Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Thomas D. Clark, July 10, 2002

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:30 - Life on the farm and introduction of boll weevils

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Partial Transcript: Well, I want to talk about the boll weevil.

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes what life was like growing up on a farm in northeastern Mississippi. Clark recalls when the boll weevils began to affect crops in his area of Mississippi.

Keywords: Acreage; Arrival; Beginning; Boat; Cabins; Chopping cotton; Cotton choppers; Cotton farming; Cotton field; Devastating; Edge; Enslaved people; Enslavement; Family; Fertilizer; Good returns; Gradual; Heavy; Hired; House; Monument; Moving; Newspaper; Pay; Picking cotton; Poison; Prevalent; Production; Reasonable; Short; Slave villages; Spread; Stable; Story; Tall; Teenager; Tenant farming; The South; Uncommon; Unconcerned; Way of life

Subjects: African Americans; Age; Alabama; Blacks; Boll weevil; Childhood; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Cotton stalks; Crop diversification; Crops; Farmers; Farms; Father; Freedom; Generation; History; Housing; Income; Insects; Jackson (Miss.); Louisiana; Louisville (Miss.); Mississippi; Mississippi State University; Morning; Neighbors; Pesticides; Pineville (Miss.); Plant breeders; Plantations; Reading; Slaves; Spiders; Spring; Starkville (Miss.); Summer; Sun; Texas; Work

00:08:09 - Effects of boll weevils / Ways to kill insects

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Partial Transcript: So, what did you do when you saw boll weevils were, were coming and were going to be bad?

Segment Synopsis: Clark considers the effect of boll weevils on Mississippi cotton farmers. Clark lists some of the methods that farmers used to kill insects during his childhood.

Keywords: Before; Calcium arsenic; Cash; Clothes; Contaminated; Cotton farming; Country store; Failure; Great-granddaughter; Help; Houses; Introduced; Later; Manufactured; Poison; Produce; Prosperous; Purchase; Saw mill; Self-contained; Subsistence farm; Tenant farming; Trouble

Subjects: Boll weevil; Business; Butter; Chemicals; Childhood; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Crops; Eggs; Fall; Farmers; Farms; Fire ants; Food; Foreclosure; Fruit; Harvest; Hides and skins; History; Insects; Louisville (Miss.); Meat; Merchants; Mississippi; Money; Mortgages; People; Pesticides; Selling; Smell; Summer; Vegetables; Wood

00:13:15 - Methods of eradicating boll weevils / History of cotton farming

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Partial Transcript: How did you combat the boll weevil?

Segment Synopsis: Clark outlines some common methods of eradicating boll weevils prior to the development of chemicals to eliminate the insects. Clark illustrates the history of cotton farming from his childhood in the 1900s up until World War II.

Keywords: Absorb; Agricultural experiment station; Agricultural extension agents; Attention; Bad; Burning; Constant; Construction; Cotton bloom; Cotton fields; Country store; Destroyed; Difficult; Disagreed; Failed; First bloom; General; Good years; Gulley; Impact; Introduced; Involved; Land; Lying; Methods; Misguided; Move; Newspaper editor; Nutrients; Objectives; Origins; Penalty; Planting; Planting crops; Plucking; Position; Present; Pride; Primitive; Production; Productive; Reasons; Removal; Revolutionary; Romanticized; Serial number; Slot; Stakes; Superficial; Talking; Terraces (Agriculture); The South; Varieties; Warehouse; Washtub; World War II

Subjects: Advertising; Boll weevil; Catch; Childhood; Colors; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Cotton stalks; Crop diversification; Crops; Farmers; Father; History; Identification; Knowledge; Law; Louisville (Miss.); Merchants; Mississippi; Money; Plant breeders; Race; Reputation; Rocks; Seeds; Selling; Sharing; Soil conservation; Spring; Starkville (Mo.); Survey; Water; Weight; Winter; Woods; World War, 1939-1945; Young

00:24:09 - Agricultural methods / High school

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Partial Transcript: After the boll weevil gets there the farmers are faced with the greatest threat to their--

Segment Synopsis: Clark considers some of the agricultural methods that were introduced by the agricultural extension agents in Mississippi during his childhood. Clark discusses his high school education, which took place at an agricultural boarding school for rural children.

Keywords: Acid phosphate; Agreed; Agricultural extension agents; Agricultural high school; Agriculture course; Bankrupt; Beginning; Boarding; Country boys; Country girls; Demonstration farms; Expensive; Fertilizer; Free time; Freshman year; Graduate; Important; Increased; Less concerned; Limited; Moving; Nutrients; Picking cotton; Production; Rare; Required; Results; Rules; Smith-Lever Act; Sophomore year; Takeover; Terraces (Agriculture); Wilson dam, Muscle Shoals (Ala.); World War I

Subjects: Agriculture; Ammunition; Auburn University; Boarding schools; Boll weevil; Business; Chemicals; Chemistry; Childhood; Clemson University; Communities; Corn; Cotton farmers; Crops; Education; Fall; Farmers; Farms; Florence (Ala.); Fruit trees; Grafting; Harvest; High schools; History; Learning; Louisiana State University; Louisville (Miss.); Management; Mississippi; Nitrogen; Organization; Percentage; Plant breeders; Raleigh (N.C.); Rural; Sheffield (Ala.); Starkville (Miss.); Students; Surveying; Tennessee Valley Authority; Train; University of South Carolina; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; World War, 1914-1918

00:30:07 - Crop diversification

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Partial Transcript: You--you mentioned that all the--the country editors were talking about diversification--

Segment Synopsis: Clark recalls the movement in Mississippi to diversify crops, in part because of the issues caused by boll weevils on cotton crops.

