Southern Drawl Cotton
Tifton, Georgia is located in Tift County in the Southwestern part of Georgia. Just off Interstate 75 and several major highways, Tifton is often known as the crossroads of central Georgia. It is the jumping off place for travelers, going north, south, east or west.
Named twice as one of “The 100 Best Small Towns in America”, Tifton is small enough to insure Southern Hospitality and large enough to accommodate business meetings and concerts.
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the University of Georgia Experiment Station have helped pull in a diverse group of Tiftonites. Combined with the long-time-founding-fathers groups Tifton exemplifies her “Friendly City” status.
Tifton gets its name from Captain Henry Harding Tift. Captain Tift left his home in Mystic, Connecticut in the mid 1800’s to gather timber for the family shipbuilding business. His sawmill and the train lines used to ship the lumber north, were the beginnings of Tifton.
Like many small towns, Tifton has seen its share of ups and downs. The interstate brought people, vehicles and expansion and prosperity along its borders. Restaurants, motels and gas stations became abundant.
However, downtown became almost non-existent. The once grand buildings of Captain Tift’s days were empty and eroding. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s Tifton united in a campaign to bring small town standing back home.
Restaurants, antique shops, apartments and an old fashion ice cream shop have all helped bring downtown Tifton back to life. Annual festivals featuring parades and block-the- street-events are held regularly.
Today Tifton has over 15,000 residents. She serves a seven county area and is expected to be named the next regional hub in South Georgia.
As Captain Tift cleared the land by harvesting the timber the fertile land was planted with cotton, corn, fruit trees, tobacco, pecans and sweet potatoes.
When cotton became king in the south and with the rail road established, Captain Tift founded the Tifton Cotton Mill in 1888. The mill would manufacture only the finest grade of thread and a superior quality of lace curtain yarn.
Simple, duplex homes were also built to house the people who worked in the Mill. These houses were torn down about one hundred years later. Child labor laws were not in place at that time and often the whole family worked to take home ten to twelve dollars a week.
The Mill, currently vacant, is still visible in Tifton. The Tift family sold it in 1928. The most recent owner was Avondale Mills.
Tifton and Tift County are steeped in rich cotton history. The boll weevil was conquered and with soil and water conservation in place cotton has once again gained its place as white gold. Growers have hunkered down and risen up with improved technology and enhanced varieties to produce the best class of cotton ever.
Much of the same lands Captain Tift cleared are farmed today. Some of the same families still own the land their ancestors secured over one hundred years ago, most have a Southern Drawl.