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The Brasstown Economy in the Early 1900s - Part 2

Fred O. Scroggs 
Fred O. Scroggs - Brasstown NC


Excerpt from Fred O. Scroggs' writings about the community of Brasstown

I marketed a lot of  sun dried apples. I think the price usually ran about .05¢ per pound, and my customers furnished rather large quantities, and I also bought from other merchants. I remember selling at one time three thousand pounds to one commission merchant in Atlanta. One year I sold over 5000 pounds. Sometimes I exchanged the dried apples to Atlanta Wholesale firms for groceries. Some times I shipped away to Florida and other places. Dried apples were packed in 50 pound white bags. We used second hand, laundered sugar bags. I remember buying at one time, 88 bags from a Mr. Elliott a merchant near Blairsville, Ga. 

We bought a lot of field peas. Price was usually $2.00 per bu. Black eye or brown eye peas around $3.00 One year I marketed over 200 bu. of these in Atlanta. A lot of corn field beans were grown and always brought a good price. (Hulled) Around $4.00 per bu.

During this time there was a ready market for sun dried  apples, and we marketed a lot each year. I remember selling one firm in Atlanta 5000 pounds bagged in 50 bags. The price was around .10¢ per pound. Every one worked and made good on their farms.

There was no relief money in those days. No government pensions. About three in the whole area drew Confederate Veterans Pensions from our State, which was round $30 per year, and payable annually.

Some folks raised sheep which were bought by out of state dealers. We bought the wool which brought a good price.

Farmers cut the tops off the corn and pulled and bundled the corn fodder. There was always ready sale for any of their surplus feed stuff to the livery stables, drayman and "wagoners". Some times we baled the corn fodder, core shucks, etc, with our horse power baler. Lots of this baled feed stuff was sold to "lumber camps" in different parts of the  section.

There was a steady demand for cross ties, tan bark, (bark off of chestnut oak and black oak) also chestnut wood for making tanic acid, (large plant at Andrews then) also pulp wood, as now was shipped to Canton, N.C.

Every one kept busy. Many of our farmers, after crops were finished, (laid-by) worked short intervals at some of the lumber camps or at the Ducktown copper mines. Seems they could always get work and quit any time to return to gather in their crops; seed their fall acreage of grain, etc. 


I hope you enjoyed this second small peek into Brasstown's economy in days gone by. If you missed first entry from Fred O. Scroggs go here


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The expressing of the terms of his pricing reads as five-hundredths of a cent for a pound of dried apples sold.

Do you know: Did he mean a nickel per pound or five hundredths of a cent per pound. In the former, the 5000 pounds would have yielded $250. The latter would have yielded $2.50 for the 5000 pounds.

He seems to have been at once a resourceful and astute businessman. It doesn't jibe that he would say ".05 cent" unless that is what he meant.

He later speaks of a price of .10c per pound.

It's probably obvious to the rest of your readers that he had a habit of mixing decimals with fractions and that everybody always knew what he meant, but I'm not sure. If a buyer in Atlanta saw a quote or invoice expressed that way, that buyer in Atlanta might have been apt to force the issue after the fact and pay only what the quote had stated and that would be, from the first paragraph, $2.50 for the 5000 pounds.

Of course, $2.50 was a week's pay to lots of people at the turn of the last century.

Have I completely miscalculated and in doing so, completely embarrassed myself?

Anyway, his account and his reminisces are an absolute pleasure to read and I greatly admire his entrepreneurship.

I called our Christian Radio Station today, and Donna Lynn asked what I'd like to hear by Chitter and Chatter and the gang. I told her I didn't know right off, and she played "Where the Sole of Man never Dies" and then she played "Angles of Mercy" by Paul and Pap. I think she loves the folks in Wilson Holler almost as much as I do. ...Ken

I enjoyed the second part of Fred O. Scroggs's stories of Life in Brasstown, way back when. Things were shore different then.

My daddy was born in 1910 and knew what hard work was. That was a couple of decades before the Great Depression. He said that the folks in New York jumped out of tall buildings,
cause the Stock Market crashed and he also mentioned folks down here never noticed any difference.

The Blind Pig and the Acorn is always telling things important to us Appalachians. ...Ken

There are so many lessons that can be taken from Mr. Scroggs sketch. Atlanta was creating demand for all kinds of non-perishable things coming in from country up to 100 miles away. That helped people be able to stay on the homeplace and make a living. The part-time work off the farm in 'off season' illustrates the changing from an agricultural to an industrial society.

Mr. Scroggs reminds me of Gene Stratton Porter's books of the same era. Characters in her books found value in the wild things where they lived and crafted their living from them. Lenora captured and shipped moths to collectors and also made sketches and watercolors of them. Another character gathered, dried and shipped all kinds of wild herbs.

In a 21rst century way you and your girls are doing the same, finding and making value where you are. You all are carrying on a tradition.

Some of my ancestors might have been involved in shipping their farming products to large metropolitan areas also. However many of their crops were shipped in liquid form to prevent spoilage. In fact the process they used to preserve and transport these specialties supposedly improved the quality of the finished product. Apples, peaches, pears, grapes, corn, wheat, rye and barley just to name a few were preserved using this method. The finished product could potentially last for many years barring its over consumption, which was the most likely outcome.
My ancestors' products were also widely acknowledged for their medicinal properties. Many consumers claimed that its daily consumption relieved them of any and all of the diverse afflictions known to mankind. Most patients took daily preventative doses. As with any self prescribed medications, over medication was a problem for many, although they rarely complained of the side effects.

It is interesting, for sure. I'm having a little problem grasping the prices...I mean .05 for dried apples. It really was a different world then. It's very clear that if you didn't work, you didn't eat, no relief and no pensions.
Seems like that was a hard time physically, where now, life is very demanding mentally.

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