that was used to spray each field to kill off the Boll Weevil’s and any other
insect which might damage or destroy a cotton plant.
As often as I had to smell that horrible odor, you would think I would
remember the name of it as I was always asking my father what that awful smell
was. Thanks to some of the group on
the Face Book site, “Monroe…Remembering the Past”, I learned the early
version I inhaled was “3-5-40” which was a combination of Benzene,
Hexachloride, DDT & sulfur. I
was not sure anyone would remember but was surprised how many folks did remember
with many recalling the same experience of smelling that noxious odor but smelly
or not, it did the trick for many years in helping produce exceptional crops of
Referring to my Monroe notebooks I found several articles reporting where
August was typically the month the first bales of cotton would be brought to
town. The oldest article is dated
August 22, 1941 showing where Mr. W. T. Peters, Jr. of the Blasingame district
was congratulated in bringing in the first bale of the year, an honor he had
carried forward since 1939. The
bale, weighing 493 lbs., was ginned by Monroe Oil & Fertilizer Co.
The bale was purchased by my grandfather for $93.67, exclusive of the
The first bale brought to town in August 1949 was by Harris Hester of the
Blasingame district, weighed in by Launius Bonded Warehouse at 510 lbs., ginned
by Monroe Oil & Fertilizer Co and purchased by my grandfather for $152.40.
Herschel Dillard of Campton brought the first bale to town in August 1954
to Wright Gin & Trading Company where it was weighed in at 467 lbs. and my
father presented Mr. Dillard a check in the amount of $186.40.
Shortly after the first bale arrived, George N. Robison brought in the
second bale which was ginned by Monroe Oil & Fertilizer, stored in Launius
Bonded Warehouse and Mr. Robison received a check from my father in the amount
the years when the cotton crop was producing large numbers of bales, there was a
cotton festival in town which usually lasted a week beginning with a parade
through town. I have a photo of one
parade where my uncle’s car had a bale of cotton attached to the roof and
signs for my grandfather’s business on the doors. These festivals always
brought in a lot of folks to town and business seemed to boom in all areas.
In an article for the Walton Tribune’s Sesquicentennial Edition in
1968, my father recalled how, for years Walton County produced between
25,000-30,000 bales per season and added there was one especially good year when
the production of cotton reached 52,000 bales.
He also remembered when the price of cotton per pound ranged from four
and a quarter cents in 1933 to a high of forty seven and a half cents in 1951.
the late fifties and early sixties, drought, insects and acreage reduction cut
heavily into the cotton production bringing down the number of bales to between
10-12,000 bales. In 1966 the total
number of bales recorded dropped to 5,615 and in 1967 the number dropped to
4,000 bales. The crop for 1968 was not much higher due to the excessively hot
spell in August which burnt up what had been hoped as a really good crop for the
An interesting article on cotton was mentioned in the July 26, 1972 issue
of the Walton Tribune. The National
Bank of Walton County displayed a bale of cotton in the bank’s lobby which
dated back to 1919. The bale was in
excellent condition and was grown by Mr. A. B. Dillard of Gratis.
Mr. Dillard’s bale weighed in at 491 lbs.
My grandfather offered Mr. Dillard a price of 30 cents per pound but he
declined the offer saying he would wait until the price rose to 50 cents.
Mr. Dillard had the bale carefully stored in his barn for years waiting
for the price he was willing to sell it for.
The photo accompanying the article shows Garland Radford, bank president,
Mrs. Sammy (Judy) Simonton, Mr. Dillard’s granddaughter and my uncle, Dan
Briscoe. No mention was made if the
bale of cotton ever sold for the aforementioned price.
My family’s cotton brokerage business was on the second floor of the
old Walton Hotel Building from 1919 until my uncle relocated to the historic
Felker house on Highland Avenue in 1970. The
last time I walked up those well-worn wooden steps to where the old offices
were, when I reached the second floor I could still smell a faint aroma of
cotton and cigar smoke as if the business was still in operation.
I can close my eyes and still see the floor area by the office door
surrounded by rolled samples of cotton waiting to be examined by my father and
uncle. Even with the renovation of
that historic old building, I wonder if I were to again walk up to the second
floor would the ghosts of years past and the aroma of cotton and cigar smoke be
as prevalent as it was when the month of August signaled the arrival of cotton
coming to town?