First Tobacco Grown in County 1883
Sandy Valley Enquirer
Thursday, December 10, 1942


	TOBACCO, the chief cash crop of Carter County, had its inception near Grayson,
about the year 1883.  It was in that year Mr. Tom Giles with his family, moved
from Owen County to the town of Grayson.  His first home was located about where
the palatial home of Doctor J. Watts Stovall now stands.  The Giles family consisted
of Mr. Giles, his wife, four sons and one daughter.  William, Tandy, Luther, Ben
and Katherine.  Mr. Giles cleared the hill above where Judge Burchett now has
his blacksmith shop, and planted, what was destined to be the beginning of an
industry that would, in the years to come, bring millions of dollars to the
farmers of Carter and adjoining counties.  The rolling hill land of Carter
County at that time was virgin and very fertile, being fed by limestone and
phosphates underlying the soil.  It was not long after Mr. Giles made his first
experiment in tobacco-growing in Carter County, that the news of his success
trickled back to the tobacco growing counties of central Kentucky, and there was
an influx of tobacco-growing in Carter County, comparable to the rush to settle
government lands in the prairie country of the west.  With the coming of these
new settlers, tobacco became a thriving business and Grayson, the county seat,
began to take on added importance.  A progressive young doctor by the name of
Lewis Prichard, who had only recently settled in Grayson, seeing the possibilities
of the tobacco industry in this section of the state, erected a tobacco rehandling
warehouse near the Eastern Kentucky Railroad track on Main Street in Grayson.
Buyers began buying the crop and delivering it to the Prichard Warehouse, where
it was prepared and put in hogsheads and shipped to Louisville for sale.  The
industry soon spread to the other nearby counties of Lawrence, Elliott, Greenup
and Morgan.  But Grayson has continued through the years to be the hub of the
industry in Eastern Kentucky.  Prices for tobacco in the early years were very low
as compared to what they have been in recent years, averaging the farmer ready
cash with which to pay his taxes, his store bill and some for Christmas and a
little to put in the bank.  Today, under the government of streamlining of all
crops and livestock, the prices are much higher, but the acreage has been very
sharply reduced.
  	Most of the settlers of the early 80's have long since gone to their
reward, but they reared families to become useful and prominent citizens in this
and other states.  Giles, Thomason, Bishop, Shivel, Crawford, Johnson, Gilbert,
Taylor, Landers, Glass, woods, Lawrence, Haley, Criswell, Perry, Fitzgerald,
Mefford, Hichew, Kemper, Quisenberry, Smith, Claxton, Russell, Lewis, Bibbs,
Morgan, Brammell, Utley, Roberts, Baker, O'Bannion, Lock, Cox, Carter, Harlow,
Barnhill, Shearer, Clark are familiar names in this section and are descendants
of the early tobacco pioneers.
 	By the year 1888 Doctor Prichard, heretofore referred to, had become a
man of considerable affluence and decided to move with his family to the thriving
town of Charleston, W. Va.  He leased his tobacco warehouse until the year 1891,
when he sold it to Mr. W. D. Malone, who operated a large department store in
Grayson and also one at Newfoundland, in Elliott County.  Mr. Malone formed a
partnership with Mr. Green Bishop, an expert tobacconist from Carroll County,
who took charge of the buying and preparing the weed for market.  It was in this
same year that Mr. Bishop secured the services of Mr. S. E. Shivel, another
expert to tobacco man from Henry County, who became one of the buyers for the
firm of Malone and Bishop.  This firm continued in business until the year 1899,
when due to his large and growing merchandise business claiming so much of his
time, Mr. Malone decided to dispose of his tobacco interests, selling the warehouse
to Mr. John M. Saulsberry, who formed a partnership with Mr. John McKibben, an
experienced tobacco firm continued the operation of the warehouse until the year
1907, when it was sold to Mr. John M. Elswick, of Lawrence County, who leased it
for one year, and sold it to R. M. Bagby and S. E. Shivel, , who were destined
to become, under the name of Bagby & Shivel, the most successful tobacco firm in
Eastern Kentucky, handling millions of pounds of tobacco and shipping to all
parts of the world.
