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Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

A cotton gin gets a new life


by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
There was a time in East Texas when almost every farming town had a cotton gin where farmers had their cotton cleansed of field debris and processed into bales that could be sold and converted into money that kept the family prepared for the winter months.

But most of the cotton gins have disappeared as relics of our agricultural past.

Thanks to the Depot Museum at Henderson, a cotton gin has now taken its place among other relics of the past, including a peckerwood sawmill, a dog-trot home, a railroad depot, an oil derrick, a working printing shop, a doctor’s office, a broom factory, a syrup mill, a carousel and an outhouse.

The cotton gin at Henderson was moved from Mount Enterprise, a community about 19 miles south of Henderson. For years, it sat beside U.S. 259, slowing rusting away.

Today, it occupies a prominent place beside the Depot Museum and the town’s library. It is one of the few restored gins in East Texas.


In their heyday, cotton gins were not only essential to the cotton economy; they became gathering places for townsmen and farmers alike. They came there to look at the year’s cotton crops, to exchange gossip and talk politics.

With their massive machinery, the gins were exciting to watch. Unprocessed cotton, usually straight from the fields, was dumped into one end of the gin and emerged as white bales that went to mills where clothing and other cotton goods were manufactured.

Sue Weaver, director of Henderson’ Depot Museum, said the restoration cost of the Mount Enterprise gin, once owned by Mark Bates, was around $100,000, plus dozens of donated services.

The gin was built on a concrete footprint of the Mount Enterprise gin. “We hope to make it a working gin when we’re finished,” said Weaver. “It’s the biggest project ever undertaken by the Museum.”

“Regrettably, we couldn’t save the original tin building. It had rusted over the years, so we had to build a new tin building,” said Weaver.

If you want to visit the Museum, drive to 514 North High Street in Henderson. You can’t miss the cotton gin beside the street.


Bob Bowman's East Texas June 14, 2009 Column

See Texas Cotton Gins


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East Texas
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