Cotton Gins of Conover
and the Catawba Valley
A typical cotton gin building (Toluca, NC, 2008)
THE FIRST GIN IN CONOVER
The first ginning operation in Conover was in the late 1920's. The first gin was owned and operated by Bob and Lee Connor, Knox Carpenter, John Abel Isenhower and J. A. Yount. It was located on the now site of the Conover Post Office. These men also owned gins in Hickory, Highland, Mombo and Claremont. However, this gin would burn in the early 1940's. James P. Isenhower then bought the gin business of Conover, around 1945. A new Conover gin was built on a lot near the 1-40 bridge on the county home road. The photograph of this gin shows Clyde Rudisill at the business.. It would close around 1954.
THE J. A. YOUNT COTTON MILL
This mill, in Conover was located near the Superior Oil Company, was built in the 20's and would operate until the early 1930's. On the mill property were 18 small mill houses. These would house the families that were employed at Yount mill. After the mill closed in the early 1950's, it was used as a warehouse for nearly 7.000 bales of newly ginned cotton. Another Isenhower business was the Newton Bonded Warehouse and the Newton Oil and Fertilizer Company. Cotton was also ginned at this company. These were used to hold cotton for the market pricing, then sold to cotton spinning mills in the area. During the war years, with so much cotton in demand, students of local schools and nearby colleges, along with the black population, were used to pick the huge volume of cotton.
Yount cotton gin building in Conover
Yount Cotton Mill - 1923
former Yount Cotton Mill - 2008
Like many of the old textile businesses, the company provided housing for its employees. The rent was cheap but the houses provided little more than subsistance living. The company often provided a company store where employees could purchase food and household items and pay for them with a payroll deduction. This way, the company was able to keep steady employment, lest the worker leave and owe a great deal.
Yount Mill company housing
A cotton ginning operation, ca 1940
Map of Yount Cotton Mill, SE Conover (note location of Bolick Buggy Shop)
LISTING OF GINNING OPERATIONS
The farming of cotton in Catawba County began as early as 1869. H. F. Carpenter of Newton ran a very early gin. R. A. Gabriel operated the first in the Terrell area. The gin was built around 1904 and burned in 1942.* It was re-built in 1943 and would run until around 1963. A Mr. J. G. Morrison also had a gin near the Long Island Mills.
In Drumville, a early east Maiden community, also had ginning facilities. There was the Smyre-Huitt gin in Claremont, later owned by J. P. Sigmon. It was located on a site back of the now, BB&T bank. Here in the town was the Yount-Herman Gin and another gin run by W. A. Hoke. There was the Erwin-Pitts Ginning Co. in Catawba.
Known cotton ginning operations in Catawba County.
THE CONOVER GIN, AND CONOVER GIN #2 KILLIAN X-ROADS GIN CO. At NC 16/150
(Killian family owned)
NEWTON OIL AND FERTILIZER COMPANY CATAWBA GIN CO. J. Mackie, owner (Mackie Motel) GABRIEL GIN, Terrell (see note) BANDYS X-ROAD GIN CO. (Mackie & Drum, owners) J. G. MORRISON GIN, Long Island BLACKBURN GIN CO. E. G. Scronce, owner, Highlway NC10 S. DRUMVILLE GIN, Maiden COULTER AND CO. GIN. Startown, Near Prospect Methodist Episcopal Church SMYRE-HUITT GIN, Claremont ANTHONY-RUDISILL GIN CO.
Hickory- Lincolnton Highway.
YOUNT-HERMAN GIN, Claremont CLEVELAND GIN CO.
Near County line and highway NC10.
J. P. SIGMON GIN, Claremont WRAY GIN CO, Highway 10 South W. A. HOKE GINNING CO. Claremont LONG ISLAND GIN CO. Long Island
J. G. Morrison, owner.
ERWIN-PITTS GIN, Catawba SIGMON GIN CO. Oxford at River-bend Road
and NC 16.and 10/127
HIGHLAND GIN, Near Highland school, Hickory. Unnamed GIN ( @ X-Roads) THE MONBO GIN CO., Longisland, NC BOYLES GIN CO, Toluca THE MAIDEN GIN, located near the Post Office.
* TERRELL GIN DESTROYED BY FIRE
The R. E. Gabriel and Sons cotton gin at Terrell was destroyed by fire Tuesday afternoon, according to reports today. Lightening during a thunder storm that afternoon was advanced as the cause of the fire, but this was not definite.
The gin was a fairly new one, having been in operation the last two ginning seasons. However, a part of the machinery had been used for a short time before bought by the Gabriels. The plant was not in operation at this time, but would have been started when ginning season begins in September.
The plant was said to have been one of the largest in the country and served a large cotton producing section of the Eastern part of the county. It contained three gin machines. Some insurance was reported carried on the concern which was owned by R. E. Gabriel and sons, Thad and Harold Gabriel, of Terrell, who operated it. Information as to whether the plant will be reestablished was not available here today. [The Newton Observer July 9, 1942]
Special thanks to Don Barker and Jim Isenhower who provided this material.
All photos courtesy of Don Barker
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