Keywords: 4-H Club; Account; Against; Attempted; Charged; Chicago Vegetable Market; Common; Court; Easy; Emphasis; False; Farming cooperative; Group; Idea; Inferior; Issues; Left; Limit; Lost; Planting crops; Produce; Reduction; Report; Sued; Superior

Subjects: Boll weevil; Cabbage; Chicago (Ill.); Childhood; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Crop diversification; Crops; Debt; Dependency; Editors; Example; Farmers; Farms; Father; Frames; Freight cars; Hogs; Judgment; Law; Louisville (Miss.); Marketing; Mississippi; Morals; Newspapers; Onions; Organization; Peanuts; Plant breeders; Pork; Responsibility; Tomatoes; Truth; Vegetables

00:34:32 - Tenant farming / Migration from the South

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Partial Transcript: In the surrounding areas there must have been tenants and--

Segment Synopsis: Clark details the prevalence of tenant farming during his childhood in Mississippi. Clark also describes the Great Migration of African Americans out of the South.

Keywords: Affection; Black migration; Chopping cotton; Common; Cultivation; Daughter; Distillery; Enslaved people; Enslavement; Family; Generous; Hired hand; Land; Leaving; Low; Meals; Moving; Pay; Rare; Sold; Tenant farming; The South; Unemployed

Subjects: African Americans; Baltimore (M.D.); Blacks; Boll weevil; Chicago (Ill.); Childhood; Children; Cotton; Crops; Farmers; Farms; Father; Food; Grandparents; Great Migration, ca. 1914-ca. 1970; Illinois Central Railroad Company; Independence; Landlords; Louisville (Miss.); Mississippi; Money; Mother; New York (N.Y.); Philadelphia (Pa.); Pittsburgh (Pa.); Rent; Saint Louis (Mo.); Sharing; South Carolina; Time; Wages; Women

00:38:38 - Impact of boll weevils on merchants

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Partial Transcript: How do you think the--uh--boll weevil affected merchants?

Segment Synopsis: Clark evaluates the impact of boll weevils on local merchants in the Louisville, Mississippi area during the 1910s.

Keywords: Buying cotton; Cotton bales; Crossroads; Decrease; Desirable; Difficult; Encouraging; Hauling; Heavy; Independent; Meaning; Menace; Old; Precarious; Price; Significance; Supply; Trouble; Wagon; Wholesale

Subjects: Blame; Boll weevil; Business; Childhood; Close; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Culture; Farmers; Farms; Horses; Louisville (Miss.); Markets; Memphis (Tenn.); Merchants; New Orleans (La.); Nicknames; Railroad; Roads; Singing; Songs; Transportation; Travel

00:42:38 - Crops and boll weevils / Books about boll weevils in the South

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Partial Transcript: After 1911, when you see the first boll weevil and then World War I was good, right?

Segment Synopsis: Clark highlights the different experiences he had with boll weevils throughout different periods in his childhood. Clark also talks of some prominent Southern academic writers who have written about boll weevils and their impact on agrarian life.

Keywords: Before; Environment; Familiar; Hills; Impact; Important; Less; Neutralizing; Notorious; Pine trees; Price; Pulp; Quit; Situation; Sociologist; Sold; Specialized; Timber market; Unfinished; World War I

Subjects: Athens (Ga.); Authors; Boll weevil; Books; Childhood; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Farmers; Farms; Georgia; Good; Human geography; Louisville (Miss.); Merchants; Moisture; Process; South Carolina; Temperature; Timber; University of North Carolina (1793-1962); Value; Weather; Winter; Woman; World War, 1914-1918

00:47:57 - Prominent Southern academic writers / Southern farm structure

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Partial Transcript: Do you have any thoughts about those--those Chapel Hill, North Carolina--

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses the work of some prominent writers in academia in the South. Clark also illustrates the changes in Southern farming structures during his childhood.

Keywords: Book; Comparative; Dropped; Environment; Ex-slaves; Explore; Forced; Frank Owsley; Guy Johnson; Ideas; Impact; Influence; Influential; Land; Livelihood; Mill workers; Package; Panel; Published; Rupert Bayless Vance; Similar; Southern history; Southern music; Substantial; Tenant farmers; The South; Unpromising

Subjects: American Historical Association; Authors; Boll weevil; Books; Change; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Criticism; Crop diversification; Crops; Dean; Farmers; Farms; Georgia; History; Kentucky; Labor; Management; Music; New Deal, 1933-1939; Night; Sharecroppers; Slavery; Slaves; Sociology; Statisticians; Statistics; Textile industry; Tobacco farmers; Train; University of Georgia; Work; Writing

00:53:28 - Collecting country store records

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Partial Transcript: How about we talk about how you collected those country store records?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes the process by which he collected records of country stores throughout the South to serve as research for a book he was planning to write.

