By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fishing, forestry beat out agriculture
History of Liberty
Placeholder Image
By the year 1776, Savannah, Richmond Hill, Midway, Sunbury and St. Mary's were flourishing agricultural communities.
Naval stores, which provided tar, pitch, turpentine and live oak timbers, were the earliest key economic assets. On the mainland as well as the islands the colonists conducted experiments with a variety of subtropical plants, including silk, figs, pomegranates, rice, indigo (dye), coffee, tea and dates.
The climate disproved compatibility for oranges, but they persisted as a minor crop for many years. Silk was a major crop for a few years and was produced as late as 1790. By 1750, rice and indigo were well recognized as advantageous crops.
The Revolutionary War brought about a decline in the market for indigo, which was largely succeeded by rice, except on the islands.
Staple cotton, imported from the Bahamas, was first grown on St. Simons Island and was soon refined on the other islands and the mainland along the Georgia coast. This became well-known as Sea Island Cotton, which proved to be of far better quality to upland cotton and was sold for three to five times the price of the upland cotton.
Rice was grown in fields at the mouths of rivers. Production hit the highest point between 1850 and 1860. Chatham County was the leading producer, followed by McIntosh, Liberty and Bryan counties. In the mid-1800s, farmers were yielding an average of 50 bushels per acre, with about 23,000 acres in agriculture.
The plantation era in Liberty County was set by a complicated level of land management. On the coast, in the face of malaria and yellow fever, white planters and their families were driven inland during the growing season. The planters cleared thousands of acres of woodland and swamp to grow rice and other crops. Plantation owners were well educated and integrated some of the most sophisticated agriculturists in the United States. Some of their ideas implemented were, but not limited to, drainage, mulching, fertilization, crop rotation, irrigation and insect control. One way of implementing insect control was the use of turkeys to control the caterpillars, which would invade and destroy thousands of acres of cotton. It was also believed that the addition of marsh mud to the fields would be very essential to a very flourishing crop production.
What it boiled down to, however, was the fact that commercial fishing and forestry had become the most important economic activities of the century. The fishery and forestry higher-ups proved that an increasing number of industries engaged in processing, manufacturing, and marketing seafood and wood products would become very prosperous.
The pulp and textile industry, however, had flaunted their position and the fishing industry suffered greatly from pollution caused by the paper mills.
Sign up for our e-newsletters