Shelbyville-Shelby County Hemp History
Shelby County was one of chief hemp producing counties. Crop income reached a yearly high of $150,000 in 1860. Nine hundred tons of hemp were consumed to produce 2,000 bales of twine and 5,000 coils of rope this same year. One of the ten Bluegrass counties which accounted for more than 90 percent of the yield of the whole country in the late 1800s. Click on the links below to learn more about Boyle County hemp history.
As Shelby County was recognized early as an agriculturally rich area. By the time it was officially established as the twelfth county of Kentucky in 1792, hemp had played an important role in its economic development. Early settlers raised hemp or flax to make rope and yarn for clothing (Tales of Shelby County). As access to hemp seed increased, so did production, and soon Kentuckians were establishing manufactories for hemp and hempen goods.
During the early 19th century, second generation settlers were establishing farms and the land was being fully exploited. In some cases, these agricultural enterprises resembled, but did not duplicate, the Virginia plantation system that relied upon the production of a single staple commodity, such as tobacco. In this case the cash crop was hemp.
Some early examples of this model include the “Sleadd House,” which was the centerpiece of a 2,000 acre hemp plantation. The farm was given as a Revolutionary War land grant to Ezra Sleadd in the early 1800’s. The large Greek Revival mansion still standing today wasn’t built until the 1850’s by William Sleadd, after his family had raised a fortune from hemp production. “Hemp Lawn” was the name given to the estate belonging to an early Shelby County settler from Virginia, George Cardwell. It was surrounded by three or four hundred acres about three miles east of Shelbyville and built sometime during the early 1900’s. Another early settler, Rowlet Rice, relocated from Virginia to Shelby County, near Clay Village, after the Revolutionary War and took up land, engaging extensively in farming. By the time his son, Anderson M. Rice, was born in 1810, his farm was principally devoted to hemp production (History of Kentucky and Kentuckians, 1912).
In the year 1810, Shelby County produced 185 tons of hemp, the average for counties in the state, spurred by U.S. government bounties. Shelby also ranked eighth in cloth production, and with 1,004, it claimed the third highest number of looms (apparently largely home-operated) in the state (Historic Resources of Shelby County outside Shelbyville, National Register of Historic Places, 1988). A traveler visiting the area described several well-established and thriving manufacturers in Shelbyville, principally of hemp and wool (Melish, 1812). By this time, the production of bagging made of hemp fiber was increasing as the demand for it spiked from the booming Southern cotton industry. The same year, extensive manufactories of cordage, bale rope and bagging in Louisville, Lexington, Shelbyville, and Frankfort sent the following amounts of hemp and hempen goods on the Ohio River:
400 tons of hemp
479 tons of tarred rope
20,784 lbs of bale rope
154,000 lbs of rope yarn
1,484 lbs of thread
27,700 yards of bagging
4,619 yards of tow cloth
From 1815 to 1820, the manufacture of bale rope and bagging in Kentucky became threatened by imported hemp fiber, making it difficult for some of the smaller hemp producers to make a fair profit. White and Castleman, proprietors of a bagging factory that was located on Tick Creek in Shelby County, suspended operations and explained that the price of bagging was low because of “Urope being able to Furnish sd article much cheaper” than it could be produced in America.” The conditions in regard to the manufacture and sale of rope were slightly better. John and James Bradshaw of Shelbyville produced spun yarns, bale rope, bed chords, plow lines, twine, etc. continued operations, but claimed their output was far short of capacity (Hopkins, 1951).
Competition from European fiber sparked the tariff act of 1824, which raised the duty on tarred cordage to four cents per pound, on untapped cordage to five cents, and on hemp to $35 a ton. The greatest benefit to Kentucky manufacturers was the duty of 3 3/4 cents a square yard on bagging, a level at which the domestic product was protected to a large degree from foreign competitors. By 1826, cotton bagging was being extensively made, chiefly by “negro operatives” at Lexington, Paris, Danville, and Shelbyville (Census Reports: Manufacturers, 1865).
