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Only the older folks of Charlton County can remember the Folkston Pecan Company, which flourished for a very short time here in the 1930s, in the midst of the Great Economic Depression. It was located on the corner of West Main and the railroad tracks. The building later became a thriving part of the Suwannee Grocery Company chain stores.

In the early 1930s George and Mary Ann Hennig built the Uptonville Tourist Camp, north of Homeland on the Dixie Highway. Then in 1934 they sold it to Oscar E. Raynor and began a new business with the goal of marketing cracked and shelled pecans in South Georgia. After placing an ad in the county weekly paper seeking women employees, they received nearly seventy applications.

After weeks of preparation the company began operations in November with a force of fifteen “Genuine Georgia Crackers” in addition to the management consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Hennig and Ermon McDuffie.

Within two weeks the first batches of toasted pecans were on the local market shelves, in oiled paper bags, priced at five cents each. They were sold out within a few hours. Truckloads of pecans from southwest Georgia were unloaded the next week at the “nut crackery” and it was estimated that it would require 18,000 pounds of pecans to keep the employees busy until the end of the year.

Just before the Christmas season when many cooks needed pecans for their annual cookie and cake baking, the Hennigs employed nearly 85 women as crackers and shellers.

Mr. Hennig had a clever way of disposing of the pecan hulls. He simply made a walkway of them between his establishment and the Charlton County Herald’s office, about a half block away. Editor Tom Wrench entertained a group of friends, editors from other Georgia towns, and asked them to walk on this new type of pavement.

One later wrote “The person who said there is nothing new under the sun should see the sidewalk paved with pecan shells in front of the office of Editor Wrench in Folkston. The use of nutshells was new to all our party. The shells came from a plant next door to Mr. Wrench’s office where a large group of women were employed to shell the nuts for use in candies and cakes. Strange to say the nut shells made a most satisfactory paving and were not hard to walk upon.”

When the Christmas demand for pecans diminished, the best of the crop had been sold and it soon became difficult to find the quality of nuts suitable for the customers. Many orders for the fresh, good tasting nuts remained unfilled on Mr. Hennig’s desk.

The pecan company made its last shipment of the season and closed its doors in March, 1935. During the few months it was in operation the company paid in excess of $5,000 in wages to its employees, a considerable boost to the town in this time of economic depression.

The company paid higher wages than any other cracking plant in the United States during that time.

The Hennigs managed to come through their first season without a loss and they  said they planned to open again the next October but unfortunately for their employees, the owners moved away.

Lois Barefoot Mays

from DeBrahm's Report
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