Wednesday, February 11, 2009

1930s Farm Security Administration Project at Hopkinsville, KY

Farmers of submarginal land relocated

In the high hills and deep ravines just south of Dawson Springs, KY, 14,648 rough and rocky acres are held by the Pennyrile State Forest and Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park.

These public lands -- and in eastern Kentucky, properties that became the Kentucky Ridge State Forest -- were leased in 1930 under the Land Use and Resettlement Program. Official websites for both forests state that leases were "sustained until 1954 when the property was deeded by the U.S. government to the Commonwealth."

I was a little surprised that the program that created these forests was under the Hoover Administration rather than the New Deal. However, I read a bit of relevant history -- Congress began trying to reduce farming of submarginal land in 1929. The Agricultural Marketing Act of that year provided for study of the problem, and perhaps this program was an outgrowth of that legislation. I have found no other reference to the "Land Use and Resettlement Program" on the internet.

I've always wondered where the farmers were relocated when they were moved out of the Pennyrile Forest area, and tonight I came across part of the answer in a guide to Kentucky by WPA writers:

Hopkinsville is the headquarters of the Farm Security Adminstration's Christian-Trigg Farms, a project covering more than 8,000 acres in Christian, Trigg, and Todd Counties. It was designed to provide small farms -- they average 67 acres -- for a selected group of tenants and sharecroppers in these counties as well as families removed from near-by areas that were submarginal for farming. Each unit includes a house, barn, smokehouse, and poultry house.

Forty-eight of the 103 farms planned were occupied in October 1938 and the homesteaders, advised by Federal agents, had worked out a diversified crop plan by which the families raise the major portion of their food and the feed for their stock (chickens, hogs, and milk cows), plant legumes to enrich the soil, and produce tobacco and cotton for cash crops.

Quoted from The WPA Guide to Kentucky. Originally compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Admninistration for the State of Kentucky and published in 1939 as Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State. The entire entry for Hopkinsville is quite interesting if you know the area.

The description of the diversified crop plan being taught to the relocated farmers reminds me of the small farms owned nowadays by Mennonites and Amish in Christian County. Most would be about the same size -- less than 100 acres. Like the relocated farmers of the 1930s, they raise their own food and their livestock's food, practice crop rotation, and raise cash crops such as vegetables, corn, grains, etc.

Tobacco is still widely grown in Christian County, but I have not seen or heard of cotton grown here.

Related posts:
Pennyrile State Forest
January Scenes from Christian County, Kentucky


Anonymous said...

Interesting read! A Buddy of mine has some property close to the edge of the park, so we do quite a bit of exploring around there. We have found gravestones, wells, and other signs of farming around the northwest end of the park. At one time, there was supposedly a post office up in that corner. Hard to believe. WE just happened across the well one day, they covered it up with survey markers, and concreted it all together. No telling how long ago that happened.

Genevieve said...

That's very interesting. I'm sure it's a good thing that they covered over the wells.

According to some literature I picked up at the Pennyrile Forest office, the areas that were under cultivation were planted to pines, while any areas that were already forested were left as they were. CCC workers probably did the tree planting (I'm guessing).

Collagemama said...

We had a nice story in our newspaper about the helpful Amish during your ice storm. Enjoyed reading about it, and knowing of your connection.

Submarginal is a good description of my outlook tonight, but tomorrow will be a better day!

Anonymous said...

Well, they are cutting out just about all the pines in there because of the pine beetle infestation, so there may be some archeological remnants down there to be found. I know they are not to be removed, but it would be neat to poke around in some of those clear cut areas!!

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