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Part of the Oral History of Agriculture in Edgecombe County Project. Audio for track 3 ends at 00:15:30. Joe Powell, a white man, was born on his family’s large farm named Coolmore, about four miles from Tarboro. Coolmore had been built as a plantation before the Civil War by his great-grandfather, and it passed down through Powell’s father’s family. When Powell was a teenager he helped with the tobacco harvest, but didn’t have many farm duties since they had tenants on the land. His father died when he was four, and his mother ran the farm herself with the aid of an overseer (Powell mentions H. A. Pridgen and his successor Jim Sattlewhite) and some domestic workers. Powell went to school and high school in Tarboro. He rode his horse to school and back, leaving it at the town livery stable during school hours. At age 16 (“too young!”) he went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and studied chemistry and English, but then transferred to State to major in animal husbandry. He graduated in 1926, and returned to the farm to help his mother. Two years later he assumed management of the farm, hiring some day laborers to supplement the sharecroppers’ work. That year (1928) they had 200 acres of cotton, 100 acres of corn, and some tobacco and peanuts, with 30 mules. Cotton was their main crop till the boll weevil arrived. Powell describes trying to control it with molasses and arsenic lead (poured on the cotton from a little cart and “mopped” on the leaves). The Depression hit everyone hard, 1932 being the worst year, when the price of cotton dropped to eight cents a pound, peanuts a penny a pound or 75 cents for 100 pounds. Powell was invited to become a County Agent in 1933, and he stayed on in that role till the 1960s. He describes the work of the Extension Service and the evolution of the Agriculture Investment Act (later ASCS) services. A great deal of early federal government help had to do with tobacco cultivation and production, setting up county committees to oversee field allotments. He says it was difficult but necessary, and controls were eventually put on cotton and later peanuts. Though it was hard to be restricted in acreage for certain crops, he maintains “it saved our farmers.” This system coincided with the advent of tractors, which spelled the end of sharecropping and led to farmers’ dependence on day labor. He says farming is a good way of life, but it’s stressful when what you can earn is limited but your own expenses for equipment, fertilizer, etc. are not. Powell describes the layout of Coolmore with its numerous outbuildings (the kitchen, in the early days, which his mother attached to the house via a porch), the barns, dairy, smoke house, a carriage house for buggies, and servants’ quarters; as well as ten houses for sharecropping families. On the subject of the smoke house, he describes the process of turning pigs into smoked meat in some detail. He also has a lot to say about peanuts, and about cultivating and processing cotton. He thinks only bigger farms, owned and run by fewer farmers, will survive economically. He says farmers need to be progressive and keep up with the time





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