Agricultural Report  1874

First and Second Reports of the Bureau of Agriculture for the State of Tennessee.



Assisted By

To whom local assistance was rendered by
C. W. CHARLTON, of East Tennessee
H. L. BENTLEY, of West Tennessee.

Prepared Under the Direction of the Bureau of Agriculture.

Nashville, Tenn.:
Tavel, Eastman & Howell,
Printers to the State



            Gibson county is bounded on the north by the counties of Obion and Weakley, on the east by Carroll county, on the south by the counties of Haywood, Crockett and Madison, and on the west by the counties of Dyer and Crockett. It comprises about 600 square miles. The number of acres of land, exclusive of town lots, assessed for taxation, is 366,105, valued at $5,618,695, or over fifteen dollars per acre.

            Organization. Gibson county was organized by an act of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, passed on the 21st day of October, 1823, which act provided for its organization. The first Justices of the Peace commissioned were Wm. P. Leat, Robert Edmondson, Obey Blakemore, Benj. White, Robert Read, ____ Rice, Abner Burgan, John D. Love, Wm. W. Craig, W. B. G. Killingsworth, John J. Lane and F. Davis. The first session of the County Court was held, beginning on the 1st day of January, 1824, and Wm. P. Leat was elected the first Chairman, and Thomas Fite was elected the first Clerk. The first settlers of Gibson county were principally from Middle Tennessee and North Carolina.

            Health of the County. Gibson may be regarded as a reasonably healthy county, though during the summer and fall months chills and fevers generally prevail without being fatal. During the winter months there are cases of pneumonia and other lung diseases, but they are neither very frequent nor of a very malignant type. In regard to consumption, it should be stated that very few cases originate in the county. It is claimed by the physicians, and no doubt very justly, that the mortuary list of Gibson county will compare favorably with those of the other West Tennessee counties.

            Physical Geography. Immediately about Trenton, the county seat, which is located very near the center of the county, the surface is quite level, there being but very little broken land. Going north from Trenton to the county line, the land is also generally level, but southward it is very broken. Easterly it is also quite hilly and broken, but going west to the county line, the land is again very level. The western half of the county is regarded as the best, the lands being richer and lying better. Here the soil is generally a dark or black loam, with a yellow clay subsoil, which is very retentive of moisture, and is a good guarantee against very severe droughts. The soil in the other half of the county is mulatto colored and has a perceptible mixture of sand. The subsoil is rather darker, being of a reddish east The soil here does not stand a drought so well, nor is the land so productive: Considered as a whole, however, the lands of Gibson county may be classed as good, and paying crops are annually raised upon them.

            Topography and Formation. There are no ranges of hills in the county that are worthy of note. Between the different streams which will be mentioned, there are generally low ridges that divide the valleys, but they are neither very distinctive nor very prominent. All of Gibson county is on "the Plateau or Slope of West Tennessee," in which there are very few or no regular strata of hard rock, such as sandstone, slate or limestone, which are found in most sections of Middle Tennessee; occasionally, however, local and limited beds or blocks of coarse reddish or brown sandstone are met with, and this is true of Gibson. As stated, the soil upon the surface is loam, which is dark, ranging from a mulatto color to black, and varies in depth from six to twenty-four inches. Immediately below this loam is a clay, which varies in color from yellowish to dark brown, and varies in depth from eighteen inches to four feet. Below this clay in almost every section of the county are found strata of sand of various colors. Below the sand is often found a very hard clay, locally known as "hard-pan," which is hard to dig with picks. It is very difficult to classify the lands of Gibson county with respect to their relative adaptability to the growth of certain crops, but it may be stated as a general rule, that the darker lands of the county, which are principally embraced in the western half of the county, are more favorable to the growth of cotton than the others, though all the good lands in Gibson county grow corn and cotton well. The soil of Gibson county generally is very mellow and has in it a considerable quantity of siliceous matter. It is easily tilled, but where there are any very perceptible elevations, it is subject to be washed away, and requires good handling to make it durable. A Gibson county farm in the hands of a careless and indifferent farmer soon decreases greatly in fertility and value. But in the hands of an intelligent and energetic man who, understands and appreciates the importance of hill-side ditching and general drainage, and who is not indifferent to the value of fertilizers, it will not only hold its own, but increases in value and productiveness. It is but just to observe that no lands in the State respond more readily to the use of fertilizers and are more grateful for rest.

