Cotton Then & Now
Historical 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.
The tour 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.
The 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.
Also 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.
Journey 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.
George "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 the tour.