An article in the Robinson Argus "I Remember When" series by Don Catt.

Many of the settlers around Port Jackson came to this area came from Kentucky, so it was only natural that they would use their skills to grow tobacco here, in addition to corn and wheat. They packed the dried leaves in large barrels and shipped them on the river boats to markets in Kentucky. When the river traffic ceased, they hauled it to Flat Rock and shipped it by rail.

In the middle 1930s, several of the farmers in Crawford County were still growing small plots of tobacco. Due to a government imposed allotment system, each grower was allowed to grow and sell tobacco from a certain amount of land, called a "quota". Around Port Jackson (because I grew up with people who referred to the area around Oak Ridge as "Port Jackson", even after seventy-five years, I find myself still calling it by that name) the quotas were rather small, mostly one to two acres per farm. Due to a large amount of hand work in growing tobacco, that was about all a farmer could take care of unless he had several kids to help him.

When my father-in-law, Everett Legg, started growing tobacco, all the growers pooled their orders and sent someone to Owensboro, Kentucky each spring to buy enough plants for each of them. After a few years, Everett or "Ab", as his kids called him, started saving seed from his best plants to plant in the spring. All the rest of the blossoms stalks were cut off so the plants would grow bigger and better.

During the winter while they were cutting wood, all the limbs and brush were piled together. In early spring, when the brush pile was burned, the heat from the fire killed all the weed seed in the ground. After the bed was tilled and planted, poles were cut and laid around the edge of the tobacco bed. Mosquito netting was tacked to the poles and stretched over the bed. In case of a late frost, the netting would protect the tender young plants.

The best land, usually around the barn lot or an old hog lot, was plowed and the tobacco plants were set by hand in rows which had been marked with a corn planter. Water was carried in buckets to help the little plants live until it came a good soaking rain.

Ab cultivated the middles of the rows with a horse and a "double shovel", but the weeds between the plants had to be cut out with a hoe. There wasn't any acceptable insecticide for tobacco at that time so the tobacco worms had to be picked off by hand. Chris and the other kids helped with the work and she hated picking off those worms most of all.

Shoots, called "suckers", grew out on the sides of the plant, which if left there made the plant bush out instead of growing tall. When they hoed or wormed the plants, any suckers or blossoms they found were broken off.

When the leaves began to ripen in the fall, the stalks were split almost to the bottom with a special knife, cut off at the ground, and placed on a wooden stick about four feet long. At the end of the day, all the "sticks" of green tobacco were hauled to the barn and, starting at the top, hung on poles fastened across the barn a little less than four feet apart.

When tobacco dried, it became brittle and could not be handled, so growers had to wait until late fall when the tobacco was "encased" to strip it. (It was "encased" when the leaves had absorbed enough moisture from the air that they could be folded without breaking.) Then the sticks were taken down, stacked on the ground and covered with sacks or a tarp to keep them from drying out until it could be "stripped". The leaves were pulled off the stalk and sorted into three grades -- tips in one, bottom leaves in one and the rest in another. When enough leaves in any grade was about as much as you could hold in one hand, the butts were squeezed together and wrapped and tied with another leaf, making a "hand".

When everyone was done stripping, the farmers hired a big truck to haul all of their tobacco to an auction in Owensboro to be sold.

There was a lot of work involved, but two acres of tobacco made the grower more money than forty acres of corn. Usually, the price it sold for at the auction determined how many new winter clothes or how many Christmas presents the kids got that year!