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County's economy once centered on agriculture
Liberty lore
Exodus Lee Joyner stands in his cornfield in 1928 where Highway 196 now runs through west Hinesville.
In the middle 1800s, rice and indigo were the main crops grown in Liberty County. After the Civil War, all the slaves were freed and there were no workers for the rice and indigo plantations. Those crops’ importance to the economy of the county quickly ended.
Farmers then began planting other crops. Some of the best farmland in the county was purchased by the government for the military reservation in 1941. Today, it is hard to imagine the county was once a great farming community.
Exodus Lee Joyner and his wife Mary Ella had a farm on Highway 196 about two miles from Hinesville in 1928. He was the son of Orren Hillman and Nancy Ann Sherrod Joyner. He was born in 1868 in Nash County, N.C. His mother died and Lee came with his father to Walthourville during the “turpentine run,” a parallel of the California gold rush in 1849. He completed his schooling in Glennville and then taught school for two terms in what today is the upper part of Long County.
Lee married Mary Ella Mobley of Liberty County in 1902 and worked on the railroad. He bought and operated a farm in the Gum Branch community, sold it and bought another farm near Hinesville so his children could attend Bradwell Institute.
He was an upright citizen and an excellent farmer. He sold his produce sometimes in a horse-drawn wagon and even in a wheelbarrow in Allenhurst and Hinesville. One time, he left his wheelbarrow loaded with his prize watermelons in Allenhurst and went back to find a bunch of hogs had discovered them and had a melon-eating feast! He won many agriculture awards in state and county fairs.
One of his children was Malena Joyner Johnson, who graduated from Bradwell Institute in 1924. Her son is Carl Johnson, who became a Liberty County commissioner on roads and revenues. Carl and his wife Mert now live in north Georgia.
Two articles appearing in the Liberty County Herald on May 17, 1934, stress the importance of the corn and pecan crops in our county:
“Corn is one of the best feed crops of South Georgia and that doesn’t mean strictly a good food for the cattle and dairy cows alone. When the Liberty County corn is sent to the mill and the golden grains ground into corn meal, the meal is sent to the kitchen cook and made into cornbread, it makes one of the most healthy meals one can eat! And it is appetizing too! Dipped in good Georgia cane syrup, it can’t be beat and the doctor will tell the world that to eat one’s quota of good Liberty County corn bread will furnish ingredients essential to the system. It being a coarse bread, it helps the digestive and tones up the system. It is good.
“The main use of corn, however, is as a feed for the cattle and for the swine. Fed to them, it makes them gain weight. Fed to Bossy the cow it will make her give the richest and sweetest milk. Chickens lay better and oftener when fed with the cracked Liberty County corn.
“Every year there is about 20,000 acres of Liberty County land that goes into corn. The best farmers make 25 bushels per acre without undue care of the field. (My first husband had a certificate showing he produced 100 bushels on one acre in 1957).
“All fields of this section are inter-cropped with peanuts, soybeans and velvet beans. The hogs are fattened in the winter on the corn and bean crops.”
Another article was headlined: “Pecan Trees Offer Profit to Growers in Liberty County.” It read, “One of the many outstanding agricultural opportunities offered by the Liberty County soil is the development of gigantic and profitable pecan interests on farm lands within its bounds.
“At the present time, the pecan industry has just secured a foothold in this and each year is gaining an impetus that is making this section supply center for the world market in the nut business. The quality of the nuts grown here can be favorable compared with those from any other section. The product of the Liberty County pecan tree is as easy to crack if not easier, than those of other sections and the delicate flavor of the meat centers is so delicious that it puts it in high favor wherever it is sold.
“At the present time, in 1934, there are from 5,000 to 8,000 bearing pecan trees in this section. Some of these yield as high as 75 pounds of nuts per year. These, however, are the other trees. The majority of the Liberty County crop is composed of young trees, in their youth averaging a yield of 15 to 20 pounds per tree. Each year as they gain in strength the average per tree is increasing.
“All over the county farmers are setting out pecan groves. Most of the other pecan enterprises, however, are in their infancy. Farmers are putting a sound investment in the future and within a few more years the pecan industry is to be a big thing in Liberty County.
“With the little care required by the pecan grove that is well planned and cared for from day to day, the profits of the business are shipping to where it means dollars in the pockets of the Liberty County farmer. Their road of prosperity in this direction is paying profits and the other sturdy young settings that are rapidly approaching the bearing stage.”
In 2007, we find very few corn crops and a few pecan groves. We can still see some of the old pecan trees scattered here and there.
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