Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
Cotton was first planted as a garden crop in Virginia in 1621, but after the passage of the Navigation Act by which King Charles II, planting cotton took hold as a primary cash crop.
In Georgia, cotton was planted in the “Trustees Garden” as a Royal Experiment in Horticulture as early as 1733. There were only two types.
They were the “Upland, “Wooly Seed” or “Bowed Georgia” green-seeded variety; and “Sea Island” or “Bald Headed Seed” black seeded plant.
The difference? The “Upland,” a short to medium length “staple” or fiber (up to 1 ¼ inches long), and the “Sea Island,” a much longer “staple” (up to 2 ½ inches long).
In 1775, Col. Philip Delegall of the Georgia colony cultivated “twenty-two acres of green seed cotton near Savannah in Georgia.”
Next, Josiah Tattnall and Nicholas Turnbull, established cotton plantations of their own on Skidaway Island, and James Gignilliat and John Du Bignon established cotton plantations further south.
Francois Levett brought Sea Island cotton plants to Georgia in 1807, most of which he planted on his Sapelo Island plantation. Levett sold the seed for 4 shillings and 6 pence per pound.
“Sea Island” cotton was used to make “Willimantic Thread,” the finest cotton on the market. In fact, it was so fine that a single thread could stretch more than 1,000 miles long.
Most of the Bulloch cotton was planted at first for home consumption. The short staple variety was used to produce wool or cotton batten for stuffing mattresses, while the long staple cotton was used to produce thread.
With the creation of the 36-saw-toothed cotton gin, a single machine in one day produced a 400-pound bale. This gin’s engine had one horse power, as one horse produced its power.
Bulloch County farmers took their cotton cash crops directly to Savannah in wagons or by railroad. In Statesboro, these cotton caravans lined city streets during harvest time as they gathered to head to market.
Whereas in 1850 only 594 bales of Bulloch County cotton were produced (each weighing 450 pounds), by 1860 there were 1,378 bales brought to market.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at email@example.com.