More About Early 20th Century Tobacco Raising

After spending more time in the old issues of the Whitehall Times & Blair Banner, I found evidence of more folks in Trempealeau County giving tobacco raising a try. Among the names I found the following:

  • Charles Borreson of Pigeon who had raised 10 acres on shares with Gilbert Eid, with 16,000 pounds stripped and bundled (Jan. 23, 1908)
  • O. C. Johnson of Pigeon who had 4 1/2 acres raised with Gust Nelson (Feb. 27, 2008)
  • Fred Dahl of Borst valley (Eleva?) who lost his tobacco shed and baled tobacco to fire caused by lightning (Mar. 12, 1908)
  • Several farmers from Hegg (rural Ettrick) marketed their tobacco in Blair (May 21, 1908)
  • John G. Johnson and J. E. Hovelsrud of Hegg marketed tobacco in Whitehall (Jan. 6, 1910)
  • Andrew Wek, Lewis Austin and Gilbert Urberg of Chimney Rock were in Whitehall with their tobacco (Jan. 27, 1910)
  • Also Lars L. Instenes of Chimney Rock “has considerable of the weed to sell” (Jan. 27, 1910)
  • Ed Schaefer [Whitehall] raised 9300 pounds of tobacco last season for which he received nine cents per pound (Feb. 9, 1911)
  • Christ Anderson and son John of Pigeon received $191.65 for tobacco raised on about two acres (Feb. 16, 1911)

That’s quite a few names, a random list from several years of newspapers. Most names sound Norwegian but not all. Pigeon is northern Trempealeau County, Hegg is southern; tobacco was being raised from one end of the county to the other.

Both Whitehall and Blair had warehouses to receive tobacco, according to snippets I could find in these same papers. In Whitehall, it apparently was A.S. of E.’s warehouse. (A.S. of E. appears to be a national union, perhaps for marketing purposes. There was an announcement about the Trempealeau county union’s annual meeting in Ettrick.)

Several ads for tobacco sorters appeared in these papers. At the Whitehall warehouse, Holtan and Sorenson advertized a couple years and “will pay 90 cents peer hundred next Monday” (Mar. 23, 1911). Another ad seemed to feature a bigger operation: “Wanted – 500 Women and 100 Men to work at sorting and stemming tobacco in the American Cigar Company’s Warehouses at Sparta, Wis. Good wages and steady work the year around” (Mar. 26, 1908). Another item mentioned that many Pigeon farmers sold their tobacco to G. H. Rumrill of Janesville, Wis., with several carloads shipped and more to follow (Feb. 27, 1908). Janesville, like Edgerton, had lots of tobacco warehouses.

Tobacco warehouse (unident) Janesville ca 1909In a last item, Eugene Sorenson [maybe the fellow at the warehouse] offered tobacco seeds for sale: “the best strains of pure Coon, Comstock and Golden Spanish Tobacco seed…early varieties of excellent quality” (Mar. 12, 1908).

All in all, it appears that the amount of tobacco raising in these years was significant, although the price per acre falls short of the $200 to $500 per acre amount stated in the newspaper which was encouraging farmers to give this crop a try. My guess is that farmers sometimes did very well, and other times wondered why they bothered to work so hard for so little.

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