Appalachia Brasstown

The Brasstown Economy in the Early 1900s

brasstown economy in early 1900s

Excerpt from Fred O. Scroggs’ writings about the community of Brasstown”

After the threshing season was over we baled lots of the wheat and rye straw. This we sold to lumber camps in Graham County and elsewhere where it was used for bedding material for their stock, and in the bunk houses where their men slept.

I had an Uncle by marriage, (Uncle Henry Green who lived at Mayesville Ga., who was a Veterinarian Doctor.) He obtained an order for me for a car load of baled straw for the Boney Allen company of Buford, Ga. I filled the order. 1200 bales in a box car. Probably the only car of straw that was ever shipped from Murphy. The price was good and we made money on the deal. Boney Allen owned a large tannery, a shoe factory and a harness factory. Also a horse collar factory. This straw was used as filler in the horse collars. They made large quantities of these a great amount of which was used by the U. S. Government for use in the army calverly services.

In trying to work with my neighbors and customers, I kept on the lookout for a market for anything that we might supply. Most every farm had some apple trees. The apples just dropped off and rotted. I made a trade with a jelly making plant in Atlanta to sell them a shipment of these “cull” apples. Any variety but some apples. The order was for 50 barrels at $1.00 per bushel. So I bought the barrels from Fain Grocery Co., in Murphy, and made a trade with Floyd Clayton and Frank Hampton to go around and trade for the apples and fill the barrels. They could pay .25¢ per bu., but most of the folks didn’t charge anything. The boys went about buying apples. I paid them .50¢ per bu. and furnished the barrels and did the hauling. We placed a little straw in the bottom, and some on top, taking off the top hoop and covering with a piece of burlap bag and replacing the hoops. We shipped 30 barrels or around 90 bu. So this brought in around $90.00 for a product that would otherwise have been wasted. I did not try and fill an order the next season as these neighbors who had given their apples away or sold cheap, got an idea that we were making too much money on them and asked $1.00 per bushel.

One time my good friend, Mercer Fain of Murphy, who operated the Fain Wholesale Grocery Co., contacted me and said that he had an order for 50 or more bushel of wild crabapples. Could I fill the order? The price would be $1.00 per bu. He said it didn’t matter if they had rotten places, half rotten or what not. I said that I would try but was skeptical. Asked what he wanted them for. He said they they were going to a Nursery company at Cleveland, Tenn. They would let them rot and save the seeds which they planted to grow root stocks on which they grafted improved varieties of apples and sold to orchardist. I put out a call over the section and was able to fill Mr. Fain’s order complete. For some unknown reason this order never repeated.

At this time there was a demand for walnut kernels. We bought from any who would bring them in. I could never get enough to fill my orders. A hand operated walnut cracker had appeared on the market. I bought one maybe around 1926, and began buying walnuts. Stored them in the blank-shop building I had built, near the Elmer Sales House, the present Chas. Hedden Home. I paid .50¢ per hundred pounds and accumulated around 2000 lbs. They came in as far away as Shooting Creek, N.C., Ivy Log, Ga., and elsewhere. I then made a trade with a number of folks to crack and extract the kernels. Those who did the work would come and crack a quantity which they could carry home if they wished and extract the meats. I sold these meats at .50¢ per pound and paid the workers .25¢ per pound. It was just and experiment, but paid out for all of us. At the same time I bought kernels from others over the area. I marketed these kernels in Gainesville and Atlanta, also to the Sears Market in Atlanta. I remember selling to a creamery and ice cream supply house in Atlanta, (Bessire & co.) 700 pounds at one time. They would have bought several thousand pounds. We continued to work this market for some years.


I hope you enjoyed this peek into the thriving metropolis of Brasstown in the early 1900s. Be on the lookout for another installation from Fred O. Scroggs detailing the way he worked with his neighbors to put a little money in all their pocketbooks.


