Monday, September 24, 2018

Caswell County Extension Services

Caswell County Extension Services

Christensen, Janice R. and Deekens, A. Maynard, Editors. "And That's the Way It Was 1920-1980: The 60-Year History of Extension Home Economics Work in North Carolina," 1980.

In 1935, a group of Caswell County women saw the need for a trained home economics Extension agent to help with all aspects of home and family living. Prior to that time a home economist, Mrs. N. B. Nicholson, had worked with groups in the county on food conservation. The county commissioners agreed to fund a home agent for one year. On July 1, 1935, Miss Maude Searcy was hired as the first home agent.

Miss Searcy resigned in 1941 to become the home agent in Harnett County. She was followed by Miss Margaret Montgomery who served in Caswell County until she moved to West Virginia in September 1942.

Miss Louise Homewood was employed in September 1942 and worked with the club women until September 1965. She held pressure cooker clinics in Yanceyville and in other areas of the county each spring because too many women were using acid to preserve their food. She also remembers hat-making workshops and the pulled-mint workshops where the women met, had fun, and had products to carry home.

Miss Helen Payne was employed March 7, 1944 as Extension war food preservation assistant. She relates that it was a challenge and was exciting to realize even a small change in living habits. At first home visits were made daily to convince people to raise a garden with a variety of vegetables and then to preserve them correctly. The first Negro home demonstration clubs were organized in 1944. Miss Payne recalls: "The homemakers were not employed and were anxious to get out once a month for a visit with friends, a lesson in homemaking and tasty refreshments. On many a hot summer afternoon, I have gone to club meetings and the women would come in their starched cotton dresses and Sunday shoes. The meetings would start, I'd begin my demonstration and moving right along with the lesson, I'd happen to glance at the floor, I'd be the only one with shoes on. The women in the room would have taken off their shoes, relaxed and be in a receptive mood."

Other home economic Extension agents have been Charlotte Bridewell and Lillie Ellen Wise Hovatter. The current agents are Donna Pointer and Wanda Pickett.

Ralph Aldridge was employed as county agricultural agent and county chairman from 1944 to July 1974. He was a strong supporter of the club work although he admits what the men liked most were the achievement days. The men would be invited to this event, be recognized as co-workers, and then get a big meal.

Maude Louise Searcy
Louise Homewood
Helen Payne
Charlotte Bridewell
Lillie Ellen Wise Hovatter
Donna Pointer
Wanda Pickett

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Agricultural Extension Agents

While agricultural demonstration efforts predate passage of the federal Smith-Lever Act in 1914, it was with that act that a comprehensive agricultural extension program was launched in North Carolina.

It appears that it was not until 1935 that all North Carolina counties had an Agricultural Extension Agent.

The first agent assigned to Caswell County is not known. However, based upon census records, as of 1930 Herbert London Seagrove (1897-1982) occupied that position. When he was appointed is not known (but it is possible that he was the first Caswell County agent).

But, note the following:

Directory Agricultural Extension Service
County Agents
Caswell County, North Carolina: J. W. Williamson, Yanceyville

Source: Wilson, William Grant, Compiler. Official Directory County Agricultural Agents, Farm Bureaus, Home Demonstrations and Boys' and Girls' Clubs in the United States. Cambridge (Massachusetts), 1920.

J. L. Dove

County Demonstration Agent for Caswell County in the 1920's.

Mr. Dove, county demonstrator, returned home Friday night from Raleigh. He started from Danville in his _____, which gave out at Gatewood. From there he had the dangerous and thrilling experience of walking the ten miles to Danville through the snow.

The Bee (Danville, Virginia) (4 February 1922)

In 1935/1939, Junius Ellard Zimmerman (1908-1969) succeeded Seagrove, who had been promoted to a multi-county position. Who served as Zimmerman's assistant during 1935-1944, if anyone, is not known. However, in 1944 Ralph Mimms Aldridge (1917-1993) became assistant Agricultural Extension Agent for Caswell County. When Zimmerman retired in 1956, Aldridge assumed the head position. Aldridge's immediate successor is not known. However, at the time Aldridge retired (July 1, 1974), Larry Witt was assistant agent.

Others who served as Caswell County Agricultural Extension Agent:

In the 1930s/1940s (and beyond) there was a plethora of alphabet groups serving Caswell County's agricultural (and related) needs:

1.  Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)(George R. Carter)
2.  Agricultural Extension Service (AES)(Herbert Seagrove, Dewey Williamson)
3.  Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS)(Otis Sanders)
4.  Caswell Use Project (CUP)(Walter A. Peterson)
5.  Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
6.  Farm Security Administration (FSA)(Connie Gay, Clyde McKinney)
7.  USDA Farmers' Home Administration (FHA)(Tom McPherson)
8.  Home Demonstration Service (HDS)(Maude Searcy, Louise Homewood, Helen Payne)
9.  Soil Conservation Service (SCS)(Leon Lyday, Jr.)
10. Work Unit Conservationist (WUC)(Leon Lyday, Jr.)

