Gathering cotton in the late nineteenth century South. from Benjamin Butterworth’s The Growth of Industrial Arts (1888) (NC Div of Arch. and His.) & Forgotten Gates

The scene was similar when I was a girl. I remember a virtual mountain of cotton that was secured in “the office” once. There were a few women who would pick a thousand pounds of cotton in a day. At the end of the day, Mama would verify each person’s pickings for that day on a balance that was hung from the hog gallows, record it in her ledger and then write them all checks for their day’s labor. Our cotton pickers came mostly from Mooretown.




Uncle Isaac Norfleet [1780 – 1844] constructed this press on his plantation southwest of Tarboro ca 1840. Originally used to press fruit for cider and wine, it was converted to process cotton about 1860. The structure stands 22 feet high and contains a central vertical shaft. A large wooden screw 19 inches in diameter was powered by mules hitched to the sweeps — long beams attached to the top of the shaft. The screw drove down a wooden packing block to compress 300 to 350 lbs of cotton into bales. It was moved to the Town Commons of Tarboro, NC ca 1938 and was restored in 1976 by the Edgecombe Historical Society. Such structures were once frequent sight in cotton growing areas. [found in “A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina’ by Bishir & Southern.
A similar structure stood to the right just inside the first gate at the Will Thomas home when I was young, At Maple Lawn one was located near the cemetery and old house on what is called the gin house cut.

Harper’s Magazine 1866

One thought on “Cotton”

  1. Dear Sally,
    It has been many years since I visited your site. I love the new materials you have added and the stories of life while you were growing up. Thanks for sharing. Hope to explore all the history of life that you have provided.
    Kitty B. Hoffman

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