of old cotton gins dot the
landscape of East Texas,
the last relics from the days when cotton
was a major cash crop for farmers.
And most of them are slowly rotting away without historical markers
to remind people of how important they were to communities decades
But that isn’t the case at Point, a small town of some 700 souls
in northern Rains county.
a sturdy old gin has found a new life as an entertainment venue
that draws crowds from all over East
Texas. Performers like Mark Chestnut, Pee Wee Walker, and Gary
Busey perform regularly in the gin.
And the sounds of the Saturday night music and comedy go out on
the air waves of the best named rural radio station in Texas--KMOO
of Mineola. You’ll find
it at 99.9 on your radio dial.
The old cotton gin sat unused beside U.S. Highway 69 since the 1970s,
when it stopped ginning cotton
for Rains County’s farmers. But about five and a half years ago,
Brent Cason and his mother and father, Lena and Joe Ben Cason, saw
something different in the dirty, neglected old building.
With the support of Point’s people, they turned the gin into The
Cotton Pickin’ Theater and opened it to music performers of all
Today, each Saturday night, the old gin comes alive as people drive
to Point for some of the best entertainment in East
While country music is the mainstay at the gin, the second and fifth
Saturday nights of each month are devoted to gospel music. And on
the fourth Saturday night, the Rural American Idol contests pulls
in contestants from all over the map. Performers come in all sizes
and ages, from three years old to 85.
one really knows when Point’s gin was built, but it probably dates
back to Point’s beginning.
The town began
as a flag station and post office around 1880 on a section of the
Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad from Mineola
Residents proposed the name Rice’s Point for William Rice, a Kentuckian
who settled in the area, but the post office rejected the name and
several others because they were already in use.
In 2006, Point opened another landmark, also related to the community’s
A large monument, sitting beside the old cotton gin, was built to
recognize the establishment of the National Farmers Union by Isaac
Newton Gresham at Point in 1902.
Founded to address farm issues during a time when America was courting
the American industrial revolution. Gresham was a small town newspaper
editor who was sympathetic with the problems faced by small farmers
around the turn of the century.
Today, the NFU has a membership of 250,000 farm and ranch families
in 26 states and continues with Gresham’s mission of protecting
the economic well-being of farmers and ranchers and their rural
Meanwhile, the Point gin keeps on ginning--not with cotton,
The other day, however, Joe Ben Cason found a survivor of the old
cotton days--a live boll weevil.
No one knows how he survived or why he stayed.
Maybe he just
liked the music.