Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

Nona’s Stories: When the Cotton Gin Burned

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I wouldn’t tell this story, lest no one believe it, except that everyone in the family knows about it. And Ralph and Harry remember it well.

I was about six years old, and this happened in late summer when the cotton was being picked and ginned.

The gin was near Grandpa H.T. Saunders’ house in Trenton, and right on the railroad, for convenience in loading and shipping the baled cotton.

Late one afternoon Dad and one of the hired hands took two wagon loads—(these had high sideboards on them in order to hold enough cotton to make a standard size bale of cotton)- to town to be ginned. There were so many loads of cotton ahead of him that there was not time to gin our cotton that day. So dad unhitched the two teams from the wagons, leaving the wagons loaded with cotton in the gin yard, putting the teams in Grandpa’s lot—he had a big lot where he ketp a cow and his own horse, a fawn colored little mare named “Fanny.”

Dad and the hired hand, Jake Macky, walked the two miles back to our house.

In the middle of the night Dad woke from a “nightmare” in which he “saw” the gin on fire, many men fighting the fire—there were no fire trucks then like we now have—he “saw” men pushing our two wagons of cotton away from the gin our of danger. While he was telling Mother about the nightmare, and how vividly he saw all that was taking place, the telephone rang.

Dad and Mother were sleeping in the East bedroom, the telephone was in the living room by the front door—the living room was on the West side of the house. When Dad went into the living room, he saw the Western sky was glowing red—it was Grandma Saunders calling to tell Dad the gin was burning, but that some of the men had pushed both of our wagons of cotton out of danger. Everything had happened exactly as Dad had “seen” it in the nightmare. Dad dressed and walked the two miles to town to help fight the gin fire. We watched from the windows on each side of the fireplace in the living room—you can see these windows in the picture of our old home place I sent you recently. We lived East of Trenton.

Sometimes the red glow of the fire would flare up as the fire reached walls and roofs of the gin. Cotton fire is very hard to extinguish as it smolders for so long. All the bales of cotton had to be broken open and wet down. The blackened cotton was a big loss to many farmers. It was days before the smoldering cotton was finally wet enough to stop burning.

Men had to carry water in buckets from Grandpa’s house to wet down the cotton. Grandma Saunders made coffee and cooked meals for them as they fought the fire in relays. Dad stayed in town two days and nights as he helped, sleeping for short periods at Grandma’s.

After this gin burned cotton had to be hauled a much greater distance to be ginned and shipped by train.


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