Keywords: Agreed; Allowed; Arrangements; Asked; Auburn (Miss.); Bank; Basement; Bedroom; Book; Car; Claimed; Complete; Complex; Country stores; Documents; Door; Dubious; Family; Friendly; Funeral; Funeral train; Gin mills; Gone; Guns; Help; Hired; History department; House; Impressed; Information; Interesting; Introduced; Kept; Knew; Law school; Merchandise store; Mortgage; Old-fashioned; Out of business; Owner; Places; Records; Replacement; Requirements; Return; Revenue office; Salary; Senator; Stopped; Storage; Stores; Surplus; Talking; The South; Unable; Wife; William T. Sherman; Wrong time

Subjects: Alabama; Atlanta (Ga.); Children; Conversation; Cotton; Dallas County (Ala.); Death; Debt; Experience; Farmers; Farms; Fear; Georgia; Identification; Income; Law; Learning; Luck; Man; Merchants; Minnesota; Mississippi; Money; Night; Notes; Organization; People; Planning; Poverty; Promise; Research; Sabbatical leave; Sister; Syphilis; Telephone calls; Test; Thinking; University of Georgia; University of Kentucky; University of Minnesota; Whites; Winnsboro (S.C.); Writing

01:04:48 - Country store merchant demographics and products

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Partial Transcript: Would you say that the--uh--collecting at--in Chapel Hill in your, uh--

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses the logistics behind country stores, including the types of products that they sold. Clark briefly considers the demographics of Southern country store owners.

Keywords: Canned salmon; Cloth; Clothing; Common; Cornmeal; Counter; Country stores; Departments; Display; Fabric; Family size; Fried; Guns; Hurt; Interesting; Jewelry company; Jewish; Jewish merchants; Mail order catalogs; Measure; Merchandise; Origins; Palatable; Patent medicine companies; Patterns; Pickled food; Piece goods; Purchase; Records; Results; Shelves; Signs; Snuff; Storage; Surname; The South; Thick; Tonics; Yardstick; Yellow soap

Subjects: Barrels; Bicycles; Business; Catalogs; Climate; Commerce; Cooking; Demographics; Evolution; Farm supplies; Flour; Food; Gravy; Groceries; Hats; Humidity; Inventions; Inventories; Johnson & Johnson; Knowledge; Lard; Man; Merchants; Milk; Millinery; Montgomery Ward; New England; North Carolina; Patent medicines; Photographs; Poverty; Prices; Research; Rice; Rings; Salt; Sardines; Sears, Roebuck & Company; Selling; Soap; Successful; Sugar; Teaching; Tobacco; Tools; University of North Carolina (1793-1962); Vegetables; Watches; Water; Weight; Whites; Women

01:13:28 - Impact of cars on farming / Social structure of farmers

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Partial Transcript: How did the automobile change farming?

Segment Synopsis: Clark assesses the impact of cars on farming practices in his area of Mississippi. Clark also describes the social structure present during his childhood in the Louisville, Mississippi area.

Keywords: Buying; Carriage; Community; Country people; Courting; Destroyed; Different; Drinking; Drug store; Family; First automobile; Honest; Main Street; Mississippi Delta; No buggy; No land; Reasons; Social standing; Standing; Talking; Town; Varied; Weekends

Subjects: Automobiles; Blacks; Boll weevil; Change; Childhood; Conversation; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Crops; Droughts; Early life; Families; Farmers; Farms; Grass; Hierarchy; Louisville (Miss.); Marriage; Money; Mother; Mules; Night; People; Poverty; Rain; Root beer; Sharecroppers; Teacher; Weather; Whites

01:18:08 - Family history

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Partial Transcript: My mother's people were named Bennett.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his ancestry and family history, beginning with the immigration of his family from England to the U.S.

Keywords: Birthplace; Confederate veteran; Country school; Descendants; Entertainment; Family; Grandfather; Immigration; In-laws; Met; Moving; Not involved; One room schoolhouse; Present; Purchased; Rare; Separate; Small town; Sold; Standing; Sunset; Surnames; Surrender; The South; Treaty; Typical; Unbelievable

Subjects: Ancestors; Ancestry; Anderson County (S.C.); Arkansas; Charles Cornwallis; Charleston (S.C.); Choctaw Nation; Cotton; Cotton farmers; Cows; Dignity; Education; English; Families; Farms; Father; Games; History; Marriage; Methodist Church; Mississippi; Money; Mother; Parties; Puberty; Religion; Rest; Rhode Island; Rural; Sons; Suffolk (England); Surnames; Teacher; Teaching; Texas; Timber; United Kingdom; United States; Virginia; Washington (D.C.); Woman; Yorktown (Va.)