Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Here's a photo from my archives. It was taken in the 1988 to 1990 time frame in Gallia County, Ohio.

That's the Ashland Inc. towboat Valvoline across the river. But I'm more interested in the burley tobacco in the foreground.

Burley tobacco is one of three varieties used in making cigarettes. About two-thirds or more of burley tobacco grown in the United States is grown in Kentucky, but it has been the main cash crop of small farms along the Ohio River.

Up until a few years ago, it was common to see tobacco growing along the Ohio River from Gallipolis, Ohio, to around Huntington, W.Va. For years Huntington had a tobacco market where farmers brought their crop to auction to tobacco companies. I spent one or two days each fall unloading a pickup truck at the Huntington market. A lot of people used tobacco to get through the winter, and many used their crops to pay their bills at my father's grocery store.

I have many memories of my older sisters sitting behind a tractor on a tobacco setter. The burning of the tobacco bed was a highlight of spring, as it was done at night. There was suckering, spudding vs. splitting, taking it to the barn, hanging it, taking it down, stripping it and tying it, later replaced by baling. In 1978, I did a newspaper article on a man who had invented a machine that stripped leaves from the stalks mechanically, although people still had to sort them into bright, lugs and trash manually. 

But things change. Namely, price supports and production quotas and off-shore cigarette production and smoking regulations and such. Now you don't see as much tobacco growing in small patches along the river road.

Also, you don't see as many large-scale gardens where people raise produce to sell on the Huntington market, but that's a reminiscence for another time.


Granny Sue said...

Interesting post, and nostalgic for me too. We used to grow tobacco and sell it at the Huntington market. My sons wore their Pride in Tobacco hats everywhere. We stopped growing when I developed allergies and couldn't work on the stripping any more, and the boys grew up and moved off--there went the free help! But I sure missed it; as you said, we used the money to pay bills every year. Eventually we sold our allotment.

ohio981 said...

You know how the green leaves had gum on them? I got some in my eye once while handing a stick up to my bother, who was hanging it in the barn. Man, that burned.

Anonymous said...

Wow! how familar all this sounds,I was cutting tobacco for my grandfather when Bob Landon called me to come to work for The Ohio River Company in 1961.I went on the M/V Ovec for a 45 day hitch. Some on this site may remember when ORC had a office in Huntington, anyhow I told my grandpa I most likely would not cut any more tobacco,our home now sets in the old tobacco patch here on the Ohio river. Well I have give my age away. I have all the old tobacco knives,spears,sticks and etc on display in our garage as I am now retired from AEP

ohio981 said...

Was that the Bpb Landon or Bob Langdon who was port captain at Huntington when the Omar and Omega came out in the early 1980s?

Anonymous said...

I left ORC in 69,at that time Bob worked in HR.Not sure if he became a port captain.

Anonymous said...

Bob McCullough was port captain when I left ORC. Things were really falling apart at ORC back then.I worked some for the late Captain Eugene Bartley on the Ravenswood,before I went to AEP. Do you remember the Ravenswood?

ohio981 said...

I don't remember the Ravenswood itself when it was on the river, but did it burn in the 1970s, and did its burned-out hulk sit on the river bank below Point Pleasant for a while?