1858 May Cotton Gin House and Gin Stands Restoration


| 3/12/2012 4:51:54 PM


Tags: Bill Friday, cotton gins, Tannehill State Park, May Cotton Gin House,

The cotton gin project that has seen the most recent progress is the May Gin House at Tannehill State Park, west of Bessemer, Ala. The house and contents were moved and re-assembled in 1991 from the May Plantation near Knoxville, Ala., about 20 miles to the west. The upper floor and walls of the house are all of new construction 1-by-12-inch pine lumber, and it now has a tin roof. Huge hand-hewn beams underneath that span the entire 34-foot width of the house width are original, as are the large corner and edge posts. The 1881 Gullett 50-saw gin stand that came with the house included an overhead mechanical feeder and condenser. Since the building was first constructed in 1858, this was not the original gin stand. There is a second gin with ORR cast into the bearing grease caps, but no manufacturer’s name. A sign provided by the park indicates that it was built around 1850 – and it looks like it! A ship’s wheel manual cotton press and a 600-pound capacity cotton scale are in the house, along with lots of other equipment, some cotton related and some not. These last items are from various donors around the state.

The Gullet cotton gin. 
The Gullet cotton gin.
 

The Gullett automatic cotton feeder. 
The Gullett automatic cotton feeder.
 

The Gullet cotton condenser. 
The Gullet cotton condenser.
 

Underneath the raised gin floor is an animal power system, most of which came with the house. This consists of a huge upright pine log trunnion that pokes up through the floor into the second story near the gins, with cross bar bracing on top and a steel spike bearing underneath. Two crossed beams that stuck through holes in the base of the trunnion were harnessed to four horses or mules in order to send power to the gin above. A 9-foot horizontal wheel is attached just under the floor above. A spur gear is wrapped around its perimeter, which is mated to a bull gear on the end of a horizontal shaft. This shaft carries an 8-foot wood pulley that also extends through a slot in the floor. A belt wrapped around this pulley went to the gin, and then returned to the lower side of the pulley through a separate hole in the floor. The trunnion post and horizontal shaft are original to the gin house, but the wheel and pulley are of new construction, patterned after the pieces of the original that are piled in a corner near the gins. A sketch of such a system in operation is provided.

Stabilizing the horizontal power shaft bearing block. 
Stabilizing the horizontal power shaft bearing block.