Newt Gresham founds Farmers Union
On this day in 1902, Newt Gresham and nine other men founded the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America, now known as the National Farmers Union. Sources have made claims for three different Rains County communities as the site of the first charter, including Smyrna, Point, and Emory. Gresham, an Alabama native, had arrived in Texas with his tenant-farmer parents shortly after the Civil War. In 1902 he helped found the Farmers Union as a successor to the old Farmers' Alliance. Gresham wanted to emphasize economic cooperation and avoid the involvement in partisan politics that he believed had destroyed earlier farm organizations. He wanted the organization to go no further than lobbying for farmers' interests. In 1903 he founded the Farmers Union Password, the organization's official publication. The Farmers Union held its first state convention in February 1904 and its first national convention in 1905. At the latter, Gresham was named national organizer. He traveled throughout the South for the union. After falling ill with appendicitis, while in Tennessee, he died on April 10, 1907.