I was up at 6.00 am this morning as there was a hot air balloon festival in Natchez this weekend and I was hoping to see some of them. Its appears that they were flying from a more remote place today and we couldn’t see any of them from the river. There was some good morning light on the bridge over the river so I had to be content with taking a photo of that.
Our on-shore excursion today was to the Frogmore historic cotton plantation and cotton gin. The first thing that I learned is that the word ‘Gin’ is an abbreviation off the word Engine. It is the machine that removes the seeds from the cotton boll. I, as did the Queen Mother, always thought that gin was something that you drank.
Frogmore is an historic, privately owned cotton plantation near Ferriday, Louisiana. It is both a working farm and a tourist attraction.
In July this year, a fire broke out at the plantation and caused the total destruction of the centuries old Frogmore Plantation House. Although the house wasn’t ever part of our visit it is a real shame to see a beautiful building that has an extensive history destroyed.
This plantation has an interesting business model. It does grow its own cotton, but it collects the raw, picked cotton in large round bales from nearby farms and gins them for free. However, it keeps the waste (seeds) which are then sold for crushing into cotton seed oil, fertiliser or animal feed.
At first ginning was done by hand and then later by steam driven machinery. We could see one of the original gins in an old historic building on the plantation. It is one of the very few still in existence.
There is a very large technical difference between that and the modern machinery now used to de-seed, and then comb, the cotton into what is called ‘lint’.
After ginning, the cotton is baled and then returned to the grower who sells it on the open market.
The plantation is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Some restored huts and buildings show how slaves lived and worked in the old days.
Once slavery was abolished, ex-slaves mostly became share farmers and were given 40 acres on which to grow cotton. They then split the funds from the sale of the cotton with the land owner.
Another thing that I have learned on this trip is that the things that look like crowns on the top of the riverboat funnels are called ‘flutes’ Their purpose was to break up the ash and the cinders from the boilers. The most prestigious river boats had very high funnels and this is where the term ‘highfaluting’ came from.
We were only in Natchez for the morning and we are now on our way to our last stop for this cruise at Baton Rouge.,