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The Cokers of Hartsville - Excerpt



The Coker name is legendary in the Pee Dee region. James Lide Coker, Sr. (1837-1918), a graduate of Harvard, is known for bringing scientific methods of agriculture to his inherited estate in Hartsville. Coker expanded his cotton agriculture business into other areas of industry, including ginning and cottonseed-oil milling. After establishing banks in Hartsville and Darlington, and even a railroad to service Hartsville trade, James Lide Coker, Sr. laid the foundation for several generations of Coker entrepreneurs.

David Robert Coker (1870-1938), his second son, continued to experiment with plant breeding techniques that improved the resilience and productivity of cotton grown in the Pee Dee region. The Coker Pedigreed Seed Company, organized in part by David in 1913, became a nationally known seed house and experimental station for cotton, corn, tobacco, and other local crops.

Sonoco Inc. is one of the major industries of the Hartsville region. The origins of Sonoco begin with the Carolina Fiber Company, an experimental pulp wood mill organized in 1890 by James Lide Coker, Jr (1863-1931) and his father. In the early 20th century, the mill expanded production into paper products used in the cotton textile industry. The company remains a major employer in the city of Hartsville.

In this video, Historian Dr. Walter Edgar provides a brief history of Hartsville and the origins of the Coker family role in local industry. Dr. Edgar also conducts an extended interview with the great grandson of James Lide Coker, Sr., David W. Coker, the chairman of Sonoco Inc.

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