South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LX
A NEW ERA TRIES TO DAWN, 1880-1910

HARDSHIP for the farmer continued until the late nineties. When such conditions were driving thousands from the farms, the rapidly expanding cotton mills of the 1880's and 1890's were a godsend. Hard necessity forced better farming. Owners assumed a stricter supervision, amounting to complete control, over the share tenant, who was thus reduced to a laborer on a profit-sharing basis. But still thousands unfit to farm continued to butcher the land and glut markets with cotton representing loss to themselves and depression of prices for those fit to farm. The burden of the Negro was shown, as it had been under slavery, by the superior productivity throughout the South of counties of small Negro population. The needs were education, diversification, and a better credit system. By 1903 decided progress had been made in all these respects.

Agricultural Hardships and Achievements. --In 1904 E. McIver Williamson, a college-bred scientific farmer, the son of an educated planter, and one of the long succession from David R. Williams to David R. Coker who have made Darlington agriculturally eminent, perfected a system of culture securing from poor lands a larger yield of corn than was common even on good soil. David R. Coker, following lines laid down by his father Major James L. Coker, rendered inestimable services to American agriculture as a scientific breeder of more productive and disease-resisting seeds of cotton and grain.1 This is carrying on a great South Carolina tradition; for as early as 1857 Superintendent J. W. Parker of the Asylum established a world's record by raising 359 bushels of shelled corn on two acres in Richland, the best acre yielding 200 bushels and 12 quarts. A new world record was established in 1889 when Captain Z. J. Drake of Marlboro raised 255 bushels on an acre. In 1906 A. J. Tindall of Clarendon won the world prize by raising 182 bushels. A school boy, Jerry Moore of Florence County, in 1910 won the world prize by raising 228¾ bushels, which in a sense excelled Drake, for Moore made a profit of $130.70, whereas Captain Drake spent more on his crop than its commercial value except at curiosity prices.

____________________
1
Major Coker, in addition to his constructive leadership in agriculture and business, was the founder of Coker College for women.

-645-

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