The connection between slavery and the production of hemp may be noted from the fact that the counties which consistently were outstanding in their output of the fiber were also the counties in which large numbers of slaves were to be found (Hopkins, 1951). From 1810 to 1820, the number of slaves in Shelby County doubled from 2,996 to 5,410. Those enslaved were responsible for preparing the land, planting, harvesting, and breaking the hemp crops on the farm, and processing the fiber in the rope and bagging manufactories. Theres no doubt the growing hemp industry could not, and would not, have been successful without slave labor.
Records show that by 1832, Shelby County had two ropewalks processing 54 tons of hemp fiber at a value of $14,000 and one cotton bagging manufactory which processed 10,000 yards of material valued at $3,000. That year, 185 tons of hemp fiber were grown and prepared by local farmers valued at $22,200 (American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States ..., Volume 2, 1832).
In addition to the market for cotton bagging, bale rope, and manufacturers of fiber for domestic use, cordage and sails for the navy and merchant shipping also attracted the attention of the Kentucky hemp grower. While this market was limited for the quantity it could consume; it paid high prices for the best quality fiber and became particularly attractive when the market of dew rotted hemp dropped below the margin of profit. The U.S. Navy required the hemp to undergo a treatment called “water-rotting” verses the common “dew rotting method.” Rotting, or retting, the hemp increased the quality of fiber by making the lint stronger and making the outer stalk easier to remove. Dew rotting was the most common method used by Kentucky farmers, which entailed leaving the hemp outside on the ground or in shocks to be exposed to the weather elements throughout the winter. However, the water-rotting method required large vats or pools of water for the treatment of the fibers. It was considered unsanitary and could potentially cause sickness due to water contamination. Growers feared the hazard to their health and the lives of their hands from the water-rotting of hemp (Congressional Edition, Volume 935).
Nonetheless, many farmers still attempted to use the “water-rotting” method in hopes of gaining a contract with the U.S. Navy. In 1845, Dr. J. T. Parker, of Shelby county, Kentucky, sent to the committee two fine samples of water-rotted hemp, of his own growth and preparation, remarkably well cleaned, handling well; it is very suitable for the Navy. In his letter to the hemp agent of Kentucky, he stated that he was “getting through a crop of one hundred and twenty acres, using Darlington’s hemp brake, with which he is much pleased, and that he is imitating the Russians by putting his hemp in ten pound bundles, and not in twists or hands.” From the point of view from the government and private shipping interests, a domestic supply of hemp was desirable. However, imported hemp, mainly from Russia, was the primary fiber source for American seagoing vessels, much to the dissatisfaction of Kentucky farmers and politicians. Most often water-rotted hemp fiber was sold at a higher price for local vessels (Hopkins, 1951).
The Kentucky hemp industry continued grow into the mid-19th century, despite market fluctuations, and Shelby County had emerged as a leader in production. An article in the Louisville Courier Journal in 1847 reported that several stalks of hemp grown in the county measured thirteen feet in length, although most of the local hemp crop had failed due to a drought. It also mentioned that “Shelby’s soil is unsurpassed.” The Shelbyville silt loam is recognized as the best soil for hemp in the county. An area known as “Hempridge,” located between Clayvillage and Waddy, was particularly situated for hemp production. In fact, the settlement supposedly received its name after a huge stalk of hemp was grown there, one of the biggest ever seen in Kentucky. It was made into a cane and presented to Henry Clay by Will Waddy, and Mr. Clay remarked that the place ought to be called Hempridge. He later put the cane on display at the Smithsonian Institute (The Courier Journal, March 2, 1950).
By 1849, the state boasted 159 bagging, bale rope, and cordage factories, over one-third of the total number in the United States. Fayette County led in the number of establishments, with Woodford close behind her, and with Jefferson, Jessamine, and Shelby also reporting numerous factories. That year, total U.S. hemp production was recorded at 34,871 tons, and Kentucky alone was responsible for 17,787 tons. Fayette, Woodford, Mason, Scott, Jessamine, Bourbon, and Shelby counties, in that order, were the outstanding hemp producing areas in the state. Most of the fiber was dew rotted, with about 1,355 being prepared by other methods. According to the Report of the Superintendent of the Census for December 1, 1852, there were 3,520 hemp plantations operating in the state, on which the average yield per acre was estimated to be 650 pounds (Hopkins, 1951).
