Agricultural Organizations

The State Grange was organized at Rienzi, Miss., March 15, 1872, and Gen. A. J. Vaughn elected as the first master. W. L. Hemingway was his successor in 1874, and Capt. Putnam Darden held the office from 1876 until his death in 1888. His successor was Dr. J. B. Bailey, followed by S. L. Wilson. A newspaper correspondent wrote from Terry, in 1874: ” So far as I can learn, the Grangers are doing a very good work in disseminating information, and in the purchase of all goods at reduced cost, paying cash instead of going on the old credit system. Flour is $8 instead of $12 at this point and all other goods in proportion. The planters complain that they must pay cash in hand, and cannot as yet realize that the cash system will act as an important factor in improving their condition.”

The Grange did a good work also in the encouragement of agricultural colleges.

The Farmers’ Alliance gained great strength in the South and West from 1888 to 1892. The Alliance was a secret order with grips and passwords, and its object was to improve the condition of the farmer. There was a period of great depression of agriculture in Mississippi during a few years preceding the panic of 1893, and the relief promised by the Alliance through its sub-treasury project caused it to secure a strong following throughout the State. A sub-treasury in each county was proposed, where the farmer could deposit his cotton, corn, wheat and other products and secure an advance of money on them from the government, which was to hold them until prices advanced. This became the all absorbing question of the day, and was the issue of the Mississippi congressional campaign of 1890. The contest in the seventh congressional district, which had been represented for a number of years by Col. Charles E. Hooker, is a memorable one. Maj. Ethelbert Barksdale, who was a member of the Alliance, entered the field against Col. Hooker. The farmers of the district, who had been depressed for years, took hold of the new idea (of borrowing money from the government on their products) in such vast numbers that it seemed for a while that Barksdale would be elected. But Col. Hooker, who not only had a splendid record, both in Congress and in the army, but was an orator of great power and popularity, met the issue and won the fight.

In 1890 the Farmers’ Alliance, meeting at Starkville, adopted a memorial to the Constitutional convention, prepared by Gen. Stephen D. Lee, chairman of committee, recommending elective judiciary and railroad commissioners, four years’ term of office for governor, auditor and treasurer, without reflection, protection against trusts and combines, State support of four months school, taxation of corporations, etc., and their recommendations were of influence in determining the character of the present constitution.

At the opening of the campaign of 1892 the Alliance was very strong and it resolved to contest the seat of Senator J. Z. George, who refused to support the sub-treasury scheme. Maj. Barksdale, who was his opponent, was a strong man, and the contest was one of the hottest in the history of the State. The candidates met in joint debates at several places and were greeted by immense crowds. George, in his rugged, fearless manner, attacked the sub-treasury proposition, declaring that it involved an undertaking which was beyond the functions of the government. He demoralized his opponents and won the fight. Most of the Alliance men of Mississippi continued to hold their allegiance to the Democratic party. Their object was to get control of the party organization. When the Populist party, which grew out of the Alliance, was organized for the campaign of 1892, comparatively few of them joined it.

The Agricultural Wheel was a secret organization of farmers that preceded the Alliance. It became very formidable, but was merged into the Alliance.

The State Horticultural Society was organized at Jackson, January 25, 1883. It has been a great factor in the development of the State.

The Mississippi Valley Cotton Planters’ Association was organized in 1879 for the promotion of diversity of crops, the breeding of livestock, the encouragement of immigration, etc. About 1885 the Southern Cotton Growers’ Association met at Jackson, and a State organization was formed with W. W. Stone as president. Subsequently Alfred George became State president, and Col. F. L. Maxwell, of Mound Lea, president of the Southern association. When the Southern association met at Vicksburg, John A. Redhead, of Centerville, was made State president. More recently the Southern Cotton Association has been prominent, working to restrict the output of cotton, encourage the diversification of crops, and stimulate the agricultural producer to take some action to protect the price of his product.

Of the State division of the Southern Cotton Association, Walter Clark is now (1905) president and Dr. Will H. Woods secretary. An advisory committee was called to meet at Jackson, December 19, 1905, to prepare plans for a more thorough organization, as follows: Chas. Scott, Rosedale, chairman; P. M. Harding, Vicksburg; W. B. Potts, Kosciusko; J. J. White, McComb City; R. W. Mill-saps, Jackson; J. C. Hardy, Starkville; A. S. Boseman, Meridian; Jeff Truly, Jackson: Stone Deavours, Laurel; James Stone, Oxford; Alex Henderson, Greenwood; J. T. Jones, Gulfport; Will McGrath, Brookhaven; H. L. McKee, Meridian; James Eaton, Taylorsville; Capt. C. B. Vance, Batesville; W. H. Herrin, Robinson; E. L. Anderson, Clarksdale; Walter Price, Macon; Alfred Stone, Greenville; D. W. Miller, Waterford.

Back to: Mississippi History

Source: Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, by Dunbar Rowland.

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