His name was “Jesse”. I called him “Daddy”. It has been written “It is dangerous to say that one man in less than two decades changed the eating and food purchasing habits of the United States, saved many farmers from bankruptcy, helped found a national industry. Almost any citizen of North Georgia will readily admit that one man was at least the leading instrument, the planner and stimulating agent for this phenomenal development, and that his name was ‘Jesse Dickson Jewell’ ” . A friend said that he was born “before his time”. On the contrary, he was born at the perfect time and was able to help a lot of people.
During the last year of confinement, I have been doing a lot of thinking in Paris, about my life, my life choices, my family, what actually happened, the myths surrounding what actually happened, and the things I will NEVER KNOW – or rather, I only know pieces of a puzzle. (sigh) Memories mixed with facts mixed with speculation. THUS, “JANET’S STORY OF ‘JESSE’ ”
Get a cup of coffee. This may take a while. Some of it is factual. Some is Janet’s story or what happened.
A moment to recap – He was born in Gainesville, Georgia on March 13, 1902, to Mary Tallulah Dickson Jewell and Edgar Herman Jewell – their third child and second son. He grew up in Gainesville and attended local public schools through high school. His father committed suicide when he was seven (on July 19, 1909), when he was in the second grade.
Five years later, when he was in the 7th grade, his mother remarried Leonard Loudermilk, a handsome, young widower with five children of his own. They all lived together in Mary’s big house and Leonard helped with the family business (a Feed and Fertilizer Store). Mary Tallulah and Leonard got all of the children (10) to help around the house and also hired a woman to help. I don’t know if she lived there or not. I doubt it.
All of the kids graduated from High School and started or graduated from college.
Jesse went for a short time to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and also was a Kappa Alpha at Georgia Tech for a period of time. He did not graduate. He went home to help his mother and stepfather to run the Feed and Fertilizer Store.
The South was in a depression, and people were struggling. His mother was struggling. And, remember, this was a time when women did not work!! I don’t know when that store opened but it supplied farmers with feed and fertilizer “ALL YEAR ‘ROUND” for their animals and crops.
But the store did not sell the feed or fertilizer when the farmers had no money to buy it. The farmers in the area had hogs, cows, and chickens. Crops were grown to feed the family, not to sell. Some were – cotton, peanuts, tobacco, peaches. But everything was a tough sell. The land was worn out. And, on top of that, a devastating tornado wrecked the town in April 1936.
Jesse was hitting brick walls. Did he give up? NO. With youthful enthusiasm, he started using common sense.
If the farmers could not buy the feed or fertilizer because they did not have any money, he had to help them get money so he could help his mother sell feed and fertilizer. How?
Pick an animal. He picked chickens (hogs and cows were too big) Help the farmers get chickens to feed and raise.
Step 1. Get baby chickens to farmers.
So, he figured out how to get baby chickens to farmers to raise. (Somebody loaned him some money to get some baby chickens to begin this project with a few willing farmers. Did his family do it? I don’t know.) Somehow, he had resources. It was a risk. He gambled. He GAVE them some chickens and GAVE them some feed. Most farmers were unwilling, and landowners objected. EVERYONE WAS SKEPTICAL. He was desperate. A few agreed to go along. Then, he waited.
Step 2. When the chickens become “broiler” size (approximately 12 weeks), BUY them back from the farmer(s) at a market price. With that money, the farmer could pay him back for the baby chickens and feed and still have a profit left.
Farmers signed up. People began to have money in their pockets. Shops in town began to thrive. Jesse had helped his mother. The feed store would be okay.
People then built hatcheries, more feed stores, and places for processing of the broiler-size chickens for market.
The entire area changed.
Jesse said, “Help others. That’s the only way a man can help himself.”
And, from there, Jesse continued to use common sense. It continued to work. After that, I don’t know how he helped Mary Tallulah and Leonard. He did. I just know that we visited them for over an hour EVERY SUNDAY FOR YEARS. He was into sharing. So, I can believe he shared the wealth with them. I saw the love he had for his mother.
So for all he did, we can thank Mary Tallulah Dickson.
Yes, he had problems. Yes, the story takes twists and turns. But, all of it is huge and in the history books. Yes, I know the rest of the story, but this is major. And, important for me to think through. Thank you for sharing this time with me.
Best, Jay (the picture below was the picture in an ad that Daddy bought and put into the Gainesville High School Class of 1955 yearbook in my graduating class from High School.)
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Thank you in advance. Jay/Janet/Genet