Historical marker to honor Lubbock’s first cotton gin

Historical marker to honor Lubbock’s first cotton gin
Texas Tech University Southwest Collection photo

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Everyone that lives on the South Plains knows how important cotton is to our economy. Here in Lubbock, the historical commission will soon dedicate a state marker to the first cotton gin in the county.

A ceremony will be held October 5 to mark the spot of the first gin, opened in 1904, at 1719 Avenue A. The site is now the Caviel Museum for African American History.

The full release from the Lubbock County Historical Commission is below:

The Lubbock County Historical Commission will dedicate a Texas Historical Marker on Friday, October 5th recognizing Lubbock’s First Cotton Gin, which opened in 1904. Friday’s dedication and unveiling of the marker will be at 5:30 p.m. at 1719 Avenue A, near the Caviel Museum for African American History. The Caviel Museum will also host an exhibit of early cotton photos and memorabilia as part of First Friday Art Trail that evening.

For almost a hundred years Lubbock has been the center of the South Plains cotton industry. The first cotton crop in Lubbock County was raised by W. P. Florence in 1901, but his harvest had to be hauled to Big Spring for ginning. Municipal leaders recognized that a cotton gin would benefit Lubbock with the increased cotton production in the area. In the end Frank Wheelock, H. V. Edsall, W. Al. Carlisle, George and Kirch Carter, and W. G. Nairn were the main backers for the project, establishing the Lubbock Gin Company. Wheelock purchased the gin machinery in Dallas, which was shipped by train to Canyon and then hauled by horse and wagon to Lubbock. Wheelock also put up a three-acre parcel of his land on what then was the southeast corner of town. The gin opened in mid-December 1904 in time to process that year’s fall harvest.

The site of the first gin was substantially altered with the establishment of the Lubbock Cotton Oil Company and the Lubbock Compress Company in the 1920s, removing any physical evidence of its original location. Today the site would be approximately one to one-and-a-half blocks east of Avenue A where 17th Street would have extended. The Lubbock Gin Company operated until sometime in the 1910s; records suggest its machinery was relocated to Slaton “within a short time” after other competing gins opened in Lubbock. By 1931 there were 5 cotton gins within the city limits, two cotton compress warehouses and one cotton oil mill. From humble beginnings with a few farmers and one small gin, Lubbock has become a leader in the cotton industry. Lubbock’s First Cotton Gin marks the first step in such an impressive development.

Sponsoring partners with Lubbock County Historical Commission include the Roots Historical Arts Council, Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, Plains Cotton Growers, the Texas Tech Southwest Collection and the Bayer Museum of Agriculture.

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