Spring Place had a cotton gin near the southeast corner of the 4-way stop at the Vann House from the early 1900s until 1964. Murray County historian Tim Howard says that the gin was owned at various times by men with family names Owen, Phipps, Vonberg, Anderson, Huffstetler, Bishop, and Gregory. He also said that fires damaged or destroyed the cotton gin in 1927, 1929, 1933, and 1964.
Conway B. Gregory owned and operated the gin when it burned in 1964. His son, Dr. B. Conway Gregory, who has lived with his wife Suzanne in Denton, Maryland since 1977, provided interesting details about his father's time operating the Spring Place gin.
Dr. Gregory said that his grandfather, B. A. Gregory bought the gin from the Bishop brothers (Jim and Henry) about 1944-46 for his son, Conway B. Gregory to operate. Conway took over ownership and operated the gin until it burned in February 1964.
Conway B. Gregory’s son described the equipment as "a three stand gin with a downpress, an office, and a large storage area for warehousing up to 100 bales of cotton. There was also a detached cotton seed house. The gin equipment was installed in the gin around 1934. Around 1960, my father improved the gin’s operating features by adding a dryer that would gin wet cotton, and a deboller that would remove the bolls from cotton picked by a cotton picker."
"My father once told me that, in order for a cotton ginner to make a profit, he had to gin over 1,000 bales a season. From the time my father owned the gin at Spring Place, he exceeded each year the number of cotton bales he ginned the previous year. His best year was 1961-62, when he ginned more than 2,400 bales of cotton."
"He charged farmers $11.00 to gin a bale of cotton. The average bale weighed more than 500 pounds. He would purchase the cotton ginned from the farmer, usually for between 26 and 28 cents per pound. He also bought the cotton seed that had been extracted during the ginning process. He then resold the cotton and seed at the cotton exchange in Rome, for about a nickel more per pound than he had paid the farmer."
Dr. Gregory said that farmers from all over northwest Georgia and southeast Tennessee brought their cotton to Spring Place to be ginned, because they liked his father.
"During the height of the ginning season, my father would run the gin 24 hours a day. Many times he was up all night ginning cotton and the entire area around the gin would have trucks loaded with cotton lined up to be ginned. Around 1960, he built a one room apartment with a bathroom and shower to the gin so he would not have to shut down the gin and come home and rest.”
Dr. Gregory distinctly remembers the event that killed cotton farming in this area. "The boll weevil struck with a vengeance in 1962 and devastated the local cotton crops. My father ginned just over 1,100 bales during the 1962-63 ginning season, or less than half the number of cotton bales ginned the preceding year. The next year was worse when the number of bales fell below 1,000."
After his cotton gin at Spring Place burned in 1964, Conway B. Gregory rented the Amos Keith cotton gin in Eton for the next season. During the 1964-65 ginning season, he ginned fewer than 800 bales of cotton. That was his final year of operating a cotton gin.
Across Murray and adjacent counties, many cotton farmers turned to raising chickens on a large scale.
Dr. Gregory, who was a senior at Murray County High School in the fall of 1967, remembers well watching the MCHS Homecoming Parade in Chatsworth, where he saw a float created by the Future Farmers of America that carried a very large, white chicken holding a sign that read "King Cotton Dethroned by a Cotton Pickin Chicken."
Note: The museum would like to have photos of the Spring Place cotton gin taken at any time to be permanently added to www.murraycountymuseum.com. If anyone has a photo of the parade float mentioned, the museum would like a copy.