Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Cotton Gins

Downsville (or “Lower Pine Hills,” as it was formerly called) used to bustle with several cotton mills, like the one pictured above. For anyone not familiar with the Eli Whitney’s turn-of-the-19th-century invention, the Cotton Gin, here’s a blurb from the The Eli Whitney Museum’s website –

Long-staple cotton, which was easy to separate from its seeds, could be grown only along the coast. The one variety that grew inland had sticky green seeds that were time-consuming to pick out of the fluffy white cotton bolls. ( . . . ) At stake was the success of cotton planting throughout the South, especially important at a time when tobacco was declining in profit due to over-supply and soil exhaustion.

Source: The Eli Whitney Museum

So the invention enabled farmers, starting in the early 1800s, to quickly process cotton. In rural areas like Downsville, this contraption was invaluable.

A local named John Edwards owned a cotton gin by the Downsville cemetery and built another by his home, according to Mrs. Louise Averitte’s compiled history of the area (1993). Averitte goes on to point out how historically, the cotton gin in Downsville had some pitfalls. In 1914, bizarre weather conditions called “September Gales” moistened the cotton with so much rainwater and for so long that much of the cotton rotted in the fields!

Another cotton gin in town was owned by Wilbur Hamilton, located behind his home. Unfortunately, this gin and the two belonging to Edwards were ultimately torn down, as the production in cotton steadily decreased as years past. Nowadays, farmers in the area are in the poultry industry.

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer


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