In 1944, Yanceyville's Tom Henderson made the following observations:

One of the most important of these [agricultural-assistance organizations] is SCS, or Soil Conservation Service, operating in Caswell as the Dan River Soil Conservation, with headquarters in Reidsville and headed by R. Penn Moore, native of Bethany, Rockingham County. L. F. Lyday, of Transylvania County before coming to Caswell ten years ago, is in charge as WUC, Work Unit Conservationist, and his assistant is Arthur H. Smith from down Greenville way, I believe.

Their program is to assist individual farmers in doing soil conservation work, through crop rotations, contour tillage, land-terracing, surveys for water disposal outlets, meadow-stripping, soil amendments and management, pasture development, reforestation and woodland-thinning. At the present time, Messrs. Lyday and Smith are working with some 450 farmers. Needless to say, the appearance of the fields throughout the county appreciatively show the enormous value of this work.

Source: The State Magazine, Vol. 12, No. 8 (July 22, 1944).


Dr. I. O. Schaub, Agricultural Extension Work: A Brief History, North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service (1953).

Yanceyville -- The Caswell County Commissioners accepted the retirement notice of one long-time community servant . . . .

Ralph Aldridge, Caswell Agricultural Extension chairman and agent for 30 years, appeared before the commission to "thank the board for their cooperation over the years and to submit his formal retirement announcement effective July 1.

"After hanging your hat in the same place for 30 years, it's time to give someone younger, with more spunk and ambition a chance," Aldridge said.

Earlier in the meeting a delegation of county residents appeared before the board to ask that Larry Witt, a young assistant agriculture agent with two years service, be considered for the chairman's post.

Commissioner Fred Satterfield praised Witt, saying the young agent "has won the confidence of people in the county, really gotten to know the folks he works with."

Aldridge explained the tenure system conformed to by the state agriculture extension service, point out that unless state officials were willing "to bend the rules, it might be difficult for Witt to be appointed chairman.

The state usually requires seven years experience before an extension employee may be named chairman -- three years as an assistant agent and four years as an associate agent.

Witt will have to apply for the position just like others interested in the job, Aldridge said.

Source: The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina), 3 April 1974, Wednesday, Page 21.

There is some confusion with respect to the year in which Junius E. Zimmerman became head Caswell County Agricultural Extension Agent. One source cites 1935, but another uses 1939:

Six Outstanding County Farm Agents Get National Honors

"Raleigh -- Six outstanding North Carolina county farm agents for the State College Extension Service have been singled out for recognition by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, the association announced today.

"County Agents J. E. Zimmerman, Caswell; C. V. Morgan, Granville; S. W. Mendenhall, Macon; John W. Artz, Gates; George B. Hobson, Mecklenburg; and Eli John Morgan, Sampson, will receive Distinguished Service Awards today at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Ill., where the National County Agents Convention is in session.

"Each year the association honors not more than 2 per cent of its members in each state. To receive the certificates, agents must have 'served outstandingly at least 10 years as county extension worker, must have worked out and put into effect a county agricultural program which includes carrying to completion some constructive and outstanding work, should be actively interested in the improvement of the profession . . ., and should have studied some specific agricultural subject by group, correspondence, university residence . . . to improve his ability to do the job as county agent,' according to A. B. Jolley of Dallas, Tex., chairman of the committee on Distinguished Service Awards.
. . . .

"Zimmerman was born in Davidson County and attended Duke University and was graduated from State College. He has been in extension work since 1935, when he came to Caswell as assistant farm agent. In 1939 he was made county agent in Caswell. He has been a leader in the dairy industry in the county and in organizing a unified agricultural program."

Source: Rocky Mount Telegram (Rocky Mount, North Carolina), 4 December 1952, Thursday, Page 27.

The Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) is a former U.S. government agency, which was established in August 1946 to replace the Farm Security Administration. It operated until 2006. FmHA mission and programs involved extending credit for agriculture and rural development. Direct and guaranteed credit went to individual farmers, low-income families, and seniors in rural areas.

Loans were authorized for housing, farm improvement, water systems, and emergency relief. FmHA also gave loans and grants for rural development. The program resulted in increased African-American land ownership in the South. In 1994, the US Department of Agriculture was reorganized and the functions of FmHA were transferred to the Farm Service Agency. In 2006, the FmHA was fully terminated. Its housing and community programs were transferred to the newly formed USDA Rural Development.

Source: Wikipedia

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