            Rivers, Creeks and Springs. There are other counties in West Tennessee which are better watered than Gibson county, but it has plenty of water for all practical purposes. The following are the only streams which are worthy of mention: Middle Fork of Forked Deer River enters the county from Madison county, about fourteen miles south of Trenton, runs north-west, and passes out of the county into Dyer county about fourteen miles west of Trenton. Little North Fork of Forked Deer River heads in the south-eastern corner of the county, ranges west, passing nearly centrally through the county, and empties into the Middle Fork near where it passes into Dyer county. Rutherford Fork of Obion River rises in Carroll county, comes into Gibson near its north-east corner, ranges north, and passing into Obion county, empties into the main Obion River about seventeen miles north of Trenton. South Fork of Obion River laves the northern line of Gibson, forming the dividing line, in part, between Gibson and Weakley counties. Big Creek rises about six miles south of Trenton, runs west, and empties into Middle Fork of Forked Deer River near the town of Eaton, eleven miles west of Trenton. There are various other smaller streams in the county, tributaries of those named above, which water the county very generally. Along the banks of all the streams in the county are numerous springs which feed them, but away from the streams springs are very rarely seen. For domestic purposes wells are almost universally used, though a few families have cisterns, which are made without brick and generally without cement. The wells are generally dug from twenty-five to thirty-five feet, though plenty of water may be often found at a much less depth. In sections of the county where the rivers and creeks are not convenient, farmers make ponds, which hold water well and are easily made. The water throughout the county is freestone.

            Timber. The county is well timbered with the class of trees generally found growing in West Tennessee, with the exception of pine, which does not grow here. Gibson having been settled upwards of fifty years ago, there has been a greater destruction of timber than in many of the neighboring counties; still there is enough left for all practical purposes. The best timbered land is in the western half of the county, though there is no scarcity in any section. Lumber is not one of the staples, though there is quite a number of saw-mills constantly at work; they only try, however, to supply the home demand for lumber, which is not inconsiderable. In the western half of the county the principal undergrowth is pawpaw, and in the eastern half it is principally hazle.

            Statistics. Since 1870 no accurate estimates have been made of the products of Gibson county, but supposing that one-seventh the county, as it stood in 1870, has since been given to Crockett county, decreasing the returns of 1870 for the county a pretty accurate estimate can be secured of the products of 1873. About the same area was planted in 1873 as in 1870. The following figures, therefore, are approximately correct:

Orchard products
Forest products
Value of home manufactures
Value of animals slaughtered or sold for slaughter
Value of all live stock



Number of horses
Number of mules and asses
Number of milch cows
Number of working oxen
Number of other cattle
Number of sheep
Number of swine



Bushels of winter wheat
Bushels of corn
Bushels of oats
Pounds of tobacco
Bales of cotton
Pounds of wool
Bushels of peas and beans
Bushels of Irish potatoes
Bushels of sweet potatoes
Pounds of butter
Tons of hay
Pounds of honey



            The following table will show the number of farms in the county and the relative size of each:

Total number of farms
Number having under 3 acres
Number having 3 and under 10
Number having 10 and under 20
Number having 20 and under 50
Number having 50 and under 100
Number having 100 and under 500
Number having 500 and under 1,000
Number having 1,000 and over



            There are about 33˝ per cent of all the open lands in Gibson county which are annually rented, the general terms of rent being as follows: When the land-owner gets a part of the crop raised on the land, and furnishes only the land, his proportion is one-third; but when he furnishes all but the labor, his proportion is one-half. When money rent is required, the following prices are asked and obtained by the owner:

