History of Tobacco in Montgomery County
Big Business in 1859
Conwood Company has gone thru hard times and good times, learning, adjusting and prospering. Conwood has in Garrett Snuff, the oldest continuous trade-mark in the United States, one of ten trade-marks recorded on October 25, 1870, the first day the US Patent Office began granting trademarks. The origin of the company known as Conwood stretches back over two hundred years. As a comparison, The Leaf Chronicle reports that it was first published in 1808, while Garrett Snuff had already been in production for 26 years. The history of Conwood encompasses the beginning of the American commerce after the Revolutionary War. The taste for tobacco developed by the scavenging soldiers during the Civil War and the need for smokeless tobacco in defense plants during World War II led the demand for tobacco. In January 1784 John Montgomery and Martin Armstrong surveyed the present site of Clarksville and proceeded to sell lots. On 29 December 1785, North Carolina established Clarksville as a town. The history of Conwood tells us a lot about people, unusual people and ordinary people in unusual circumstances: •William E. Garrett, Jr. sold the 113-year-old Garrett Snuff for one dollar. •James B. Duke worked so hard to develop his company and yet was the only man who knew how to dismantle this tobacco industry. •Mrs. Henrietta Garrett’s will was never found yet the 26,400 would-be heirs, including the State of Pennsylvania and the United States Government, pressed claims to the $21,000,000 Garrett Snuff fortune. •The Night Riders burned out their neighbors for dealing with the tobacco trust. Locally, brothers Victor and Whitey Albright were an important part of Conwood from the 1930’s thru the 1980’s. It is reported that Martin Condon asked the business teacher at Clarksville to name her brightest business student and she replied Victor Albright. Mr. Condon hired Mr. Albright when he graduated from high school and he rose through the ranks to achieve the position of Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of Conwood from 1952 thru 1975. Whitey Albright served as Office Manager of Conwood for many years. Mr. Joe Gootee, father-in-law of Mr. Sam Winters, was a supervisor of manufacturing for many years. The Activity Building and the Sanctuary of the First Baptist Church were constructed on property that was conveyed to the church by the American Snuff Company. The leaf department offices of the snuff plant were located where the Activity Building is now. During the Civil War, the leaf department buildings were used as a hospital for the wounded. During the time of the Night Riders, guards armed with “W.W. Greener” shotguns and Winchester rifles were posted on the roofs of the warehouses when the Night Riders threatened to burn down the building. On Bended Knee provides many details of this turbulent history of the tobacco industry.
1782 John Garrett II established the first Garrett snuff mill on Red Clay Creek in Delaware. 1824 George Garrett entered the family business and changed the firm’s name to Levi Garrett and Sons. Levi Garrett dies in 1833 and George Garrett sold his shares to William Garrett. 1857 William Garrett brought his sons, Walter and William Jr., into the business and changed the name to W. E. Garrett and Sons. 1890 By 1890, a determined young man was a rising player in the tobacco industry. Eight years after he entered the cigarette industry, Buck Duke merged with four other manufacturers to form the American Tobacco Company. He entered the snuff business with reckless abandon, selling products at a loss to drive other companies out of business. 1895 Walter and William Garrett broke with tradition in that neither son had an interest in the snuff production. William E. Garrett Jr. sold W.E. Garrett & Sons to Henry Moore, George Wilson and John Gilmore, three employees, for one dollar. The business that had grown and prospered through the Garrett family for 113 years was no more. Within three years this company became the cornerstone of the Atlantic Snuff Company. 1900 Mr. Duke formed the American Snuff Company which included the George W. Helme Company, the Atlantic Snuff Company, Stewart Ralph & Company, Bruton & Condon and Ivy Owen and Company. While Mr. Duke prospered, the tobacco farmers did not. In 1904, farmers in Western Kentucky and Tennessee formed the Dark Tobacco District Planters Association to do something about low tobacco prices paid for tobacco grown in the Black Patch. Those farmers who did not join the Association were called “Hill Billies” and continued to do business with the American Tobacco Company. Members of the Association formed a group called the Possum Hunters Organization, the purpose of which was to intimidate the “Hill Billies”. As most of the intimidation occurred at night, the Possum Hunters became known as the Night Riders . They numbered in the thousands; their greatest activity was in 1906-1909, farmer against farmer. Factories and barns were burned, plant beds scraped of plants, men were beaten and killed, including one father of 11 children in Henrietta. In spite of the violence, little, if anything was accomplished. 1907 Teddy Roosevelt, the “Trust Buster” and the United States Government filed suit against the American Tobacco Company for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Four years later, the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Buck Duke’ tobacco empire. The Circuit Court of Appeals, which was assigned to complete the dissolution, was forced to rely on Mr. Duke himself for specifics of the organization. The American Snuff Company was divided into three smaller companies: a smaller new American Snuff Company, Weyman and Burton (now U.S. Tobacco) and George W. Helm. The division was based on specific brands. Martin J. Condon had first choice and chose Garrett Snuff. Mr. Condon and the American Snuff Company had manufacturing plants in Memphis and Clarksville with prizing and storage facilities in Hopkinsville and Mayfield, KY, and Springfield, TN. On Bended Knee by Bill Cunningham published in 1983 and available thru Barnes and Noble. Night Rider by Robert Penn Warren published in 1950 and available from Barnes and Noble. 