They used to be everywhere in Mississippi, but most of the COTTON GINS have fallen by the wayside. You don’t exactly have to go to a museum to see one yet. But there is one at the Ag Museum in Jackson and they run during their Fall Harvest Fest every year.
You may have used the phrase “fire it up” referring to starting something? Well the huge diesel engine that runs the old cotton gin at the Ag Museum literally has to be “fired up”; heated with kerosene in order to get running.
But when the motor catches and the lever is engaged, the gears and belts and pulleys all work in concert to turn this, raw picked cotton, into this, seed free and trash free bales of cotton. And it is a symphony of syncopation still echoing from the machine age that keeps the hoppers hopping. And it all dances in time kept by the pop of the old one-cylinder engine.
Back when this gin was in still in use at Cannonsburg near Natchez, the pop of that engine could be heard for miles around, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week from September when the cotton started coming in until December when the last bowl was ginned and baled.
Cotton has been superseded by soybeans and corn mostly here in Mississippi now. But there’s still enough grown for a few gins to still be around. But not nearly as many as there used to be. One of the old gins up in Holmes County has been refitted to process peanuts.
This one at the Ag museum is a real throwback to another time, another place and almost another Mississippi. A Mississippi in which you could tell the time of the year by the noises of what machinery was running. In fall, it was the cotton gin. And that’s when the one at the Ag museum still runs. Well, for one weekend ever fall, at least.
Walt Grayson, WJTV12.