For first-class lands per acre
For medium lands per acre
For inferior lands per acre



          At least 75 per cent of all the lands in the county can be purchased at reasonable prices and upon good terms. There is very great difference in the prices asked for the lowlands and the uplands generally, the advantages being in favor of the lowlands, which, as a rule, are level and rich, while the uplands are generally broken and less productive. The general terms of sale are as follows: one-third cash, the balance in one and two years, with from 6 to 10 per cent, on deferred payments, and lien reserved upon the land to secure said payments. The prices asked are:

Best uplands per acre
Best lowlands per acre
Medium uplands per acre
Medium lowlands per acre
Inferior uplands per acre
Inferior lowlands per acre



            The overflowed lands, including about 3 per cent, of all the lands in the county, generally sell for from $3 to $5 per acre.


            Products. Cotton is the principal staple, though corn, wheat and hay are raised in considerable quantities. The land produces tobacco well but very little is raised. There are other products which are raised in limited quantities, but they cannot be classed with the staples. The following averages of yield per acre may be relied on:

Average yield of cotton per acre
Average yield of corn per acre
Average yield of tobacco per acre
Average yield of wheat per acre
Average yield of hay per acre

80 lbs. Seed.
40 bushels.
900 pounds.
7 bushels.
1,500 pounds


            Stock peas do excellently well and are generally grown, but it is difficult to estimate the average yield per acre, as they are used principally as fertilizers.

            Grasses. The farmers throughout the county are beginning to pay much more attention to the growing of grasses than formerly, timothy being the favorite. However, clover and herds-grass (red top) are quite extensively grown. Timothy grows to advantage only on rich lands, while herds-grass will do well on any land. Clover will also do pretty well on any kind of land, but as it makes the best fertilizer, except stock peas, it is more frequently sown on poor lands for that purpose.

            Labor. Since the war there has not been a sufficiency of labor to cultivate all the open lands, and it is still very scarce. The laborers are generally negroes, who are very uncertain and unreliable. There are some white laborers, but they are also uncertain. People are anxious to welcome good laborers, and though there is a greater demand for whites than for negroes, all will be able to find employment at good wages. The following wages are readily paid in the county:

For farm hands per year
For farm hands per month
For farm hands per day
For harvest hands per day
For cooks per month
For house servants



            When $200 are paid to farm hands per year, it should be observed that they are also boarded at the expense of the person hiring them.

            Fruits. Gibson is not a first-class fruit county. Peaches do very well, but for several years apples have done poorly. Plums and the standard varieties of pears also do tolerably well, but dwarf pears are subject to blight and are generally short-lived. Cherries, strawberries and raspberries are said to grow luxuriantly, and the wild varieties of grapes are reliable, but the domestic varieties are very subject to rot.

            Stock and Stock-raising. Although Gibson has good natural advantages as a stock country, little or no attention is paid to this important branch of industry. "Cotton is King," and the farmers seem to be entirely under its rule, and can with difficulty be made to believe that money can be made in any other way than by planting cotton.

            Markets. Memphis is the best cotton market, but, to a limited extent, St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Mobile, and even New Orleans, are patronized.

            Population. Since 1870 no official estimate has been made of the population of the county. At that time, according to the census report, there were of whites, 18,801; colored, 6,865; total, 25,666. Since that time about one-seventh of the county has been cut off from it, but the increase of population has been at the rate of a little upward of 5 per cent, which will give as the population of 1873: Whites, 17,026; colored, 6,179; total, 23,205.

            Immigration and Emigration. The immigration to the county during the past few years has not been heavy, though quite a number of families and individuals have moved in, principally from the counties of Middle Tennessee. A considerable number has also left the county, going principally to Texas and Arkansas.

