Virginia Cotton Belt Board of Trade

Published 11:31 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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The first regular meeting of the Virginia Cotton Belt Board of Trade was held in the Franklin Town Hall on Nov. 21, 1922, with R. C. Campbell presiding. It was evident by the number in attendance, by the spirit of enthusiasm shown, and by the many and varied propositions advanced for the consideration of the body that the new organization was starting off with a vim and a spirit of cooperation and helpfulness that promised well for the region.

Although the Board of Trade was headquartered in Franklin, it was intended that it would not be an exclusive Franklin association, but one taking in a wide scope of territory and interested influential citizens in at least 10 surrounding jurisdictions. The primary purpose of the organization was to address and promote the cultivation and marketing of farm products derived from any part of the cotton and peanut growing sections of Virginia and North Carolina – for a radius of 30 miles – as defined in the Board’s bylaws. Pursuant to this purpose a revised set of bylaws enlarging the scope of the activities and membership of the Board was presented, read and approved; the permanent name of the organization selected was “Virginia Cotton Belt Board of Trade.”

With a motto of “Strength in Unity,” the preamble of the Board’s bylaws declared that:

“This association is formed for the purpose of advancing and protecting the business and agricultural interests throughout the farming and commercial district surrounding Franklin — including Southampton, Nansemond (including Suffolk), Isle of Wight, Greensville, Sussex and Surry counties in Virginia and the counties of Gates, Hertford and Northampton in North Carolina. 

Further, to encourage the establishment of commercial and manufacturing industries; to promote just and equitable principles in trade; to aid in the proper marketing of the agricultural and commercial products of the district; to bring more closely together representatives of all branches of legitimate business; and to promote the general progress and prosperity of the district.”

The following officers were appointed:  R. C. Campbell, president; J. A. Pretlow, vice president; General Cecil C. Vaughan Jr., vice president; J. Edward Moyler Sr., vice president; and Franklin Town Manager H. L. Beach, secretary-treasurer. 

The executive committee was made up of R. C. Campbell, J. A. Pretlow, H. L. Beach, E. Frank Story and Paul Scarborough.

Board of Governors: J. A. Pretlow, W. O. Bristow, W. T. Pace, Dr. E. A. De Bordenave, R. M. Newton, C. J. Edwards, C. A. Cutchins Jr., E. Frank Story, Sol W. Rawls Sr., Paul Scarborough, W. M. Bradshaw, James L. Camp Jr., Dr. W. E. Snipes, General Cecil C. Vaughan Jr., W. H. Lankford, L. R. Jones, R. C. Campbell, J. Edward Moyler Sr., and H. L. Beach.

Among matters of interest coming before the body at its organizational meeting was a proposition presented by Postmaster E. A. De Bordenave outlining a plan whereby the rural postal delivery system would be used to develop the area’s dairy interests. Dr. De Bordenave estimated that any farmer living on a rural route with four or five good milking cows, which could be cared for without the employment of extra hired help— by using a separator, could have at least one gallon of cream sent into Franklin by rural delivery daily.

Dr. De Bordenave gave a breakdown of the benefit to the small farmer:

“By shipping cream in one-gallon thermos bottles, which would hold the cream at low temperature and ensure its reaching Franklin in good condition, the cream could be sent to market at a cost of 10 cents. Thirty gallons of cream a month would bring $60 to the farmer. From this, he must deduct delivery costs of $3; costs for feeding the cows, outside of roughage from the farm, would be about $18. Labor would be furnished by the family or farm hands without extra expense. The farmer would net $39 a month.”

“The annual food value of the skimmed milk, resulting from the cream separation, from four cows, when mixed with other feed, is estimated at $134 a year; this could be fed to the hogs. And, the manure from the cows would be worth $112 a year. Of course, these figures would vary according to individual conditions, but it is just one of the many possibilities for bringing in some ready cash to any farmer the year around. Points of consideration are: the small number of good cows required not entailing any paid labor; the cheap, quick and easy means of marketing cream by parcel post through the medium of thermos bottles; the skimmed milk left could be fed to the hogs; and a permanent source of ready cash without interference by weather conditions.”

At the next meeting, recommendations by committee reports were to be given for consideration of the following:

Hiring a Farm Demonstration Agent.

Consideration for the establishment of a canning industry for the territory, such as the one recently established within the Rappahannock River Valley.

Upon recommendation by Dr. R. L. Raiford of Sedley, consideration is to be given to establish sweet potato farming and storage houses and the introduction of their use throughout the region.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is