By Janet Morrison
Did You Know?
There were no commercial cotton gins in present-day Township No. 1 when the 1860 U.S. Census was taken, as well as I can determine. For purposes of that census, the county was divided into two “subdivisions:” west and east of the North Carolina Railroad. Since the railroad ran through Harrisburg, the community’s residents were not all listed together.
Cabarrus County was divided into townships in 1868 and Harrisburg has been in Township No. 1 since that time. When the 1870 U.S. Census was taken, there were five cotton gins in the township. Most of the gin owners were also farmers.
Samuel Dwight Morrison, a 29-year-old farmer with a wife and three young children, owned a cotton gin operated by four horses. The gin was in active operation only two months of the year and employed two males and one female. Morrison reported processing 69,990 pounds of seed cotton in 1869 valued at $4,196. His gin produced 24,000 pounds of lint valued at $5,400 and 45,990 pounds of cotton seed valued at $210.
Dwight Morrison’s 55-year-old father, Pinkney, also owned a cotton gin in Township No. 1. Powered by four horses, the gin employed three males and two females and was in active service for two months in 1869. It processed 27,800 pounds of seed cotton valued at $1,670 and produced 8,000 pounds of lint valued at $2,080 and 14,450 pounds of seed valued at $70.
Joseph R. Neisler also owned a cotton gin in Township No. 1 in 1870. It was powered by water. In three months of active operation in 1869, Neisler’s gin employed two males and processed 40,500 pounds of seed cotton valued at $2,430. The gin produced 13,500 pounds of lint valued at $3,120 and 20,000 pounds of seed valued at $122. Neisler also owned a cotton factory on Rocky River, which will be the subject of a future two-part “Did You Know?” series.
John N.D. Wilson was a 40-year-old farmer who operated a cotton gin in 1870 where Samuel Wilson had owned one in 1850. Wilson’s gin was powered by water. He employed four males over 16 years old and one child or youth. In the four months his gin was in operation in 1869, Wilson paid a total of $75 in wages. His gin processed 312,000 pounds of seed cotton valued at $18,720 and produced 92,400 pounds of lint valued at $24,024 and 6,260 pounds of seed valued at $959.
The other cotton gin in Township No. 1 was owned by Elam S. Teeter and was located on Reedy Creek near present-day Robinson Church Road. It was powered by water. In the four months the gin was in operation in 1869, Teeter employed one male over 16 years of age and paid a total of $75 in wages.
The gin processed 60,000 pounds of seed cotton valued at $3,600 and produced 20,000 pounds of lint valued at $4,576 and 40,000 pounds of seed.
In 1948, William Eugene Alexander wrote: “steam gins soon came into use along in the ‘70s [1870s]. The Harris gin at the Mack Harris place, and Benjamin Burleyson had one at Flowe’s store. Each of these gins was considered doing well if they ginned 400 bales in a season.”
He continued, “Cotton seed oil mills had not then come into vogue, and cotton seeds were fed to cows and used for fertilizer. Commercial fertilizer began to be used for growing cotton about the middle of the ‘70s [1870s]. In earlier days cotton was taken to market in wagons to Charlotte and other distant cities where there was water transportation to manufacturing places.”
Part III of this series will concentrate on the 1880s.
“Some Sketches of Rocky River Church and Vicinity,” by William Eugene Alexander, 1948.
Eighth Census, Cabarrus County, North Carolina – 1860, transcribed by Betty L. Krimminger and James R. Wilson, 1987.
Ninth Census, Cabarrus County, North Carolina – 1870, transcribed by Betty L. Krimminger and James R. Wilson, 1990.
By the Old Mill Stream, by The Stephen Cabarrus History Club, Harrisburg School, 1968.