THE HISTORY OF WEAKLEY COUNTY SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICT AS TAKEN FROM THE 1976 LONG RANGE PLAN and with added recent updates
The Weakley County Soil Conservation District was organized on December 9, 1940. The organizational meeting was held at the Peoples Bank (Now BankcorpSouth(2017)) in Dresden,Tennessee.
Like many early conservation movements, the district had its roots formed in the work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). An excerpt from old records is given below:
"A 'CCC' Camp had been located in the county through the efforts of the Dresden Chamber of Commerce , and after the districts were authorized by the State Legislature, a move was made by the Agricultural Committee of the Chamber of Commerce to organize a local district. R. E. Ellis, County Agent and J. S. Corbitt, CCC Engineer, invited a group from the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) at Humboldt SCS Project to explain the means of organizing a district. This was done in the early spring of 1940, in which Mr. W. M. Hardy and Mr. H. F. Helfenbein attended. After the CCC Camp was closed and moved in the summer of 1940, the efforts of the chamber of Commerce and local farmers wer continued in starting the district."
Soon after its orgnization, the Weakley SCD began to direct its efforts tward an agressive assault on the conservation problems in the district. In May, 1941, the district purchased the following equipment for use in conservation work; one small tractor; two Corsicana graders; five scoopsl two lime spreaders; and one light truck. This equipment was rented to landowners for small fees. Records show the cost of renting the tractor and grader was $2.00 per hour; Corsicana $0.50 per dayl lime spreaders after three days $0.25; truck $0.10 per mile.
The early SCD Supervisors recognized the need for assistance from various sources for carrying out their program. Assistance was received from SCS, FSA, AAA. WPA, State Department of Conservation , Extension Service, Division of Forestry and others.
The district joined the National Association of Districts in 1947, paying their dues of $5.00. The national dues are much higher now, ranging from $ 200 to $1,000 a year(Associate, Bronze, Silver & Gold). The StateTACD dues are now holding at $285.00 a year.
The District purchased the Hynds (Hornbuckle) farm located between Martin and Dresden in 1948. This farm became known as the Conservtion Farm. It contained 75 acres.
One highlight of the district's program involved this farm. April 19, 1949, was proclaimed Soil Defense Day by Governor Gordon Browning. On this day thre was a "face lifting" of this badly eroded farm. Activities included the construction of 2 miles of terraces, 2 1/2 acre pond constructed, fencing, and a Grade "A" Dairy barn built. Addresses were given by Governor Browning and Dr. Hugh H. Bennett, Chief of the Soil Conservation Service.
The district owned this farm and used it as a demonstration farm until it was sold in 1963.
In 1954, the district was very active and instrumental in getting the County Court to appropriate $2,000 for the forest fire control program in the county. The Tennessee Division of Forestry maintains fire control towers at Gleason and Hyndsver.
Also in 1954, the district became familiar with the newly enacted Watershed Protection Act. In 1957, the Weakley SCD became a co-sponsor of the Thompson Creek Watershed Wrok Plan. It later co-sponsored Cypress Creek Watershed, Middle-Fork Obion River Watershed, and Mud Creek Watershed. Thompson and Cypress Creek Waersheds were completed in Jun 1969. Construction was continuing in the 70's, but all construction has now stopped. The Thompson Creek Watershed disbanded in the mid 1980's and activity of operation and maintenance became the responsibility of the land owners. Cypress Creek Watershed structures reached their evaluated lifespans in 2016. Even though these dams have reached their evaluated lifespans, they will continue to provide many benefits as described in the original watershed work plans. In 2016 the Cypress Creek Watershed District transferred the activity of operation and maintenance to the owners of the land connected to sites in the Cypress Creek Watershed. Maintenance is mostly mowing and brush removal.
There was a time in the mid 1950's and early 1960's when the efforts of the district program was very evident everwhere in the county. Then, with the increased emphasis on soybean production, many acres of grassland or rotational row crop land was converted to continuous row crop. This trend holds true today. Cattle numbers have been on a steady decline since the early 1960's. Row crop acerage has steadily increased, with an acceleration of the increase in the early 1970's. Row cropping continues to increase.
Due to this shift to row crop farming in the district, the program emphisis is the same today as it was in the early years of the organization, promoting soil conservation. NOW, a new term, Soil Health, but continuing conservation emphasis, by using winter cover crops now of mixed species which keeps a living root system year round.
There had been a noticable awareness of erosion problems now as in the late 1970'. Although the acreage of row crop sitll remains high there has been an increas in conservation tillage which is reducing gross erosion significantly. No-tilling into a crimped rolled-down mat of cover crop increases the infiltration of rainfall over the crop year making moisture more available to the production crop and builds nutrient rich organic matter.
The Weakley County Soil Conservation District now has a John Deere No-till Drill capable tor plant the Native Warm Season Grasses so popular in the Farm Services Agency Conservation Reserve Program. The district can be contacted for rental information.