Contributed by klstacy_home
Description: A Vindication of History - Cotton Gins in AlabamaDate: July 2 1885
Newspaper published in: Huntsville, AL
Source: Madison County, AL Library
Page/Column: Page 2, Column 2
A Vindication of History
Mr. S. P. Smith, of Prattville, writes to the Montgomery Advertiser, under date of June 25th as follows:
In “Julien’s” letter on the history of Prattville, published in the Advertiser several weeks ago, he makes the statement that Mr. Daniel Pratt was the first man who made a gin in Alabama. Colonel Gilmer shows that this is a mistake, as Dr. Merriwether made gins in Montgomery county before Mr. Pratt moved to the State. There were two men who made gins in Autauga country before Mr. Pratt came to the State. A Mr. Nelson had a small shop at Old Rocky Mount, on the road leading from Coosada to Old Washington, on a place now owned by Mr. Benjamin Gains I do not recollect Mr. Nelson’s given name. He was a great politician and a great talker, and was known to every one as orator Nelson. He was sometimes spoken of as Gin-Maker Nelson.
It is probable that Mr. Bolling Hall, of your city, can give some items of interest in regard to Nelson and his shop, as it was within one mile of his father’s old homestead in Autauga, now in Elmore County. I do not recollect the exact time when Nelson commenced in gin making at this place, but am satisfied it was early as 1824 or 1825.
In 1827 my father settled on Autauga creek, six miles west of Prattville. At that time a Mr. Mordica Harrison was living four miles north of Prattville, on a place now owned by the heirs of the late John Gibbons.—Here Mr. Harrison had a small shop where he made a few gins. Of course these shops were small, they had no machinery, everything was made by hand, and it is not probable that both shops turned out a half-dozen gins a year.
As far back as 1819 there was an active, important gin factory in Huntsville. Only a short while after, Mr. Caruthers and Mr. Rison were skilled workmen in the Huntsville factory. Mr. Samuel Crenshaw, of Limestone County, father of the late Terrell Crenshaw, Dr. Peter Freeman Crenshaw and Mrs. Eugene C. Gordon, was not only a gin builder but a great improver of gin machinery. He was the real inventor of those features of the gin which have made the name of Carver famous. He failed to patent his own improvements and thus lost the benefit of them. In the very early history of this section there was a large gin factory where there is now a mere vacant field of stubble, five miles from Athens on the Athens and Huntsville road, just where you turn off to go to the famous Cambridge Camp-ground.
Samuel Crenshaw was the builder of the well-known, superior town-clock at Athens, which was destroyed when the infamous Turchin uttered the historic phase: “Shuts mine eyes, boys, for two hours.”