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  Hist. Cotton & Pltn. Culture
  The Plantation Civil War

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Historical Cotton & Plantation Culture

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. Cotton and cottonseed products, world production and statistics, and unusual cotton facts are included in the modern-day tour.

The Plantation Civil War: Challenges and Changes

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Frogmore Plantation is offering a special tour - a concise but complete history of the Civil War on plantations, including causes beginning with our constitution, conflicts between Confederates and Unionists, economics and politics that fueled the fires, and effects on slaves and owners. This tour does not discuss battle strategy, but does include the Union army regime and takeover of the Natchez District. Frogmore was the site of encampment and skirmish for 1,776 Union troops led by Col. Bernard Farrar including the Illinois infantry and heavy artillery. The old Natchez District included Eastern Louisiana, and many plantation owners were Union, not Confederate sympathizers. Text includes effects of federal army occupation on area plantations, federal corral in Natchez for freed slaves, Confederate guerrilla activity against Union planters, and the effects of the war on the women & children left behind, along with the plantation crops, gins, and food supplies. (This tour has no duplication with other tours offered at Frogmore.) (Group tours may optionally have live vocalists incorporating the Civil War era songs of the slaves and freedmen who joined the armies.)