  	With the passing of the hogshead market and the establishing of what is
known as the loose leaf market, Mr. Bagby organized in the year 1918, The Grayson
Loose Leaf Warehouse Co., and erected the building now housing the Bagby Lumber
Co., plant.  With the completion of the organization, Mr. Bagby became the general
manager with Doctor J. W. Strother as president; Doctor J. Watts Stovall,
secretary and treasurer; Harry Shivel, cashier; Julian Adair, bookkeeper, and
Miss Elizabeth Scott, secretary to Mr. Bagby; Mr. Tandy Giles, floor manager;
John G. Ault, weighmaster, and John Riley, ticket-writer.  The business proved a
great success from the very beginning, selling the first season more than three
million pounds at a general floor average of over 36 cents per pound.  There were
only two other markets in the Burley district that exceeded this average, these
being Lexington and Paris, and their prices were only a fraction of a cent higher.
This was the beginning of real high prices for Burley.  It might be interesting
at this time to note the buyers who represented the big tobacco firms on this
market at the opening sale.
        Liggett & Myers Co., represented by Samuel Huggard.
        R. J. Reynolds & Co., represented by William Smith.
        Lorillard & Co., and the Carrington Co., William Mullen.
        H. E. Spillman & Co., Erskine Spillman.
        Bagby & Shivel, by S. E. Shivel.
  	It was on the opening sale of this market that Mr. Bagby established an
all-time high for tobacco in Eastern Kentucky, paying $1.04 per pound for a
basket out of the crop grown by George Dean, near Iron Hill.  It was a very
common occurrence for a whole crop to bring 75 cents per pound.  This was an
exciting year.  Merchants, bankers and public officials quit their business and
became buyers of the weed.  They were not all successful, and some quit poorer
but wiser.  In the year 1920, The Farmers Tobacco Warehouse was organized, and
erected a Loose Leaf House on Fourth Street in Grayson.  This house was short
lived, opening only till 1922, when the Burley Society was organized throughout
the Burley belt, and both houses sold their holdings to the society, thereby
terminating the Loose Leaf Market in Grayson.  In 1924 Mr. Bagby re-purchased
from the Burley Society the property which he formerly owned and converted it
into a building material plant, and organized the Bagby Lumber Co., who now
occupy this property.  Later Mr. Bagby and Arthur Gee purchased the Farmers
Warehouse property from the Burley Society and have been leasing it for several
years to the Huntington market for sale.  The crop in this section is said to be
of excellent quality this year, some of the buyers saying it is superior to the
blue grass crop.  The growers are quite optimistic and happy, in anticipation of
high prices when their crops are knocked off to the high bidder.
	There were several other rehandling houses in Grayson, one on the lot at
the rear of the home where Republican State Chairman Thos S. Yates now resides.
Another was located at the rear of Lewis Woods home on Fourth Street, who with
his brother, former Circuit Judge H. L. Woods, handled the weed.  However, the
Prichard House continued to be the central and dominating house until the passing
of the hogshead method of marketing the leaf.  All these houses have long since
been razed and only live in the memory of the older inhabitants.  Some of the
buyers of prominence in the days when the crops was sold to local handlers were,
W. V. Crawford, John Jacobs, Wm. Glass, Jess Johnson, Bob Lewis, Frank Gilbert,
Morris Riffe, Manna Kendall, John Haley, Ike Stamper, Judge John R. McGill,
Tandy Giles, Jerome Glass, Wilson Lawrence, Ben Giles, Colby Quisenberry, Wm.
Shivel and Sanford Laurence.
	Tobacco, from the days of John Smith and Pocahontas, has been a fascinating
industry, fortunes have been made and lost in handling it.  Treaties of the
greatest importance have been made during the smoking of the pipe of peace.
Some contend its use is a sin and that it is a weed of the devil. Some good
church men use it, and some who are not so good, don't.
 	The old screw press, installed by the late Doctor Prichard, in the original
house, which was in continual use for almost fifty years, pressing the weed that
brought contentment and joy to the hearts of millions of people all over the
world, including the Italians, the Japs and the Germans, as they smoked the pipe
of peace, was donated by Mr. Bagby, in the recent scrap drive, with the hope
that it would help to press just as many Japs and Germans into perdition.
{Remember that this article appeared in 1942 and this reference is made to the
opponents of World War II.}




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