The Easley Oil Mill Inc. was the first corporation in Pickens County. It was organized and built in 1889.
Some of the original organizers, now all deceased, were: R.F. Smith, W.M. Hagood, R.F. Lenhart, A.G. Wyatt, D.F. Bradley and J.M. Geer.
In the early part of this century, most towns of any size had an oil mill which operated pretty much on a local basis, as transportation was a problem. The farmers would haul their cotton on wagons to the cotton gins and have it ginned, sell their cotton and trade the cottonseed meal and hulls. The oil mills, in addition to meal and hulls, manufactured cottonseed oil, a fine edible oil, and cotton linters.
Durng World War II, the government placed all oil mills under the War production Board. Easley Oil Mill Inc. was required to ship its cotton linter production to the Hercules Powder Co. Incidentally, one 600 lb bale of linters would make enough gun powder to shoot 100,000 fifty-caliber machine gun bullets.
This business, like most of those of such long duration, has had its economic “ups and downs.” Early in its existence, this firm manufactured fertilizer as one of its lines of business. However, due to the cotton depression of the early 1920s, the disastrous losses on fertilizer accounts forced the dropping of this phase of its business. The company then sold fertilizer manufactured by other plants.
Easley was fortunate in having several cotton textile mills built in the early 1900s. These mills were labor intensive, providing the town with payrolls.
Oil mills were different in that they offered the local farmers a market for their crops and provided agricultural services for the economy was still basically agricultural at that time. Easley Oil Mill Inc. offered such services as cotton ginning and spreading of agricultural lime and fertilizers. In 1947, a subsidiary company, Dixie Milling Co, was added. Thus a market for corn and small grains was provided as well as a service of custom grinding for farmers’ grains. A full line of brand feeds was also manufactured. Additional products offered were seeds, insecticides, farm hardware and coal.
Modern industries are not the only ones who have known difficult times. The government started cutting the production of cotton in the mid 19302, issuing cotton farmers allotments of acreage to be planted in cotton. In addition to this curtailment, the farmers had to contend with the weather and insects as well as economic conditions. The harvest was so bad one year that several farmers had to put their cotton together in order to go to the cotton gin to have one bale ginned.
Some of the men who served as president of the Easley Oil Mill Inc. were the late R.F. Smith, L.H. Smith, C.T. Martin, George B. Hamilton and since 1953, Hugh B. Hamilton, who continues in that capacity today. Active in the operation from the early 1900s and serving in the capacity of secretary and manager were the late Burrell Johnson, John A. Robinson, L.J. Smith and Sam L. Robinson.
The late George B. Hamilton and son, Hugh B. Hamilton, acquired control of the company in 1937. Due to the newly enacted Wage-Hour Law, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, a complete modernization program was implemented in order to get more efficient production. Formerly the mil had used steam engines for poer, even using a small engine for the power of lighting the plant before electricity was available. in Easley. The mill was motorized throughout, using steam only for cooking the cottonseed meats. A modern expeller was installed which could extract oil from both cottonseed and soybeans, as well as other oil-bearing seeds.
Many new innovations were brought to the mill program, and the mill management experimented with many new crops. Since cotton production was being curtailed and farm labor becoming scarce, the mill was interested in promoting oil-seed crops which could be grown and harvested with machinery. The mill could process the oil seeds and thus offer the farmers a cash market.
The first soybeans tried shattered in the fields before they could be harvested. However J.E. Wannamaker of St. Matthews had developed a non-shatter bean which was proving successful. The mill bought a trailer load of planting seed from Wannamaker and they were put out on trial to the farmers. Another oil-seed crop which was tried with the cooperation of the late Dr. Martin of Clemson University was sesame seed.
While both of these crops prove promising, it would take a large investment in farm machinery on the part of the farmers. The Easley area was becoming more industrialized with jobs to new plants available, and the farmers seemed to be more disposed to take a job with a regular pay check than gamble on farming — for which no one could blame them. The last year the mill operated was in 1951.
Hugh B. Hamilton suceeded his father, the late D.D. Hamilton, as president in 1953. Other operations such as cotton ginning, lime speading and feed manufacturing continued until the mid 1960s.
Since that time, the mill management has started developing its seed farms in the historic Pickensville section into residential subdivisions.
Part of the mill plant is being taken in the new highway widening project in connection with the new development of Downtown Easley.
The Easley Oil Mill In. is 85 years old this year. It has a fine record of service to the community through good times and bad, through wars, depressions and prosperity.
Over the years, the toil and seat, the work and planning of many good men have gone into the building, and operation of this plant and its record of service.
The phasing out of its agricultural operations marks the end of an era for this area as well as the Easley Oil Mill Inc.