The Cotton Trade


These late 1800's photographs show bales and bales of cotton, examples of many cotton sales or auctions which were held in the open area, which for many years was called "The Plaza". It is now known as the Confederate Memorial Park in honor of the Confederate Monument which was erected in 1921. The area is still often referred to as "The Plaza" by older Marianna folks.

The land in Jackson County and the surrounding areas was then, as is still today, very good cotton producing land, and Marianna was a good cotton market.

When the cotton bales were ready for shipment after the sale, they would have been loaded on wagons and moved south down the hill to the railroad station where trains had begun operation between Pensacola and the Apalachicola River around 1885. They could have also been taken by wagon to the Apalachicola River where they would have been loaded directly onto river boats and perhaps carried upstream to Columbus, Georgia and points north.

Columbus was a very large textile manufacturing area and the cotton could have been used there to make fabric for clothing. Homer Hirt tells that today there is quite an interesting museum showing how the textile industry changed the raw product from cotton to clothing fabric, often using water power to power the equipment used for textile production.

If the cotton was taken downstream to Apalachicola, it could have been shipped anywhere in the world, as Apalachicola was the second largest cotton port on the Gulf of Mexico.

The long building seen directly behind the bales of cotton was the very large cotton warehouse. South of that was Arthur Calhoun's Livery Stable. In case "livery stable" means nothing to you, that was where they housed and sold mules and horses, which were very important to the farming in this area. There were no self-powered tractors of any kind at this point in time in the Deep South.

Since many families had some size piece of property on which they could raise food for their family, horses and mules were very important to the livelihood of the people in our area at this time. Horses were also the only means of transportation, either to be ridden or to pull wagons and buggies.
Mrs. Mary "Sangy" White, a 100-plus year old African-American lady, tells how she plowed two mules many days on the 40 acre farm she and her husband owned north of Marianna. On one particular day, the horses ran into a yellow jacket nest. She proudly tells that she was able to get the stinging wasps off her mules before they were injured too seriously. She also tells about how she and her husband would pick cotton late in the afternoon and into the evening and bring the large bag of cotton into the house during the night to protect it from the moisture of the dew and theft. Cotton was a crop raised by small farmers as well as larger farming operations. Marianna had a large cotton gin and there were cotton gins all over this area of Florida.

Note that the brick buildings across the north side of Lafayette Street appeared as one long one-story building with a continuous metal awning. Most of the stores were twenty-five feet wide and ran from "Fayette Street" to Market Street as they do now. With no AC they were always open, except in the wintertime, from street to street for air circulation. You can see the electric lines running above "The Plaza". Telephones came to Marianna in 1901.

If you look very carefully above the west end of the one-story buildings on "Fayette" Street, you can see the steeple and the windows of the original Methodist Church. There are also two very large homes or apartment houses in the area where the Post Office sits today. Mr. Dekle's General Store is the two-story building on the corner.

Judging by the large number of people who are standing under the long awning of the stores north of "The Plaza", cotton auctions must have been a very interesting and entertaining event. There is also a very nice collection of buggies to the right of the area where the cotton is being auctioned. The picket fence is in front of the old Chipola Hotel from where these photographs were taken.

The Cotton Industry is still alive and well in Jackson County today! Jeff Pittman, one of our outstanding cotton farmers, says there are approximately 31,000 to 35,000 acres of cotton being grown in the county, with an average yield of 600 pounds per acre. The average price today is 70 cents per pound, down from a record $2.00 per pound about 18 months ago. That price triggered higher production from India and China which lowers the price, since this is a supply and demand product.

He says that the large rectangular modules we see sitting in the fields have been picked by the picking machinery, forming 500 pound bales, with 16 bales making up a module. These are loaded into the large cotton trucks moving along the roadways which are taking the cotton to the cotton gins, most going to gins in Bainbridge or Donaldsonville, Georgia, Hartford, Alabama or Greenwood, Florida. It takes about 1,500 pounds of raw cotton to produce 500 pounds of lint, which is the cotton after the cotton gin process has removed the seeds.

Jeff further states that there are many new varieties of cotton since the 1800's, but while, for many years, tractors and herbicides eliminated the hard work of hoeing and hand labor, the Pigweed and other herbicide resistant weeds have forced the farmers to return to hoeing and hand pulling, which is hard, back-breaking, hot work.

In the fall, as we see the beautiful white fields of cotton being grown, picked, loaded and carried along the roadways, with some blowing onto the road right-of-ways (commonly known as "Southern Snow"), we should take the time to appreciate the hard work that has taken place by the farmer as he has planted this crop, tended it for several months and now has it being taken to the gin to be prepared to be sold to make our cotton clothing and other cotton products which are so important to our comfort and well-being.

Farmers have always been a very important part of our well-being and our standard of living, particularly in our North Florida area. Farmers continue to be very special to us in 2012.


Civil War Historical Volumes Donated For Public Research Use

Pat Crisp, president of the Chipola Historical Trust, is pleased to announce two very valuable additions to their historical collection, which is permanently available to the public in the basement of the Jackson County Courthouse.

