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The tobacco industry in northern Cayuga County

People hereabouts usually think of tobacco as a southern crop, but the fact of the matter is it was, at one time, a very important cash crop in this area. For more than 100 years, some of the finest tobacco grown anywhere was produced locally — basically in the Brutus, Cato and Ira regions. As an example, in 1864, 364,379 pounds of tobacco were grown in this locale. Tobacco growing was a very labor-intensive, time-consuming process, usually all done by hand until about 1910, when the Industrial Revolution and machines began to influence the process.

One of the jobs done in the tobacco fields was the employment of children as young as 3 or 4 years old to pick the worms (similar to a tomato worm) off the leaves. Leaves with holes in them could not be used for cigar wrappers, and so were very diminished in value.

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