This photo from the late 1940s (shared by Richard Gray) shows how hands-on chicken processing was at the time. Canton Poultry was a processing plant that opened in 1944 near Railroad Street; Gray’s grandfather Arthur Gray helped start it.
By World War II, many Canton residents relied on the poultry industry for their livelihoods, and the production became one of the biggest industries in Cherokee County for decades. In fact, the county was known as the “Broiler Capital of the World” (broiler was a type of chicken).
Canton’s global reach in the arena is illustrated by a story from Gray’s family: A family friend from Kentucky was serving on Iwo Jima during World War II when rations were handed out — including chicken that carried the label “Canned by Canton Poultry.” The friend immediately thought, “I know Canton!” and relayed the story to the Grays later of the Canton connection during his wartime service.
Canton Poultry was sold to Gold Kist in the early 1950s.