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Glorious Old Norfolk
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[fourth of a series]


glorious old norfolk


A cash crop dream pursued by two American entrepreneurs transformed vast dust bowl expanses of Norfolk County into fields of green gold early in the 20th century.

Henry Freeman, a soils specialist from South Carolina working for the Canadian government, and William Pelton, a Wisconsin tobacco buyer and grower with interests in Ontario's Essex County belt, collaborated to produce the first Norfolk flue leaf crop at Lynedoch in 1923.

Their 25-acre, four-kiln venture was an immediate success, attracting a good price and triggering an influx of growers throughout the western two-thirds of Norfolk as well as neighbouring Elgin, Oxford and Brant counties. In the ensuing decades, fortunes were made, local economies revitalized and government tax coffers enriched while southern Ontario's tobacco industry achieved world-class status.

Despite escalating harrassment and condemnation by health authorities, tobacco growing in Norfolk continues to flourish in the new millennium as a legally constituted, profitable crop meeting the needs of domestic and foreign cigarette manufacturers.

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Dick Pearce
Dick Pearce is a director of the Norfolk Historical Society and a former editor of the Simcoe Reformer.

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