1912 American Snuff Company moved its offices from New York to Memphis. It prospered under the direction of Martin J. Condon and James Harwood thru the 1930’s. The Wall Street Journal had called the American Snuff Company “depression proof” but the business could not totally escape the hard-times of the depression. Snuff manufacturing was almost 41,000,000 pounds in 1930 but in 1932 had dropped to 36,000,000 pounds. Being responsible and forward thinking, Martin Condon decided to broaden the product lines to include sweet flavored snuff, a decision that resulted in sales surpassing the pre-depression times. The men of American Snuff made nothing but snuff from 1912 thru 1952, constantly improving and refining the production methods to reduce labor, energy and transportation cost. 1940 World War II boosted its sales as “smokeless tobacco” was the only tobacco products allowed in defense plants and the Britons used it during the blackouts. After World War II, sales again declined and the American Snuff Company was again determined to adapt and grow, this time by diversification. 1950 The American Snuff Company purchased Taylor Brothers Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, NC. Taylor Brothers manufactured twist, plug and loose leaf chewing tobacco allowing the American Snuff Company to gain wider distribution and increased sales. 1957 The American Snuff Company purchased Hot Shot insect repellent. The company was able to expand sales of Hot Shot from $400,000 in 1957 to almost $4,000,000 in only two years. 1961 The American Snuff Company purchased Blevins Popcorn Company. In 1948, Blevins started the “Presidential Popcorn Poll”, allowing movie goers to request a Republican or Democrat box for their popcorn. The popcorn poll predicted Truman would defeat Dewey, a result that surprised more sophisticated pollsters. For 20 years, the popcorn poll accurately predicted the results of the presidential elections. 1966 As the American Snuff Company was now a diversified company, the name was changed to Conwood Corporation. 1967 Conwood purchased the Scott Tobacco Company of Bowling Green, KY, a maker of hand-rolled twist tobacco. Along the way, Conwood developed the foil pouch used in packaging loose leaf chewing tobacco, produced a popcorn package that served as it’s own popper and pioneered the first plastic cans used in packing moist snuff. Conwood paid dividends every year from 1901 through 1985 when the company was purchased by the Pritzker family of Chicago for $408 million and taken under private ownership. 2006 In April, 2006, Reynolds American entered into an agreement with the Pritzker business interest to purchase Conwood Company, L.P. for 3.5 billion dollars which will return Conwood to a publicly held status. Buildings Warehouse F was the original building of the Stewart Ralph Snuff Company, built in 1900 and the Orgain-Manning lumberyard was directly across the street. The Cure Building was built in 1904, the Smith Warehouse in 1909 and the Rehandling House in 1911. The Smith warehouse was demolished in 2004 to allow for the construction of a new 43,00 square foot manufacturing facility. In 1982, Conwood purchased the old A & P Store to house a threshing and cutting line for moist snuff. We thank Bryce S. Sanders, Jr. for providing this synopsis of the tobacco history. He is well prepared for doing this in that he began working in the snuff industry in May of 1972 and now serves as Manager of Clarksville Branch of Conwood Company, LP.
(Courtesy of Eleanor Williams) Clarksville's early economic development was largely based upon the growth and shipment of tobacco which had become the area's major crop. By 1820, 7,000 hogsheads of tobacco were shipped from Clarksville, and in 1858 almost 18,000 hogsheads valued at $2,390,000 were shipped from the Clarksville Landing and Trice's Landing. Clarksville's role as a world dark-fired tobacco center was developed steadily. Henry F. Beaumont, the leading tobacconist in the town, built the first stemmery at the corner of Commerce and what is now Riverside Drive. At this time tobacco was delivered from the farm tied in bundles which were taken apart and the central stem of each leaf was cut out before the tobacco was packed for storage. Others soon entered the business and the streets along the river,-Spring and Front Streets (what is now Riverside Drive) were crowded with stemmeries. Gradually the town's reputation as a stemmery point gave way to the tobacco leaf trade, but in 1859, Clarksville boasted the following 11 stemmeries: 1. H. F. Beaumont Tobacco Stemmery, located on the east side of Spring Street between Jefferson and Marion Streets. 2. Bryarly and Dick (William H. Bryarly and George Dick) Tobacco Stemmery located on the southwest corner of 5th and Commerce. 3. Clark and Barker (Micajah H. Clark Barker and E. Walton Barker) Tobacco Stemmery located on the south side of Franklin Street between Water (Riverside) and Spring Streets. 4. Hugh Dunlop Tobacco Stemmery, southwest corner of Dunlop and Commerce. 5. Forbes and Pritchett (William A. Forbes and Thomas J. Pritchett) Tobacco Stemmery, located on the corner of Commerce and Water (Riverside) Streets. 6. M.M. Kerr Tobacco Stemmery, located on the east side of Spring Street north of Marion Street. 7. John McKeage and Sons (John McKeage, Robert F. McKeage and Benjamin F. McKeage) Tobacco Stemmery, located on the southwest corner of Marion and Spring Streets. 8. John H. Pritchett Tobacco Stemmery, located on the south side of Nashville Road, between old Charlotte Road and Corp. Line. 9. John K. Smith Tobacco Stemmery, located on the corner of Stewart and Spring Streets. 10. H.F. Beaumont and Company (F. Henry, Sterling Beaumont and William H. Gilliat) Tobacco Stemmery and Manufacturers of Tobacco, located on the east side of Spring Street between Jefferson and Marion Streets. 11. E.R.W. Thomas Tobacco Stemmery, located on the river bank south of New Charlotte Road. Tobacco stemmeries in the New Providence area were T.F. Pettus & Co and W.H. Drane, Jr. Tobacco stemmeries in the Peacher’s Mill area were B.O. Keesee and John Barker