In 1850, Shelby County farmers produced 1,022 tons of hemp (The New American Cyclopaedia: a Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, Volume 14, 1863). The Shelby County Census from that year documented a total of 23 hemp and rope manufacturers. One ropewalk, know as “Bull’s Rope Walk” was located near the Frankfort Bridge in Shelbyville (The Weekly Shelby News, January 14, 1857). Just six years later, a statement included in the 1856 Agriculture Report from L. E. Dupuy of Shelbyville, Shelby County, estimated the profit per acre at $20. His statement also provides a glimpse of the value, along with the inputs and outputs, of hemp production in Shelby County, and Kentucky, during the mid-1900s. He claimed:
“Hemp is a valuable crop with us. When we select a good piece of land, of light, rich soil, and plough early in the Spring, pulverizing thoroughly with the harrow, and sow in May, the crop is ready to harvest in August. The cost per acre is as follows:
Interest on land $4
Ploughing and harrowing $2
Seed and sowing $2
Cutting, two hands one day $2
Stacking and re-spreading to dew-rot. $2
Breaking 800 pounds at $1 per 100 pounds $8
Cost per acre $20
Value of 800 pounds of hemp at $5 $40
Total Profit per acre $20
This may be considered a fair average, though the product is often more or less, and the price also is fluctuating. It is usually sold in this county, and made into rope for bailing cotton, and then sold at Louisville and New Orleans, to the cotton planters.
Hemp, in its cutting and breaking, requires the stoutest hands on the farm. One good able-bodies man can take care of 5 acres. The breaking is usually done in February, March, and April, as the weather may suit. Each man has 100 pounds per day for his task, and is paid for what he breaks above that amount, at the rate of $1 per 100 pounds. The men break from 100 to 200 pounds a day."
During the mid-19th century, hemp growers began to experiment with different varieties of seed. Until the 1840’s, most hemp grown in Kentucky was the type which had been produced from the beginning of the industry tracing back to Europe. A type of Chinese hemp called “Vance seed” became the most widely accepted new variety of hemp in Central Kentucky. The appearance of this hemp resulted from the visit of a Frenchman in the home of William L. Vance of Woodford County around 1853 or 1854. The visitor spoke of the remarkably productive Chinese hemp whose seed had lately been introduced in France, and later sent Vance some of this seed.
Chinese hemp seed was continuously sought after by Kentucky growers. On March 24, 1857 an advertisement appeared “For sale, a quantity of Chinese Hemp Seed, at a moderate price. The seed was grown by one of the most careful hemp growers in Shelby county. Warranted genuine. H.B. Howard, Louisville.” Some of this seed is said to have sold at ten dollars a quart. Within a few years, its fame and culture had spread rapidly. A writer in the News of Shelby Co., Ky wrote:
“From the information we have of this new variety, we are fully satisfied that it must eventually supersede all varieties hitherto introduced. Having, during the present month, manufactured and examined closely samples of this hemp, we find — compared with other hemp — the lint to be more harsh, coarse, yet heavy and lengthy, giving good gloss, after being manufactured, also producing less tow, both at hackle and break; and for rope purposes, where a soft, silken article is preferable, it may not answer so well. The greatest benefit to the grower is in the largely increased yield per acre — double and even triple the amount of the old variety — making it a more profitable crop that “King Cotton” itself. We have reports from a number of farmers who have experimented with it the past season. Their reports of product per acre vary from 900 to 1,400 pounds; and in one instance 1,700 pounds were weighed from less than one acre, the correctness of which can not be doubted. The next greatest benefit to be derived from its adoption is the greater certainty of good crops. The long time — five months — during which it is maturing, give it the advantage of both Spring and Summer rains; nor does a dry spring prelude the hope of showers or no crop, as it matures in about three months. Sown in March, it ripens in September, after the head of sunburning days is past, thereby doing away with the necessity of stacking and spreading, which is a heavy item in hemp culture. There is more wood in the stalks, making it harder to break; but when once broken or cracked, it is more easily cleaned than the old variety, the hurds falling out freely in long pieces. The seed is somewhat smaller than the old variety, requiring less per acre. In cultivating for seed the yield is not so large by one third as the old kind; and ripening very late, it is liable to be caught by early autumn frosts.” (Facts for Farmers, 1869)
Advancement in varieties may have improved profits for growers, but the market began to fluctuate drastically as cotton growers in the south began to import bagging and bailing materials from India which had been “offered on more favorable terms” than Kentuckians could not afford to match. Several hemp manufacturers abandoned production. Shelby Van’Natta was engaged in the manufacturing of hemp in Shelby County with John P. Allen until about 1856, when he left the business (The Biographical Encyclopædia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century, Volume 1, 1878). Robert T. McGaughey moved to Shelbyville sometime in the mid-1850s and entered into the manufacturing of hemp ropes. He sold out and moved to Louisville just a few years later (The Marshall Family, 1884).
