Skip to Main Content

Tobacco Industry, South Carolina

As told by Gracie Kelly, Lake View High School
Lake View, South Carolina

Story Narrative:

In collaboration with Dillon County Theatre Association in South Carolina,  Liz Herlong's Broadcast Journalism student Gracie Kelly produced this story about the history of tobacco agriculture in the region. Harold Ivey and Paul King describe how the industry used to be and how it's changed. Lake View High School aired a different segment about the area each Wednesday morning on the Gator TV Morning News broadcast as part of a series called, "Way Back Wednesdays." It was created for Museum on Main Street's Stories: YES program.

Gracie Kelly: Dillon County was formed in 1910 from Marion County. While Dillon is one of the smallest counties in the state, it brought in a lot of tobacco. Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop that has a long and complicated history.

Harold Ivey: [0:23] To start with what you had to do is get your bed fixed to plant the seed, tobacco seed. Okay whenever they come up, you had to go in there and pick out the weeds and all that for the plants to come on up. You had a big old cloth sheet like thing you had to spread over the top to keep your moles and stuff from getting on it. Go out there and get it in section, run the rows, sow the fertilizer and rich it. Once you got that done, you 'baco plants would be big enough you'd had to go in he bed and pull them up.

Harold Ivey: [1:07] Back then you didn't have no tractor. You had a hand transplanter and somebody to drop plants forward, do a load there and tote your water in that transplanter, they'd drop one plant in the planter and you'd put in the dirt and turn it to get the plant in the dirt. Whenever it got time to plant the leaves would be ready you had to go there and crop it and put in the 'baco barn. Once you put it in the 'baco barn you'd cure it. And you'd take it out and put it in your pack house.

Gracie Kelly: [1:43] And after that you could sell it. And in the 1920's that's exactly what they did. Over 7800 acres produced over five million pounds of tobacco. That was then sold for $126 an acre.

Paul King: [2:00] Growing up most of us in our area on the farm had tobacco allotments. You had allotments and for those allotments you would plant those acres. Nowadays basically according to your allotment and you could transfer it to other farms and plant that acreage. To start with everything was grown in tobacco beds. Nowadays it's grown in green houses in a controlled environment.

Paul King: [2:33] Stick barns as we called 'em are now box barns. That they cure, they can put in five barns a day, where we could put in only two. Back then everything was done by hand, where today most of the modern equipment such as planting and tractors and things of this nature are just so much more production oriented then it was in our day.

Gracie Kelly: [3:08] When the Pee Dee was in trouble because cotton was failing tobacco saved them. People rarely farm tobacco now because of the buy out and so many other health related reasons. For additional information be sure to look at The Great Harvest in your local library.

Asset ID: 8551
Themes: Crossroads, farming, history, tobacco, industry
Date recorded: 2019
Length of recording: 3:32 m
Related traveling exhibition: Crossroads: Change in Rural America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Dillon County Theatre Association, South Carolina
More information:


Media Files: