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Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I watched a 6-minute clip from The Texas Bucket list, recently, on the historic Burton Cotton Gin & Museum.  Click here to view the video.  This led to a discussion with some friends about cotton harvesting and ginning.

The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation archives has this undated photo of loaded cotton wagons lined up in 'downtown' Sugar Land waiting for a spot at the gin.  (The date of the photo is probably 1910, give or take a few years.)  

You can see the railroad tracks on the left side of the photo, so the camera is pointing west, down what is now Kempner St.  The wagons are parked about where the Farmer's Market is held today.  

Notice that the farmers have covered their wagons with tarps.  In my day, the wagons had sides made of chicken wire, and covers were optional.  During harvest time, there was probably enough cotton strewn along Brooks, Main, Kempner and Highway 90A to make a bale of cotton.

Here are some photos of the modern approach to harvesting cotton.  I took the first two a couple of years ago near the George Ranch Historical Park south of Richmond.

Obviously, a mobile unit came out to the field and formed those large blocks of clean, compressed cotton.  I didn't stop to get a closer look, so I thought maybe they were completely ginned, but a friend said that's not the case.  They are partially processed and still need further work at a gin.  He took the next photo of the same sort of blocks awaiting processing at a gin in Crosbyton, Texas just east of Lubbock.  Flat-bed trucks with tilting beds pick them up and haul them to the gin.
Photo by Bill Barksdale.
My friend said the gin was incredibly noisy, and that's the way I remember the old Sugar Land gin.  I went there once with my father when I was about 5-years old.  I was the kind of kid who didn't like loud noises, so I had my hands over my ears the whole time.