What is: an abandoned cotton gin between Clarksdale and Friars Point, MS.
What was: Founded in the 1830s and continuing to operate into the 20th century, the King and Anderson Plantation was an enormous spread of seventeen thousand acres just northwest of Clarksdale and reputed to be the largest family plantation in Mississippi. Originally, large plantations had their own private cotton gins. Over time, the increasing number of smaller farms, the emergence of sharecropping after the civil war and new technologies led to the rise of public gins.
By the early twentieth century, large, public facilities that not only ginned cotton but also sold seeds to cottonseed oil firms, populated nearly every town and county in the state’s cotton belt. In addition to the economic function, public gins served a social function. “Trips to the gin provided farmers living in the far reaches of Mississippi’s counties with breaks in the tedium and solitude of toiling on small, isolated farms. The same gins served black and white farmers, and gin operators made no efforts to serve whites before blacks. While waiting in line to gin their cotton, farmers of both races came together to discuss pests, weather patterns, and prices. As shared public spaces, therefore, gins offered brief respites from the stifling confines of Mississippi’s racial caste system.” Source: https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/cotton-gins/.