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10. Farmers & Merchants Cotton Warehouse

Marion County is unique in being home to two antebellum courthouses and two cotton warehouses. Both warehouses are located on the Courthouse Square, indicating the importance that cotton had in the economy of the county.

Farmers & Merchants Cotton Warehouse, Buena Vista, GA.Photograph courtesy of David Rush, 2o16.

After leaving the cotton fields and prior to arriving at the warehouse, the raw cotton was first ginned to separate cotton fibers from seeds. Lowe (who owned the Farmers & Merchants Cotton Warehouse) and Stevens (who owned the Stevens Warehouse) co-owned a cotton gin in Buena Vista. After ginning, the cotton was baled and stored in the local warehouses.  Because cotton is flammable, the warehouse also included a built-in sprinkler system. Landowners and sharecroppers would negotiate the price of cotton at the warehouse. Having purchased the cotton from the farmers, both Lowe and Stevens would negotiate the sale of baled cotton to regional cotton mills, securing their proceeds in the walk-in safe at Farmers and Merchants Warehouse.  

Operated by three generations of Lowes, this cotton warehouse was constructed at this critical time in history. From the 1830s to the beginning of the Civil War, ‘King Cotton’ ruled the local economy and after having experienced several major agricultural depressions at the end of the nineteenth century, cotton production peaked again in Georgia at the eve of World War One (1917). By 1923 the boll weevil had ravaged Georgia’s cotton crop. Between 1923 and 1924, cotton production declined by 30%, propelling the migration of black and white tenant farmers. By the 1960s, world markets had turned their attention away from cotton and towards petroleum-based synthetic products such as nylon. By the early 1970s the Farmers & Merchants Warehouse was put to other uses.

Submission composed by Lexus Houston, April 16, 2016.

References and Further Reading

Bonner, James C. A History of Georgia Agriculture, 1732-1860 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1964).

Daniel, Pete Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures since 1880 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985).

Lowe, R. Oral Interview with Amanda Rees, April 2016.