Jesse and Trina Throssel Smallwood, Chipola Trust members, donated a set of books titled, The War of Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. This was published under the direction of the Honorable Elihu Root, Secretary of War by Brigadier General Fred C. Ainsworth, Chief of the Record and Pension Office, War Department, and Mr. Joseph W. Kirkley, printed at the Washington Government Printing Office in 1901.

The set contains 128 volumes in a series of IV with a General Index. The books are marked as 130 volumes in the set, but Volumes 112 and 113 have not been published, thus no material for them is in hand. They are reserved to contain such additional material as it may be decided to publish in the future.

The information is in date sequence, covering a period of over four years, December 10, 1860 to April 16, 1865. Each volume contains an index for that volume. There is also a General Index, Volume 130, and Additions and Corrections by Mr. John S. Mooday, Indexer.

Homer Hirt, a member of the Chipola Trust also, contributed a library of Confederate Military History, in twelve volumes, written by distinguished men of the South and edited by General Clement Anselm Evans of Georgia. The series was published by Atlanta, Georgia Confederate Publishing Company in 1899. This is a facsimile Reprint

Edition from the original edition of 1899 by the Archive Society, c1944, 130 Locust Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Nine volumes are specific for certain states with these volumes being General History. All volumes contain illustrations. Most volumes have maps. Loose maps have been secured with archival tape into the book. There are several maps which appear to be missing.

There is no index. Each volume has an excellent Table of Contents by chapters and sub-titles within each chapter. The information is written in sequential order by year and date.

  • Volume I Part 1 and Part 2, General History
  • Volume II Maryland and West Virginia
  • Volume III Part 1 and Part 2, Virginia
  • Volume IV North Carolina
  • Volume V South Carolina
  • Volume VI Georgia
  • Volume VII Part 1 Alabama, Part 2 Mississippi
  • Volume VIII Tennessee
  • Volume IX Kentucky and Missouri
  • Volume X Part 1 Louisiana, Part 2 Arkansas
  • Volume XI Florida and Texas
  • Volume XII General History

The Chipola Trust is deeply indebted to Dale Guthrie, Clerk of the Circuit Court, who made available a series of secured shelves in the basement of the Courthouse where thousands and thousands of historical items are archived.

All books have been stamped by Archivist Nadine Standland with the Chipola Historical Trust ownership stamp and she has repaired several volumes.

The books are located in an area where they may be easily used for research and returned to their shelf, as is the case of any other historical records in the Courthouse.

The Chipola Trust invites anyone interested in research into ancestral Civil War participation to use these very informative volumes for their research and The Trust greatly appreciates these two families for sharing their collections of Civil War research information with the public.


Exciting Smithsonian Display in Blountstown

The Smithsonian traveling display featuring "The settling of America" has arrived in Blountstown at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement. Local displays will be added to the traveling display of free-standing collages showing all areas of American life as the country was settled by our people.

The local displays will feature stories about families in the area as they came and built their homes, raised their families and helped develop the counties in the area, as well as how they came to America from different counties.

The Chipola Historical Trust's display features the two families who responded to the request to submit their family history.

The Lovic Sexton Family came to the area in 1844 from North Carolina. Ironically, the log cabin built by Mr. Sexton, reportedly in the late 1860's or early 1870's is one of the homes which has been relocated to the Pioneer Village and restored. It can be seen by walking to the further-most point on the property directly behind the display building. It is a one room home, furnished as it would have been at that point in time. This is the family of Harvey Sexton, longtime Tax Assessor for Jackson County. Many family members still reside in Jackson and Calhoun Counties.

The other family who responded was the Dunaway Family who still lives on Nubbin Road where the family, who moved to Jackson County from Georgia, settled and built their home in 1906. This family came on the paddle wheeler, The M.W. Kelly, which brought them to Neel's Landing with all their earthly possessions. There is also a beautiful story about their ancestor, William Dunaway, born in 1751, who fought in the Revolutionary War in the 5th Virginia Regiment under General George Washington and later helped drive the British out of Georgia.

The Chipola Trust also features the river system of the Flint, Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers which served for many years as the "Interstate Highway System" for this area of America. There were no good roads, and all products produced in this area and those consumed, but not produced locally, had to travel on the river to their proper destinations. Also, any people traveling great distances had to use the river boats in order to move temporarily or permanently from one location to another. The story is told about the first cars being brought into Jackson County were unloaded at Neel's Landing (near where the bridge crosses the river on the way to Donaldsonville, GA). They had to be driven back to Marianna over buggy trails---there were no real roads!

The display will be open beginning Saturday, July 14th, and each Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. until August 25th. The Park is located about 3 miles west on Highway 20 from the traffic light on US 71 in downtown Blountstown. It is on the north side of Highway 20. There are signs directing to the park which features many relocated and restored homes, a church, an old one-room schoolhouse, an old store and other interesting relics from the past. It is an exciting and educational place to visit.

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