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Friday, March 10, 2017

Sugar Land Tenant Farms

Several months ago I had a wonderful visit with Mr. Tom B. McDade (SLHS Class of 1940). We talked about a wide range of topics, but among other things he donated a collection of Sugarland Industries tenant farm records from 1929 to 1942 to the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. His father was the clerk/bookkeeper for the Industries tenant farm operations and had saved these records long after he retired. Tom found them and wanted to give them to the SLHF.

These records are unique historical evidence of a forgotten part of old Sugar Land, but I haven't had enough time to give them proper attention.  I still haven't looked at them closely, but I wanted to post a brief selection now.  I chose the packet of records for 1929.

Here are some quick, summary points about what they contain:

1) The records cover cotton and corn crops, but cotton predominates by a large margin.

2) The Sugarland Industries Gin processed cotton from outside sources, as well as Industries farmers.  You'll see a separate list for these outside customers, showing the farmer and the farm owner, plus number of bales and total pounds.

3) You'll see lists for Share Farm (I assume these are Industries farms), Senior Farm, Prairie Farm, and Blakeley Farm. I'm not sure of the precise location of these farms (although I can make good guesses), or who actually owned them. I think the Industries probably owned the Prairie and Blakeley Farms, but I'll have to confirm that.

4) There are no dollar values, so I can't tell how much money was made on the crops. I'll try to find a cotton price for 1929 and make some rough calculations.

5) I assume some of these farmers worked part time at other jobs.  (Tenant farming may not have been their sole source of income.) Furthermore, I'm not sure about their contract with the Industries. I assume that in some cases the Industries supplied mules, seed, and other equipment and materials, which would mean some of these farmers were actually share croppers (using technical definitions of these occupations).

These records need a lot more analysis to uncover exactly what they tell us. Thank you, Mr. McDade for this interesting evidence from a little-know aspect of old Sugar Land.

Click the image below to view the records.