Business Growth and Industrial Recruitment
By CLAUDIA JOHNSON|
March 2, 2004
Business growth and industrial recruitment were as vital to Giles County in the 19th Century as today. With the slow demise of cotton farming after the Civil War, the Pulaski Citizen recognized the necessity of moving forward. Much space was committed to encouraging leaders and the public to support and invest in infrastructure development to make the county and its towns ready for changes. Investment in railroads, turnpikes, public water sources, gas distribution and commercial buildings, such as hotels and public square "spec" buildings was encouraged by the Citizen. "Not withstanding the hard times, there isn't a vacant business house in Pulaski," the Citizen reported, explaining that several merchants visited from Nashville and Memphis seeking to locate here. "If some of our capitalists would cover those vacant lots on the south side of the square with neat and substantial store houses, we think they could realize handsome profits." As early as 1867, Citizen publisher L.W. McCord predicted disaster for the economy if immediate attention was not given to roads. "If the dry goods, grocery merchants and others interested in this vital question continue in their present apathy, they must before long wake up to the unpleasant fact of a town cut off from the trade of one of the best sections of the country within a radius of 60 miles around," McCord warned in September 1867. In January of 1867 Gen. John C. Brown, Judge Thomas M. Jones and attorney James McCallum from Pulaski announced that they had joined Gen. Lucius Polk from Maury County, Gen. John M. Bright from Lincoln and other regional leaders from Williamson County, Limestone and Madison Counties in Alabama, Chicago, Ill., and Milwaukee, Wis., to form the Alabama, Tennessee and Northwestern Oil and Mining Company. The Citizen commented, "It is high time that the people of this section were waking up to the fact that something else may be dug out of this land besides cotton." The Pittsburg Oil News classed Giles County as one of the finest oil regions in the country, where the people will "wake up one fine morning and find themselves in possession of an independent fortune." The 1870 census counted just fewer than 33,000 citizens of Giles. Of the 20 districts in existence at that time, Lynnville Station, Cornersville and Pulaski were the most heavily populated. The town of Pulaski had the largest concentration with 3,041, but the Cornersville area boasted 2,141 residents. In May of 1870 the Citizen was alerting citizens of the effort to cut off the Cornersville area, making it part of Marshall. McCord blamed it on the fact that Lewisburg invested in a turnpike to Cornersville, making commerce more convenient for residents, while Giles County did not invest in an adequate road. Little by little, access was improved. In May of 1872 transportation south of Pulaski was aided by the construction of a bridge across Richland Creek 12 miles below the city at Kelley's Ford. The Pulaski City Board confirmed the purchase of a right of way in August 1872 through Judge Spofford's meadow for the continuance of Hemp Street, which at the time extended as far as Mill Lane to the west. This small item of business proved very important. Spofford's house still stands and is a bank. Hemp Street is the part of U.S. Highway 64 known as College Street. Even small improvements merited coverage in the Citizen. Small enterprises were commended, like J.J. Marshall's Broom Factory, which manufactured brooms from locally grown broomcorn. On Dec. 16, 1875, the paper reported that Flautt, Martin and Co. superseded their spiral stairway by the erection of a number one elevator. In Sept. 25, 1873, the Citizen published a "recipe" for killing a town. "To kill a town, underrate every present and prospective public enterprise, speak ill of the churches and schools, tell everybody the hotels are bad, never subscribe for the local paper, and if you are in business, refuse to advertise."