            The People. The people are generally law-abiding, industrious and thrifty, and though to some extent embarrassed by reason of the war and its attendant troubles, they are hopeful, and will ere long "be on their feet" again. They are manifesting considerable enterprise, and are evidently imbued with the spirit of progress.

            Roads. The county roads are in bad·condition, though they are in better condition than are the roads in most of the adjoining counties. The new road law is not in force, and in all probability will not be. In the low places of the county some leveeing has been done, but the levees are not kept in good condition.

            Railroads. At present there are but three railroads passing into and through the county—the Mobile and Ohio, which enters the county from the south-east about fourteen miles from Trenton, and passes out into Obion county about sixteen miles north-west of Trenton; the Memphis and Louisville, which enters the county about fourteen miles due south of Trenton, and passes out into Carroll county about ten miles due east of Trenton; and the Mississippi Central, which passes through the entire eastern part of the county. Scarcely a county in the State has more railroad facilities. The Tennessee Central, which is to run from Fulton, on the Mississippi River, and to the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad at Huntingdon, will pass through Trenton, thence onward to Huntingdon. It is now under contract.

            Towns and Villages. Trenton, the county seat, is located near the center of the county, has about 2,700 inhabitants, six churches for white people, representing the following denominations: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Cumberland Presbyterian, Episcopal and Christian; two colored churches, representing the Baptist and Methodist; two foundries, one planing-mill, two grist-mills and cotton-gins, two wagon factories, &c. It is also the seat of Andrew College, which has been converted into a first-class high school. A very good female-school is also in this place, which is in a flourishing condition. Humboldt is at the junction of the Mobile and Ohio and the Memphis and Louisville railroads, has about 2,260 inhabitants, a number of churches, good schools, workshops, mills and other industrial enterprises, among-which is a woolen mill. Among the schools is the Odd Fellows' College, which is for the benefit of young ladies, who are patronizing it very liberally. Humboldt is eleven miles south of the county seat. Milan is twelve miles east of Trenton, has about 1,250 inhabitants, is at the junction of the Memphis and Louisville and the Mississippi Central railroads; is well supplied with churches and schools, and is quite a growing place. Dyer Station is on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, seven miles north of Trenton, and has about 275 inhabitants. Rutherford Station is on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, ten and three-quarter miles north of Trenton, and has about 700 inhabitants. Yorkville is fourteen miles north-west of Trenton, and has about 125 inhabitants. Eaton is eleven miles west of Trenton, and has about 135 inhabitants. Brazil is nine miles south-west of Trenton, and has about 80 inhabitants. Pickettsville is ten miles south-east of Trenton, and has about 60 inhabitants. The foregoing are the only towns and viilages in the county which are deserving of notice.

            Milling Facilities. There is very little good water-power in Gibson county, and mills are very scarce, the average milling distance throughout the county being about four and a half or five miles. The streams are sluggish, and have very little fall.

            Schools. No county in the State, in proportion to population, has done more for public schools than Gibson. For the year .1873-4, a tax of twenty-five cents on the one hundred dollars was levied, which, with the exception of Houston, is the largest county school tax levied in the State. Schools are kept up from six to ten months in the year, and their beneficial effects are clearly perceptible in the increase of enterprise and intelligence among the people. Scholastic population, 8,484; number schools organized, 96.

            Churches. Almost every neighborhood in the county is supplied with comfortable church buildings, representing the various Christian denominations. The Methodists predominate, Baptists next.

            Newspapers. There are three newspapers published in the county— the Trenton News, published in Trenton; Trenton Gazette, also published in Trenton; and Humboldt Journal, published in Humboldt. All of these papers are Democratic, and are very creditable journals.

            Farmers’ Organizations. The "farmers’ movement" has gained considerable headway, and there is quite a number of Granges of the Patrons of Husbandry in the county. At Trenton there is a fair association, known as the Gibson County Agricultural and Mechanical Association, which is in a very prosperous condition.

submitted by David Donahue

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