Pleas the Photographer

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Charles Earl Pleas’ advertisement in the June 23, 1904 issue of The Chipley Banner.

Charles E. Pleas was a Quaker and a professional photographer who relocated to Chipley in the 1890s. He was of several professional photographers who opened studios in Chipley in the early 1900s.

Pleas was born in Indiana in 1867, the son of Elwood and Sarah Griffin Pleas. Elwood was a lumber dealer, according to the 1880 U.S. Census. An interesting biography of the Pleas family is found here.

Charles Pleas married Lillie Conley in Richmond, Indiana on February 4, 1891; according to the marriage license, he was living in Clinton, Arkansas at the time. The Pleases moved to Washington County in the mid-1890s.

Pleas maintained a professional photography business up until around 1920, when he switched to farming full time. You see, Pleas’ big claim to fame was introducing kudzu to Washington County. He developed his interest in horticulture studies into a full-time kudzu farming.

Although the invasive plant was introduced to the United States during the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, it wasn’t yet well known in the Southeast. But in 1905, Pleas, who had an extensive side interest in horticulture, thought the dense, fast-growing and inexpensive fine would provide an excellent solution to local soil erosion problems, especially since kudzu was drought-resistant. Pleas recommended it to other local farmers and landowners, since it also proved to be an inexpensive forage product for livestock. (An interesting story about kudzu, Charles Pleas, and the invasiveness of the plant can be found here).

Horticulturists report that kudzu can grow up to a foot a day. Image source: HGTV.com

Little did Pleas realize that kudzu farming would prove to be a prolific and fast-growing business, becoming the focus for the remainder of his career.

Charles remained in farming until his death in 1955.

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Some of the photographs and negatives belonging to Charles Earl Pleas are located at the University of West Florida Archives. Some of the images that have been scanned in can be found at this link.

Man and woman in black, photographed by Charles E. Pleas during the 1890s. I wish there were more information available on the subjects in this photo! Source: University of West Florida Archives