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  • Reply
    November 10, 2017 at 5:44 am

    I enjoy these type stories, the one thing that stuck out to me is his willingness to work, , there is money to be made if folks were willing to get off the couch and do it. Seems no one has the want to anymore.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    November 9, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Wouldn’t it have been something to sit on the front porch, on toward evening, and have Mr. Scroggs there, just talking along as he’s doing in this account? Wouldn’t it be something if young people, adolescents were there, listening to resourcefulness, applied?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 9, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    I love these kinds of stories from the past. This one reminds me of one Col. Rufus T Cunningham. He too was something of Appalachian entrepreneur. I have a newspaper article wherein is described his purchase of two “Wagons” (which I presume to be railroad cars). As the time of the article one of the “Wagons” was at the blacksmith shop being fitted with air brakes. Horses can produce quit a bit of “air” but I doubt with enough pressure and volume to operate a braking system. Besides that horses don’t come with fittings to attach them.
    In any case Col. Cunningham was refurbishing the “wagons” to be used to haul dogwood from his establishment at Almond to Bryson City where Victor Fontaine (a Frenchman) had built a factory. In the factory dogwood blanks were turned into shuttles for looms and shipped to France.
    Col. Cunningham was also instrumental in the creation of an Almond Fair when the Swain County fair was discontinued. That endeavor didn’t last long because of the acts of our fine Federal Government in establishing the National Park and Fontana Lake which reduced the economy of the northern and northwestern parts of the county to almost. They call that progress I guess.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    November 9, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Dear Tipper, that was a very interesting story. My husband used to say, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” I think that saying as well as the story, both show a spirit of tenacity.

  • Reply
    eva m. wike
    November 9, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Tipper: Reading this post took me BACK INTO THEM HILLS! I wish my Daddy was here to add his experiences to this story. He was so bright and eager to learn! He went to school – between crops – until he was 21. His Professor told him what a fine student he was! Then he said to Daddy “I have taught you all I can. So it is time for you go on and get a job!”
    After I finished my Master’s Degree at UT, I went home and was talking about MY LATEST DEGREE! Daddy was so eager to talk about learning. When he told me “I never learned much about fractions!” I cut loose – using Mama’s apple pie on the eating table – and taught him fractions in record time!
    How Sweet It Is!
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, BS, MS, PhD (with THREE POST DOCS @Arizona State, Oregon State, and Middle Tn!) As if THREE DEGREES were not enough learing!
    p.s. I know I have shared my Daddy’s Story with you many times! BUT – oh well – you understand so graciously!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2017 at 11:23 am

    A man who looks at possibilities!!

  • Reply
    harry adams
    November 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

    Very interesting article on an early entrepreneur.
    Black walnut trees are very common here and this has been a very bountiful year. Interesting that he was paying $.50 per hundred pounds. The rate here this year was $.15 per hundred and that would hardly pay for the gasoline to carry them to the buyer. A pickup truckload of unhulled will be about 300 pounds and represent a number of hours picking them up.
    I have over 400 trees on my farm now and will plant 200 more next year. I say they are my daughter’s retirement fund for lumber.
    I have a hand cracker that I purchased several years ago that works really well. I used a large vise before that to crack them. I have always liked brownies with black walnuts in them.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    November 9, 2017 at 9:19 am

    It always amazes me what people can do to earn extra money. Today it’s Ebay, and swap meets, but in the old days, you had to be a little more creative. Even today, so much stuff goes to waste because of our “throw-away society”, but leave it to those with an entrepreneurial spirit to find a way to profit from all these discards. When I was a kid, it was collecting glass bottles for 2 cents each that made our money. Thanks for sharing… Vann

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 9, 2017 at 8:50 am

    That Mr. Scroggs sure had country moxey. I love those kinds of stories where someone sees an opportunity, makes an inventive plan and helps lots of people and to top it off uses something that would be wasted. Wish I had the gift.
    I guess those calvary horses that needed the straw were some of the very last ones before horses were phased out.
    I think dwarf fruit trees are still made by grafting onto crab apple rootstocks. I’ll bet the order was not repeated because they created their own crab apple orchard for seed.
    I heard a story from the Cohutta Mountain country of northwest Georgia that is similar. Before the chestnuts were killed they used to burn the leaves off under the chestnuts on top of Potatopatch Mountain to expose the chestnut burrs and gather wagonloads of chestnuts for sale in Atlanta. Sure wish that was still possible.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    November 9, 2017 at 8:49 am

    A fine snippet of commercial history that evokes images of how folks made their living back the days of horse power and hard labor.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 9, 2017 at 8:03 am

    That’s a true entrepreneurial spirit! I really admire people who can deal and make things happen. I think a body has to have a certain temperament to do that and that’s sure not me. I’m too shy.
    Great story, I enjoyed it, Tip, and look forward to the next installment!

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