While smaller hemp manufactures ceased operations, others managed to capture the remaining markets. As a result, the total number of Kentucky hemp factories in 1860 was 117 less than the number in existence ten years earlier. Most fiber was manufactured by only five factories, one of which was located in Shelby County. Allen and Company processed 900 tons of hemp, producing 2,000 bales of twine and 5,000 coils of rope, valued at $150,000. The amount of fiber processed in each county in 1860 is as follows:
Jefferson 3,550 tons
Fayette 2,980 tons
Franklin 912 tons
Shelby 900 tons
Campbell 480 tons (including Manila)
Jessamine 355 tons
Woodford 303 tons
Scott 275 tons
Mercer 160 tons
Kenton 60 tons
After 1860, the industry almost ceased to exist in the U.S. The Civil War halted all production, and following the return to peace, farmers and manufacturers struggled to adjust after the end of slavery. Additionally, imported fibers such as jute, which were not subject to tariffs, and made it increasingly difficult for the more costly Kentucky hemp to compete in the marketplace. Farmers looking for a cash crop to replace hemp began to turn to tobacco.
The hemp industry in Kentucky was on the rebound by 1870. An article in the Shelby Sentinel on March 16 stated that the hemp manufacturers had bid against each other, raising the price of hemp to $8 per hundred pounds. That year, Shelby County farmers produced 308,200 pounds of hemp fiber (The Kentucky Encyclopedia, 2015). The following year, production increased to 361,300 pounds (Kentucky Public Documents, Volume 1, 1871) and in 1873, 529,900 pounds. (Report of the Auditor of Public Accounts of the State of Kentucky, for the Fiscal Years Endings, 1873).
From 1874-1876, the Kentucky General Assembly had no records for hemp production in Shelby County, but records show that in 1877 production had fallen to 323,200 pounds. Over the next year, production increased by 140,400 pounds resulting in a total of 463,600 pounds in 1878 (Kentucky Public Documents, Volume 2, 1879) and again in 1879, producing a crop of 319 tons (638,000 pounds)(Census Bulletin, Issue 177, 1890).
Hemp production fluctuated drastically over the next decade. In 1884, the Shelby County recorded a crop of 407,800 pounds and the average yield per acre for the previous five years was listed as 1,075 pounds (Kentucky Public Documents, Volume 2, 1887). By 1889, it was responsible for 512 tons of hemp (approximately 1,024,000 pounds) of the total 10,749 tons produced in the state, produced on 910 acres of land and valued at $50,573. It was also credited with the highest county average of the crop per acre at $55.57 (the state average was $44.53 and U.S. average at $44.01) The table below shows the fluctuations in hemp production in Shelby County per decade from 1849 to 1889 (Census Bulletin, Issue 177, 1890).
Nearly 94 percent of all hemp grown in the U.S. during 1889, which amounted to 11,511 tons, grew in Kentucky. Specifically, the state was responsible for 10,794 tons which grew on a total of 23,468 acres and was valued at over one million dollars. Ten counties in the Bluegrass accounted for over 90 percent of the yield of the whole country, one of which was Shelby County which contributed more than 500 tons (as noted above).
Hemp production declined during the last decade of the century as imported fiber became cheaper. In 1890, Shelby County produced 731,200 pounds of hemp, 292,800 pounds less than the year prior (Kentucky Public Documents, Volume 3, 1892). By 1899, the entire state production had fallen to half the amount it had been ten years prior, at 4,500 tons (Report, Issues 2-11, 1893). In 1897, A Mr. Lindsay presented a petition to Congress on behalf of the hemp growers of Shelby County, seeking the enactment of legislation that would place a tariff on jute and other textiles fibers which were competing with domestically grown hemp and threatening the home industry. Unfortunately, his plea was a little too late, as many farmers had already turned their attention to tobacco production. By 1900, Shelby County farmers dedicated only 278 acres to hemp production, 632 acres less than the 910 acres cultivated in 1890.
