The great power potential of the Tennessee River at the Muscle Shoals, which was impeded by shallows and shoals, began to attract attention in the early 1900s. J.W. Worthington organized the Tennessee River Improvement Association and was joined in the efforts by citizens, including E.A. O’Neal who began to urge Congress to jointly develop power projects and access to the River. Col. Worthington and several partners incorporated the Shoals Hydro-Electric Power Company in 1906. The American Cyanamid Company was organized at Muscle Shoals in 1907 to utilize hydroelectric power in the production of munitions to support the war effort and later use of Nitrogen for the production of fertilizers.
The Tennessee Valley Fertilizer Company was established in 1897 by Lee Ashcraft. Fertilizer in those days was in a pulverized form and used primarily for cotton planting. By 1903 the company marketed nineteen different types of fertilizer and also advertised that it would make any special order fertilizer needed. Tennessee Valley Fertilizer Company‘s output was 9,000 tons of fertilizer and by the next year had reached 15,000 tons. The Tennessee Valley Fertilizer was purchased by ICM from Ashcraft in 1909.
Edward Asbury O’Neal, III’s slogan for Muscle Shoals during the national conversations about the use of Muscle Shoals was “munitions in war, fertilizers for the American farmer in time of peace”.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Act on May 18, 1933. The close relationship between the use of nitrates for both fertilizer and munitions had created the opportunity for the establishment of TVA to become a leader in research and development of fertilizers.
Citizens were active in agricultural endeavors at home, but many influenced state and national agricultural history.
Alabama state programs– In support of the growth of agricultural management during the O’Neal administration (1882-1886), Governor Edward Asbury O’Neal , of Florence, was credited with the creation of the Alabama Department of Agriculture which worked with the A & M College at Auburn in an effort to better conditions for the Alabama farmer including creation the Alabama Highway Department and a system of public roads, the creation of a State Forester in the interest of conservation, and provided further aid to farmers through Alabama Polytechnic Institute and the Alabama Department of Agriculture.
Continuing the O’Neal family’s tradition of leadership, Edward Asbury O’Neal III, the grandson of Edward Asbury O’Neal and nephew of Emmet O’Neal, after attending the State Normal College at Florence and traveling in Europe, returned to his farm determined to put what he had learned into practice. By keeping livestock and using lime, phosphate, and legumes, he made one of the most productive farms in the state.
National – Alabama Farm Bureau/ American Farm Bureau– In 1921, Edward Asbury O’Neal III assisted in organizing the Lauderdale Farm Bureau and became its first president, and later become the vice-president of the Alabama Farm Bureau and the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and chief of the organizations’ legislative office in Washington, D.C.
For more information on TVA please visit their website at tva.gov.