Our travels on the rivers have offered many interesting sights. Most have been either right on the river or within walking distance of a marina. Lately we have been able to expand our range. With the help of local courtesy vehicles and relatives of good friends we were able to see some great locations a little farther away.
Columbus, Mississippi was a gold mine of great side trips. I had been in the area in the 90’s and toured briefly but now it was time to share some great locations with Dearest and other Loopers. Our First excursion was to Waverly Plantation Mansion in West Point, MS. We borrowed a courtesy van from the marina and loaded 3 Looper couples and Toots for the short ride to Waverly. With me at the wheel we drove past the mansion but were treated to the Waverly recreational boat launch, which at one time was the location of the steamboat stop for the plantation. A quick turnaround and we were there. It seemed a little more overgrown than I remembered from my first visit.
But, still the sight of the mansion is impressive. As we approached, I first noticed an elderly gentleman sitting in the sun on the front porch. “Hello, would y’all like to see the house?” a quick smile and handshake later we were escorted through the front door to meet Jimmy, the curator and guide. Jimmy informed me that the gentleman out front was Mr. Snow the owner of the property. Jimmy also told me that Miss Melanie was busy and that he would be offering the tour today. Miss Melanie did make an appearance and welcomed us all to their home. I remembered her from my first visit. She was embarassed by her appearance and very apologeti.,She had been cleaning in preparation for the return of a film crew that was in the process of completing a documentary on the mansion in hopes of gathering support for the on going restoration.
Jimmy lead us throughout the first floor and the back of the Mansion giving explanations to room decor and the original uses for each room. Taking of pictures was not allowed inside of the home but any picture taken from the outside looking into the home was OK.
Jimmy explained that the family was only allowed to show the first and second floors. This was because of their being only one staircase to the top two floors. Insurance carriers would not allow them for public viewing. After his tutorial on each of the bedrooms and relating stories of ghost sightings, we were left to explore the second story on our own.
We were invited to walk the grounds at our leisure. Here Toots got her first chance to stalk and point a peacock. She did not care that it was in a pen.
As we gathered to leave I related a story from my first visit to Miss Melanie, and as my reward, received a kiss on the cheek, and genuine thanks for remembering the moments. Cynthia was talking with Jimmy and Mr. Snow and when I looked around for her, Dearest was also receiving a heartfelt hug and kiss. We arrived as interested tourists and left as friends of the family.
Later that afternoon we were met by Dale Weaver, the younger brother of close friend Lois Weaver. Dale explained that his “big” sister had asked if he would be able to show us some good “southern hospitality”. “Would you like to see a Cotton Gin?” “SURE!”
We went to Bogue Chitto Gin. Dale explained that Bogue Chitto was Choctaw, loosely defined as big creek. When I asked why it was called a Gin and no one knew. I “Googled” it and Ginning was a household word used for separating cotton fibers from the seed.
We were introduced to Doug Dahlem the Gin Manager and handed safety glasses and ear plugs.
I found the whole process very interesting and Dearest must have also, because we both forgot and never asked whether we could take pictures. I will try to describe the tour as best I can.
As we left the office Cynthia found a cotton plant that had been discarded. It was a great example of the progression of the bolls. I did not know that the cotton bolls bloomed from the bottom of the plant to the top. In the fields the plants are cut to prevent them from growing tall, no more sitting in tall cotton. The cutting forces the plant to focus on the bolls closer to the root rather than the stalk. Dale explained that prior to picking, a defoliant was sprayed on the plants forcing it to drop the leaves. Dropping the leaves allowes the mechanical pickers to pick and not leave green stains on the cotton fibers. Any discoloration reduces the value of the cotton.
As we entered the Gin a flatbed truck was backing in with a “module” of cotton. The module is the large rectangular bail that you might see shrink wrapped along side a field. Again new technology has changed what we are used to seeing. John Deere has designed a picker that will make a round bail. The new picker picks and wraps the cotton with less labor and man hours than the old modules we have seen.
Once off loaded from the truck the large cooton bail is conveyed in to a machine that breaks apart the module and starts the separating process. Lots of air is used to blow the cotton up and over to rollers that move the cotton, separating sticks and ultimately the seeds from the fibers. When the seeds drop out the remaining fibers are then compressed into individual small bails about 500 pounds each. A sample of each 500 pound bail is sent to Memphis for analysis and grading. While in full production the gin will process one, 500 pound bail every minute and a half. The farmers get their pay from the sale of the cotton. The Gin makes it’s money by selling the seeds that have been separated from the fibers to be made into oil.
Sorry for the lack of pictures, makes it like a middle school report.
Dale then took us to Macon, MS and showed us their library. What makes this library special? It was the former jail, and still has the bars on the windows of the second floor. Not only does it have bars on the windows, but it has a gallows on the third floor. What kid wouldn’t want to check out a book from inside the jail or be dared to stand on the gallows doors without dropping through. Officially there is no record of the gallows ever being used.
Down river a few miles we stopped near Pickensville and the Bevill Lock and Dam. The lock and dam has a visitors centers that was completed in 1985 and built to depict the time period between 1830-1860. Throughout the visitor center there are antiques and reproductions of antiques from that period.
Outside the visitors center is the retired snag-boat Montgomery. Built in 1925, it is a paddle-wheel steamboat that worked the area until 1982. Unfortunately we found the boat was closed for touring. But we were able to wander around a view the outside.
We are seeing many new places, meeting friendly people and learning more about the areas we are passing through. Currently we are waiting out the cold weather in Demopolis, AL. It would be a 2 or 3 hour car ride from here to Mobile AL. We are looking at 3-4 days by boat. But that’s OK we are not in a race – it’s the journey not the destination.
Here is a sunset from Dale Weavers front yard. His house is built where our good friend Lois Weaver grew up. Hope you can remember the view Lois, this one is for you.
If you would like to donate to help with the restoration of Waverley Plantation Mansion look for them on facebook or Google, Friends of Waverley Plantation Mansion.