At the turn of the century, hemp had become a minor crop in Kentucky. The Sixteenth Biennial Report from the Bureau of Agriculture still considered the Shelby a high hemp producing county, and suggested that a hemp factory would pay well (Kentucky Public Documents, Volume 1, 1906).
A total of 471 acres were dedicated to hemp production across about a dozen farms in Shelby County in 1910. The fields ranged from 25 to 75 acres and upward. The total outcome of fiber was about 419,485 pounds. The Soil Survey of Shelby County, Kentucky that year claimed that hemp fit well into the rotation of crops and into the system of farming on the larger farms. It was particularly successful keeping down the weeds. The survey makes special mention of farmers regarding the crop as a profitable one and would plant it more extensively if it were not for the scarcity of labor. The availably of town labor was one of the factors that determined the location and amount of acreage used for the crop. According to the survey, only a small percentage of hemp seed was home grown, and recognizes that the production of seed for sale would be profitable based on the present price (Soil Survey of Shelby County, Kentucky, 1919).
The Bourbon News reported that all the hemp grown in Shelby County during 1913 totaled 180,500 pounds and was one-fifth the average crop based on the previous ten years. It was sold to the Kentucky River Mills, a factory in Frankfort. The article also stated that the acreage was decreasing, and the crop would become even smaller (The Bourbon News, May 1, 1914).
From 1920 until 1940, the Kentucky hemp industry nearly vanished. In article published in The Courier Journal in September 1927, described what was thought to be a hemp revival. That year, small amount of the crop were grown in Boyle, Garrard, Mercer, Woodford, Fayette, Scott, Bourbon, Clark, Madison, and Shelby County. It claimed that at its all time low, only 23 acres were planted across the state. This revival, however, was anticipated too soon. Over the next ten years, hemp became intertwined with its cannabis cousin, marijuana. As a result, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, requiring farmers to pay to receive a special “tax stamp” allowing them to grow hemp. This deterred the already dying industry, and few farmers were wiling to pay to grow a crop which offered little to no return.
It wasn’t until the onset of World War II, when sources of imported fiber were cut off, that the hemp industry experienced a resurgence. The government launched the “Hemp For Victory” campaign encouraging farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. The Shelby County agent reported that thirty farmers attended a meeting in Shelbyville and that most of them signed up to grow seed in the hemp program. That year, 400 to 500 acres were devoted to growing hemp seed for the war in Shelby County (The Courier-Journal, March, 22, 1942). An article published two months later, claimed that “Shelby County and Kentucky, once the home of American grown hemp seed, should not lag in this emergency task.” The government advertised $8 per bushel of seed that year (Advocate-Messenger, May 12, 1942).
Shelby County and Kentucky farmers fulfilled the government’s request and provided the entire nation with domestically grown hemp seed during the next two years. Unfortunately, the terms on which they grew were not met, and Kentucky farmers found themselves negotiating with the U.S. war board to receive the payment they were promised. The Commodity Credit Union had to subsidize payments to fulfill the contracts the government owed to farmers. Additionally, farmers found it difficult to find labor and equipment to manage the crop. A Shelbyville farmer wrote a letter to the editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal in March 1943 expressing his frustration:
“Farms Unlike Factories”
To the Editor of The Courier-Journal
The editorial in The Courier-Journal Wednesday, March 3, makes this statement: “But, if that were the case, our military leaders would be fools, absolutely disqualified for their jobs.” It refers to the effect of the military program upon farm production. If the author will investigate the conduct of the hemp seed and fiber program, he may reach the conclusion that there have been very serious mistakes in the conduct of our agricultural programs. The mere fact that a man is a good military leader does not confer upon him the ability to estimate the effect of far-reaching changes on agricultural production.
