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Judd Hill Plantation Collection

 Collection
Identifier: ASTATE-2019-11-13

Scope and Contents

The Judd Hill Plantation Collection is comprised of 55 series contained within 3166 folders and 117 Items within 234 document boxes: Accounting series (7 subseries contained in 37 document boxes and 1 oversized box), Bank series(3 subseries in 22 document boxes), Plantation Establishment series (4 subseries in 1 document box), St. Louis Joint Stock Land Bank series (2 subseries in 1 document box), Stapleton Discount Corporation series (2 subseries in 5 document boxes), Other Crop Financing series (12 subseries in 1 document box), Cotton Production and Marketing series (7 subseries in 12 document boxes), Cotton Gin Construction series(8 subseries in 1 document box), Cotton Gin Operation series (3 subseries in 3 document boxes), Cotton Seed Marketing series (3 subseries in 7 document boxes), Miscellaneous Cotton Related series (4 subseries in 1 document box), Soybean Production series (2 subseries in 4 document boxes), Corn Production series (2 subseries in 1 document box), Milo Production series (1 subseries in 1 document box), Wheat Production series (1 subseries in 1 document box), Oat and Rye Productio series (2 subseries in 1 document box), Miscellaneous Crop Production series (6 subseries within 1 document box), Crop Production and Planning series (6 subseries within 9 document boxes), Infrastructure and Improvements series (3 subseries within 1 document box), Labor and Tenants series (4 subseries within 10 document boxes), Day-Crop Records series (8 subseries in 2 document boxes), Doane Agricultural Services series (7 subseries in 2 document boxes), Miscellaneous Business Ventures series (4 subseries in 1 document box), Taxation series (4 subseries within 4 document boxes), Legal Affairs series (4 subseries within 4 document boxes), Insurance series (5 subseries in 1 document box), Government Programs series (14 subseries within 2 document boxes), Livestock series (9 subseries in 6 document boxes), Investments series (6 subseries within 2 document boxes), Invoices series (21 subseries within 57 document boxes), Payroll series (3 subseries in 13 document boxes), Plantation Store Records series (3 subseries within 13 document boxes), Craighead Electric Cooperative (CECC) series (5 subseries within 5 document boxes), Arkansas State Electric Cooperative series (9 subseries within 4 document boxes), National Rural Electric Coop Association series (4 subseries within 1 document box), Rural Electrification Association (REA) series (3 subseries within 1 document box), Phone and Postal Services series (4 subseries in 1 document box), Agricultural Council of Arkansas series (3 subseries within 1 document box), Staple Cotton Cooperative Association series (5 subseries within 5 document boxes), National Cotton Council of America series (6 subseries within 3 document boxes), Cotton Producers Institute (CPI) series (5 subseries within 1 document box), Cotton Incorporated series (5 series within 3 document boxes), Reimbursements series (10 subseries within 1 document box), Personal series (15 subseries within 7 document boxes), Cotton Gin Equipment series (3 subseries within 2 document boxes), Grain Equipment series (2 subseries within 1 document box), Farm Equipment (2 subseries within 2 document boxes), Cattle Silage Equipment series (2 subseries within 1 document box), Electric series (2 subseries within 1 document box), Maintenance and Prevention series (4 subseries within 1 document box), National Cotton Council Bound Reports series (15 bound reports within 2 document boxes), Doane Ag Services Digest series (2 subseries within 1 document box), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) series (5 subseries within 3 document boxes), Publications series (6 series within 3 document boxes), and Books and Bound Volumes (13 volumes).

Dates

  • 1929-1986

Physical Description

This manuscript collection consists of physical materials. This collection has not been digitized. This collection is open for research use only in the Archives' Reading Room. It is not available for request through Interlibrary Loan. Please contact the archive via email (Archive-L@astate.edu) at least a week in advance of your arrival to ensure the availability of the material.

Conditions Governing Access

This manuscript collection consists of physical materials. This collection has not been digitized. This collection is open for research use only in the Archives' Reading Room. It is not available for request through Interlibrary Loan. Please contact the archive via email (Archive-L@astate.edu) at least a week in advance of your arrival to ensure the availability of the material. Parts of this collection have been restricted due to personal identifying information such as social security numbers and birthdates.

Conditions Governing Use

The Livestock series contains potential allergens, caution should be used when accessing these documents.

Biographical / Historical

The Judd Hill Plantation received its name from its founder, Orange Judd Hill (O.J. Hill), a wealthy Kansas City, Missouri banker and businessman. Hill's Trumann Cooperage Company bought the 5,800 acre tract south of Trumann in 1925. However, Hill continued to spend much of his time in Missouri with his wife, Lina Eloise "Muddy" Grabill Hill and their adopted daughter, Ester-Jane.

Ester Hill had married Samuel Caryl Chapin, a civil engineer whom he had met while both were attending the University of Minnesota. In 1930, O.J. Hill persuaded his son in law to leave his job with the city of Three Rivers, Illinois and manage the farm and timber business at Trumann. S.C. Chapin soon put his engineering expertise to use in clearing and draining the land and putting it under cultivation. Hill and Chapin joined thousands of other landowners during the early decades of the twentieth century in transforming wetland forest to cropland in order to exploit the rich soil of the Arkansas Delta.

In June 1933, O.J. Hill transferred the property to Esther and Sam Chapin. O.J. Hill died in Truman in 1946.

