Cotton Then & Now
Cotton & Plantation Culture is the story told at Frogmore
Plantation, and there is cotton in the fields to pick from mid-July
through April; then planting begins anew. An 1800-acre working cotton
plantation, Frogmore has 18 restored antebellum structures that date
from the early 1800's. Along with the history of the early Natchez
planters and their slaves, the tour includes a rare Smithsonian quality
steam cotton gin. Optionally, the tour continues through modern
day plantation life, including the planting, harvesting, and
computerized ginning of cotton.
begins in a quaint log cabin of hand-hewn cypress timbers with a
history of the area Indians and early settlers. The floods of the
Mississippi, Tensas, Ouachita, and Black Rivers continually replenished
the topsoil at Frogmore, making it a lucrative venture for the Natchez
planters. The guide tells of the evolution of change, decade by decade,
beginning in the 1790's and beyond the War Between the States that
created a new lifestyle called sharecropping. The work habits and slave
customs are a main focus throughout the tour. A video depicting living
history re-enactments and the first Eli Whitney gin is part of the
orientation before the tour begins.
Smithsonian quality 1884 Munger steam gin is the next stop. Listed on
the National Register, this pre-civil war building houses rare Munger
equipment. Robert S. Munger was the first person to invent suction in
the gins, and also he created the continuous ginning system with the
double-box press, all patented in 1884.
Next stop is the sugarcane mill and barn filled with early hand-held
tools and mule-drawn implements. The nearby commissary is filled with
supplies, cotton sacks, baskets, scales & other utilitarian needs
of the 1800's.
Adjacent to the commissary is the overseer's cottage, an 1810
hand-pegged, cypress dogtrot furnished authentically. Benches on the
porches beckon visitors to relax momentarily overlooking the cotton
fields and sugar cane patch. Tourists can pick cotton all months except
May and June when the plants are still immature.
overlooking the cotton fields is the cooking cabin, the kitchen for the
slave quarters where the elder women kept their supplies to prepare the
communal meals for the slaves. The guide relates the blending of
African and European cuisine, and the African origins of much of
southern cooking on plantations, both historically and today.
Historical slave narrations describe daily meals, seasonal foods, and
special dishes on Sunday and holidays.
The living quarters next door has the original shingle roof and
ceiling rafters with the bark still on much of the wood. The 1840 cabin
is both an authentic slave cabin, and later a sharecropper cabin, and
each room is furnished respectively. The guide tells of the progression
of change in the architecture and décor. She then describes all
chronological chores that were secondary to cotton. Surprising facts
are revealed about the plantation mistress, the owner's wife. Her
handwork is evident in the washhouse & sewing cabin which houses a
spinning wheel, loom, quilting rack, ironing supplies, and rare 1800's
washing machine. A short stroll back to the plantation store (also gift
shop) passes the smokehouse, 3-hole privy, and pigeonnier.
Frogmore is also a modern, working plantation with a 900 bales-per-day computerized cotton gin.
forward to the present as you tour an 1800 acre modern day working
cotton plantation with computerized 900 bales-per-day cotton gin. Ten
months of the year, visitors can pick cotton and weigh it in. Spring or
fall, rain or shine, visitors experience ginning first hand via video.
Mid-September through the end of October, visitors can also view the
gin in operation along with the video to explain the process. Cotton
and cottonseed products, world production and statistics, and unusual
cotton facts are included in the modern-day tour.
"Buddy" Tanner was selected the most outstanding ginner in the U. S. by
the National Ginner's Association and currently serves as a delegate to
the National Cotton Council. He personally relates unusual products,
cotton techniques, and world facts to group tours, and he is almost
always available to answer questions for individuals as well. The
Tanners offer not only a comprehensive historical tour, but also pride
themselves on the agricultural, botanical, and industrial aspects of