Greenbrier Canning Co.1888 - 1898
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, agriculture was a key part of the Greenbrier County economy. As a source of cash to buy other necessities, many small farms produced fruit, wheat, milk, and a variety of vegetables for the commercial market. Several agriculture businesses were established in the hollow that is now the home of Montwell Commons. Many local farmers raised peas, corn, and tomatoes as well as cherries, blackberries, and plums to sell to the Greenbrier Canning Company which was established in 1888. The canned fruits and vegetables were then sold throughout the region.
The Greenbrier Canning Company was located at the end of Lafayette Street. This was the first section of the Old Tanyard property that James Withrow, Jr. sold (the tannery had been established in 1796). The lot was 110' square and the site is now used for the Montwell Commons Lafayette St. parking area.
A great deal of information has been gathered from deeds, the Greenbrier Independent weekly newspaper archives, and other referenced sources. Excerpts of some of these deeds, articles, and announcements are presented in the following pages They give an indication of the role that the Greenbrier Canning Company played in the town and the Greenbrier Valley in the late 19th century. A more extensive collection of excerpts is available here.
March 20, 1889
James and Edgar Withrow sell a 110' square lot to the Greenbrier Canning Company for $200: “ . . . all their right, title,and interest in and to a certain plot of land situated in the Town of Lewisburg W. Va. on the street known in the said town as Lafayette Street and joining the lot on which John Worsham now resides. The said lot of land to be 110 feet square . . .”
March 13, 1889
The Greenbrier Canning Company wishes to contract for the product of 40 acres planted in tomatoes. Staunton Spectator
October 26, 1889
The Greenbrier Canning Company have closed their canning operations for their first year. The company has done well, having put up something over 45,000 cans, all told.
Martinsburg Independent, also Wheeling Intelligencer 10/15/1889
January 9, 1890
The Greenbrier Canning company sold 556 cases of canned goods to P.H. Noyes & Co. of Charleston. The goods were shipped yesterday. The Company has about 800 cases of extra goods left, which they expect to sell soon. Greenbrier Independent vol 24 no. 32
February 13, 1890
The Greenbrier Canning Co. proposes canning corn, tomatoes, peas, &c. The managers would like for those who intend to raise such things for the Cannery to inform the committee of the fact. We think it would pay our farmers, who are furnishing milk to the Creamery, to raise corn for the Cannery, as the corn will be pulled in its green state and they could make ensilage out of the fodder for their cows.
Greenbrier Independent vol 24 no. 35
August 14, 1890
The Greenbrier Canning co. began canning corn last Thursday. The tomato crop will be ready for use by the first of next week. The Company will work about 40 hands for the next six weeks putting up the fruit. Greenbrier Independent vol 25 no. 11
September 11, 1890
The Greenbrier Canning Co. is now putting up some fine fruit. On Tuesday the company received 25 bushels of tomatoes and yesterday 200 bushels, and a prospect for 150 bushels per day during the season. It has canned to date 22,000 cans all told. Mr. Aquilla Lipps of our town, has gathered from his 3 ½ acre patch of tomatoes 200 bushels, with a prospect for 800 or 1,000 bushels more. Greenbrier Independent vol 25 no. 15
February 27, 1896
A Fine Opportunity
“At the recent meeting of the stockholders of the Greenbrier canning Co. an order was entered directing a committee . . . to let the Company's house with all its machinery and fixtures free of rent, for the coming season, to anyone who would agree to run the cannery this year – the renter to pay nothing but the taxes, cost of insurance, and to buy cans on hand. Here is a good chance for some enterprising man to make money. . . . In no country known to us does the tomato reach higher perfection than here in Greenbrier, and, if we can always grow them in abundance in our gardens, where is the difficulty of growing them on a larger scale on the fertile grounds contiguous to the town? We believe it can be done and that the crop can always be matured in time to escape frost. . . .
What is done must be done quickly, for if the committee cannot let out the property on the easy terms mentioned, then it will be sold. . . . “
Greenbrier Independent vol 30 no. 40
February 18, 1898
1 10 gal. Gasoline Tank;
12,000 2-lb. Tin Cans; 400 2-lb. Packing Cases;
1 set Stock and Dies, ½ to 1 inch; 1 Four-wheel Truck;
1 Pump and Piping and 14 years water right;
1 House and Lot; About 100 delivery Cases;
About 3,000 lbs. Scrap Tin; About 100 lbs. Rosin;
Complete Can Making Machinery and sundry other articles.
J.M Cunningham, D.R. Thomas - Committee
*In 1874 A. K. Shriver of Baltimore invented a closed kettle or pressure cooker for processing the cans by superheating water with steam, thereby killing dangerous bacteria and reducing the processing time.
Greenbrier Independent vol 30 no. 44
February 18, 1898
The Greenbrier Canning Co. lot was conveyed to John Preston: “. . . that certain lot of land . . . on the street known in the plan of said town as Lafayette Street adjoining the lot on which Mrs. Worsham now resides, 110 feet square. . . “ Deed 51-461
The Greenbrier Independent newspaper was researched at the Greenbrier County Historical Society archives at the North House Museum, Lewisburg, WV, where a digitized version is available.
Deeds are identified by (book no.– page no.) and are on file in the County Clerk's office at the Greenbrier County Courthouse.