According to plantation documents, the work force on the Judd Hill Plantation consisted of three groups: sharecroppers, renters and day laborers. Sharecroppers grew most of the cotton in exchange for housing and a share of the crop proceeds. In 1934, sixty-eight families, all African-Americans, tended plots of ground ranging from 5 to 40 acres. The government's campaign to reduce cotton stocks in 1933 resulted in many planters evicting croppers and replacing them with cheaper day labor. Sam Chapin, however, remained committed to the tenant farming. Records show that he added eighteen new sharecropping families for the 1935 growing season.

By the end of the 1930s, the plantation was making a profit thereby enabling its owners to pay off the land mortgage within three years. When interviewed, former tenants uniformly mentioned Sam Chapin's dedication and hands-on management style, which included touring the land on horseback, and later, by truck. Many residents also recalled that Esther Chapin worked diligently in the plantation's office and store.

Other factors also entered into the Chapins' good fortune. The local drainage district and the St. Francis Levee District permitted them to pay their back taxes in installments. Even more important were the federal crop reduction payments (nearly $6,000 in 1934) and higher cotton prices resulting from Roosevelt's Agricultural Adjustment Act and related measures. Chapin, like almost all landlords, ignored government directives to share the cash reduction payments with their tenants, preferring instead to credit their accounts at the store.

The 1934 ledger contained accounts for a store, gin (which still stands), sawmill, shingle mill, animal feed business, and a blacksmith shop, with the number of employees for each varying according to the season. By the early 1940s, he also maintained a thriving cattle herd. Not surprisingly, the farm did business with numerous local and out-of-town companies and with banks in Jonesboro, Trumann, and Marked Tree. Union Planters Bank in Memphis handled its largest financial transactions. Along with running the large plantation, civic duties occupied the Chapins' time as well. While Esther was a mainstay of Trumann's Twentieth Century Club, which sponsored several charities, Sam helped organize the Craighead Electric Cooperative, to which he served as president for many years. By 1949, the cooperative was supplying electricity, for the first time, to 15,000 households in the northern Delta. Sam Chapin also served as an officer in several cotton producers' organizations such as US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA), National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation National Cotton Council of America, and Staple Cotton Cooperative Association.

The plantation continued to prosper after the last croppers retired in the early 1970s (several stayed in their homes for years afterward, rent free). Cotton was still the primary money crop, as evidenced by the Chapins' 1979 "day crop" of 533 bales produced on only 470 acres. In addition, the eight families renting a total of 1,000 acres grew cotton. By this time, the farm's output had outgrown its own ginning capacity, and most of the fiber was taken to the nearby Taylor and Stuckey Gin after being picked by machines belonging to George Taylor. Sam had also diversified his operation. Besides cotton, he planted wheat, milo, corn, and soybeans and owned one of the best beef cattle herds in the region.

S. C. Chapin died from heart disease in 1976 at the age of seventy-four. Although his and Esther's only child, Judd, had passed away ten years before, Sam had been grooming the oldest of their three grandchildren, also named Judd, to manage the plantation along with Mrs. Chapin, who had continued to work in the office and store. Esther and Judd operated the plantation cooperatively until 1983, when management disputes led him to move to St. Petersburg, Florida. During the mid-1980s, Esther's declining health resulted in disruptions in the farm's operation and in a series of court-appointed receivers making most of the production decisions. After her death in 1991, at the age of 91, the Judd Hill Plantation became a nonprofit foundation with Osceola attorney Mike Gibson as trustee. Today, three renters – Gary Beard, James Love, Jr., and Billy Baker - farm the approximately 4,000 acres, all of which is planted in cotton. Most of the proceeds from the foundation's one-quarter share of each year's crop benefit Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.

Extent

98 Linear Feet (This series is comprised of 3166 folders contained within 234 document cases, and 117 bound volumes.)

Language

English

Overview

The Judd Hill Plantation Collection contains documentation of the workings of the plantation from the time of its establishment in 1930 through its evolution into the Judd Hill Plantation Foundation. Contained within this collection is the documentation of the Plantation's establishment; financial records; farm and cattle records; infrastructure improvements; legal records, gin records; real estate and other investments; labor; mortgages and other contracts; the Judd Hill Plantation Store records; agriculture and cattle organizations, government agricultural programs,including food rationing during WWII; insurance; local electric cooperatives; personal items belonging to Sam and Esther Chapin; agriculture equipment catalogs; bound documents and reports, and agriculture publications; and books on agriculture and livestock. The Invoices series contains the largest amount of documentation and provides infomation on the expenses related to running a large farming plantation. Contained within the collection is the litigation appointing receiverships to oversee the plantation and documentation of the establishment of the Judd Hill Plantation Foundation through the last will and testament of Esther Hill Chapin.

Types of documents contained within this collection include correspondence, journal ledgers, receipts, invoices, potographs, artifacts and bound publications.

Accruals

No further additions to this collection are expected.

Physical Description

This manuscript collection consists of physical materials. This collection has not been digitized. This collection is open for research use only in the Archives' Reading Room. It is not available for request through Interlibrary Loan. Please contact the archive via email (Archive-L@astate.edu) at least a week in advance of your arrival to ensure the availability of the material.
Title
Judd Hill Plantation Collection Finding Aid, 1930-1984
Status
In Progress
Author
Flora Smith
Date
November 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives & Special Collections - Dean B. Ellis Library Repository

Contact:
Arkansas State University
Dean B. Ellis Library
P.O. Box 2040
State University AR 72467 United States
870-972-2987
870-972-3199 (Fax)