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HomeExploring the Past: Buena Vista, Marion County Heritage TourBuena Vista City Heritage Tour1. Stevens Cotton Warehouse

1. Stevens Cotton Warehouse

Located on the courthouse square, the Stevens Cotton Warehouse, built circa 1920, symbolizes the importance of cotton in Marion County.  It belonged to R.W. Stevens, who was an influential businessman in Buena Vista whose wealth accrued from cotton.

Stevens Cotton Warehouse, Buena Vista, GA. Photograph Courtesy of David Rush, 2016.

By the mid-nineteenth century, cotton was a key crop in Marion County and the American South. It was arguably America's most important commodity and made up a large portion of the global supply.  While production soared, Southern farmers increasingly depended on slave labor to meet global demand.

Cotton planting took place in early spring, when rows of seeds were placed three feet apart. Over the next six months, careful tending and weeding of the plants would take place. In late August, once the plant had bloomed, bolls of cotton containing the seed would give way. Men, women, and children worked the fields from sun-up to sun-down to harvest the crops. Fields were sometimes picked as many as 7 times a season as plants continued to develop bolls well into the fall and winter. 

Once the cotton was picked, it was dried before it was ginned. The cotton gin, a machine that separated the seed from the cotton fiber, allowed 50 pounds of cotton a day to be prepared, compared to one pound if done by hand. After removing the seeds, the cotton was then pressed into large bales and wrapped in burlap cloth. These bales were stored in large cotton warehouses to await shipment.

Submission composed by Paula Crawford-Corrick, April 16, 2016

References and Further Reading

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "Why Was Cotton 'King'?" The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. PBS. 2013.

Hillgard, E. W., Report on Cotton Production in The United States: General Discussion of Cotton Production. Department of the Interior, 1884.