The American farmer has always produced a great quantity of food for each worker engaged in agriculture than the European countries and because of that, these men taken away from the American farm will reduce production mare than taking a man from a European farm. The ratio of men in the army of the United State and that of Britain, Germany, and Russia is not as important as the production of food and tools of war for ourselves and our allies.
Senator Bankhead may be doing more for the war effort than many of our generals because, if our farmers do not have labor and machinery in the next three months, the effect will be felt for the next two years. Agriculture is not like a manufacturing enterprise. There are only a few weeks in any one year to do a certain thing and, if that time passes, the whole year is lost. At the present time it is almost impossible to purchase new machinery and repairs and it is inconceivable that any war industry would be asked to increase its production when its supply of tools was being cut off.
If the Courier-Journal really wishes to help the war, it should bring attention to the need of more farm implements and trained men to operate them. If we do not have them by June 1, our war effort may be impeded to a greater extent than by any lack of men in uniform.
Shelbyville, KY. SHELBY FARMER
Sure enough, this Shelby County farmer was right, and the following year the hemp program was discontinued. After the war, farmers completely abandoned hemp production. The lack of mechanized equipment, laborers, reliable markets, and high tax were too much for farmers to bet on, and the failure of the hemp program had ruined any industry that might have remained. It would be 70 years before hemp production would return to Shelby County soil.
During the late 20th century, advocacy efforts brought attention to the lost history of hemp in Shelby County. The most remembered of these efforts was that of a fifth grade elementary teacher, Donna Cockrel, who invited famous actor, Woody Harrelson, to come speak to her class about industrial hemp in May of 1996. This visit happened to coincide with the graduation day of the school's D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Shelby County D.A.R.E. officer Deputy Audry Yaeger criticised that the visit sent a confusing message to the students and contradicted her anti-drug message. A storm erupted over this, leading to complaints by irate parents, an investigation, and the eventual dismissal of Cockrel.
Harrelson made two trips to the Simpsonville school in 1996 and 1997. School officials approved both visits. Forty-four students were kept home one January day in 1997 by their parents to protest Harrelson's visit because they contended he was an unfit role model. In July of 1997, the school board fired Cockrel, listing 17 reasons, including insubordination. After a seven year battle in court, the former teacher received $70,000 from the Shelby County School District to settle a lawsuit she filed claiming she was wrongfully fired for promoting the legalization of hemp (Wave 3 News, 2003). While these efforts received quite a bit of criticism and backlash, it stirred a conversation around hemp and its history.
In 2012, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer began to advocate for the return of hemp to Kentucky. The following year, Shelby County Senator Paul Hornback sponsored Senate Bill 50 which passed and set the administrative framework for Kentucky hemp production should federal legislation be passed. These efforts inspired Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, Congresman John Yarmuth, and Congressman Thomas Massie to take action in Washington D.C. (14news, March 27, 2013). In 2014, Congress passed the Farm Bill which included Section 7606 allowing for the research and development of hemp production under sanctioned pilot programs conducted by state departments of agriculture and universities. That February, Kentucky launched its hemp pilot program and the following year, hemp returned to Shelby County for the first time since WW II.
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Click here to download a Shelbyville-Shelby County Hemp History Presentation (from September 2018)
Click here to download a Shelbyville-Shelby County Hemp History PDF Handout (from September 2018)
Allen, John P. - John Polk Allen was one of the earliest settlers of Shelby County, and engaged in many enterprises in which he was successful. He was engaged for many years in the manufacture of hemp (Perrin, Battle, and Kniffin, 1887). On September 5, 1836 he purchased the 193 acre plantation which became known as “Allen Dale” farm from the estate of his uncle, Robert Polk Allen, in Shelbyville off . Late in 1857, John Allen and his son, Walker Baylor Allen, purchased a hemp factory in known as W. B. Allen & Company. On Oct. 1, 1872 he sold his 246 acre “Allen Dale” farm to his son, George Baylor Allen, for $17,271.62 though George had to issue notes to his siblings to ensure equitable distribution of their father’s eventual estate (C.H. Bailey, 2000).
Cardwell, George - George Cardwell came to Kentucky from Virigina sometime during the early 19th century and established his estate, Hemp Lawn. Hemp Lawn was located on the south side of the Benson Pike, just west of Guist Creek, on about three or four hundred acres of bluegrass land about three miles east of Shelbyville. His descendants lived and operated the land after his death. Bills of sale and letters passed down through the family describe African Americans enslaved at Hemp Lawn Farm pre-Civil War (Year Book of the American Clan Gregor Society: 1909-1914, By American Clan Gregor Society).
Cockrel, Donna - in May of 1996 fifth grade elementary teacher, Donna Cockrel, invited famous actor, Woody Harrelson, to come speak to her class about industrial hemp. This visit coincided with the graduation day of the school's “D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).” Shelby County D.A.R.E. officer Deputy Audry Yaeger criticised that the visit sent a confusing message to the students and contradicted her anti-drug message. A storm erupted over this, leading to complaints by irate parents, an investigation, and the eventual dismissal of Cockrel. In 2003, Cockrel was awarded a $70,000 settlement from the Shelby County School District.
Dupuy, L. E. - L. E. Dupuy of Shelbyville, Shelby County, provided a statement included in the 1856 Agriculture Report estimating the profit per acre of hemp at $20. His statement also discussed value of crop, along with the inputs and outputs of hemp production in Shelby County, and Kentucky, during the mid-1900s. Click here for that statement.
Hornback, Paul - Kentucky State Senator Paul Hornback from Shelby County is responsible for sponsoring Senate Bill 50 which passed in 2013 and set the administrative framework for Kentucky hemp production should federal legislation be passed. These efforts inspired Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, Congresman John Yarmuth, and Congressman Thomas Massie to take action in Washington D.C. (14news, March 27, 2013).
McGaughey, Robert T. - Robert T. McGaughey moved to Shelbyville sometime in the mid-1850s and entered into the manufacturing of hemp ropes. He sold out and moved to Louisville just a few years later (The Marshall Family, 1884).
Parker, J. T. - In 1845, Dr. J. T. Parker, of Shelby county, Kentucky, sent to the committee two fine samples of water-rotted hemp, of his own growth and preparation, remarkably well cleaned, handling well; it is very suitable for the Navy. In his letter to the hemp agent of Kentucky, he stated that he was “getting through a crop of one hundred and twenty acres, using Darlington’s hemp brake, with which he is much pleased, and that he is imitating the Russians by putting his hemp in ten pound bundles, and not in twists or hands.” From the point of view from the government and private shipping interests, a domestic supply of hemp was desirable. However, imported hemp, mainly from Russia, was the primary fiber source for American seagoing vessels, much to the dissatisfaction of Kentucky farmers and politicians. Most often water-rotted hemp fiber was sold at a higher price for local vessels (Hopkins, 1951).
Sleadd, William - William Sleadd was born in Shelbyville, Shelby County, Kentucky. His father, Seaton Sleadd, came to the area from Virginia during the early 19th century. William was considered a leading farmer in Shelby County and established the Sleadd Family farm (E. Polk Johnson, 1912). He built the Sleadd mansion 1858 - 1860, which still stands, at 3980 Hooper Station Road in Shelbyville for the center of his 2,000-acres hemp plantation. The family originally lived in a log cabin on the property before using those logs to start construction of this Greek Revival home. The Sleadd Family owned this property for over 100 years, and most of the materials used in this home were made on site, such as the brick used all over the home. Sleadd also reputed to have bought seed for his farm from Shaker community at Pleasant Hill outside Harrodsburg, KY. ("Hemp Crop Built Old Brick Home on Sleadd Farm” The News-Sentinel, n.d.)
Van’Natta, Shelby - Shelby Van Natta was born in Shelby County during 1820. He was raised on a farm there and at the age of sixteen he began to clerk in a store at Clay Village. In 1844 he engaged in the dry goods business in Shelbyville for himself, and continued it very successfully until 1856. During this time he engaged for a while in the manufacture of hemp with John P. Allen, but chiefly gave his means and attention to his regular business. (The Biographical Encyclopædia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century, Volume 1, 1878).
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Hopkins, J. F. (1951). A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
Johnson, E. P. (1912). A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians: The Leaders and Representative Men in Commerce, Industry and Modern Activities (Vol. II). KY: Lewis Publishing Company.
Kleber, J. E. (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky.
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Wave 3 News, 2003
14news, March 27, 2013