Historic Cotton Ginning

While you are visiting Cotton Ginning Days, be sure to notice the Wilson Engine Shed and the Lankford Cotton Gin Building. The Lankford Cotton Gin Building is named in honor of Mr. H.C. Lankford who purchased the ginning equipment and permanently loaned it to GAMTRA to be displayed at Dallas Park. Mr. Lankford died in November 1993, just over a month after the 1993 show. His advice and conversation are greatly missed by all of the members.

Designed as a replica of an original located in central Georgia, the cotton gin building is made of post and beam construction. Mortises and tenons were used and were pegged together with white oak pegs; this makes for a long-lasting structure.

Many hours were spent during a two and one-half year period, patiently hewing away at mammoth timbers using many traditional tools as well as some modern inventions. We got to know quite well the framing chisels, slicks, mallets, and glut. Also, various kinds of saws were used by many for the first time.

On September 28, 1991, with the help of McMillan Crane of Dallas, we began to erect the building. We just finished the building and the installation of equipment in time for the 1992 show. A 1900 single-strand, hand-fed Continental Cotton Gin had been refurbished and was in operation. A companion screw-operated bale press has been completely restocked and refurbished and was in operating condition. This equipment is powered by the 37 and a half horsepower Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine located in the Wilson Engine Shed.

We began ginning cotton in 1995!

Festival History

This festival was started in 1988 to preserve the heritage of blue-collar workers in the South and provide patrons an experience of life as it was lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s around Gaston County. The focal point of this annual 3-day fall festival is a restored operational cotton gin on a permanent exhibit in the Gaston County Park in Dallas. Today more than 50,000 people are drawn here to see more than 300 exhibits of antique agricultural and textile machinery from all over the Southeast.

History buffs will want to visit the 19th Century barn, homes, kitchen, chapel, and blacksmith shop on permanent display at the County Park at Dallas along with the "Heritage Arts Area". Visitors will have an opportunity to learn about the history and the restoration process of the structures. Artists will also be on hand in this area, demonstrating their works, which will include blacksmithing, spinning, weaving, basket weaving, instrument making, and many other crafts.

This is a unique festival that celebrates Gaston County and North Carolina history, so come join us for all the fun and excitement this year at Dallas Park just off of Highway 321! For more information, please call the Gaston County Recreation Department at 704-922-2160.

A Local Legacy

The Trail of Tears Pow Wow in Kentucky, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Gaston County's own Cotton Ginning Days are just a sample of the more than 1300 traditional activities and events selected by members of Congress as Local Legacies to celebrate the bicentennial of the Library of Congress in 2000. Representative Sue Myrick's Office selected Cotton Ginning Days to participate in the Local Legacies Project, a joint effort by Congress, the Library of Congress, and communities throughout the nation to document their local customs and heritage and send the results to Washington for safekeeping.

Gaston County Parks and Recreation and GAMTRA (Gaston Agricultural, Mechanical, and Textile Restoration Association) representatives, along with special assistance from Forestview High School Students and Gaston County Department of Travel and Tourism, compiled photographs, a video, and a written report documenting the goals and history of Cotton Ginning Days for the Local Legacies project. The documentation was sent to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC where it was cataloged and archived by the American Folklife Center as a snapshot of America at the turn of the 21st century. The Cotton Ginning Days material is part of the permanent collection of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, so future generations can learn about the past and our attempts to present a living history of life as if were in the early days of the 20th century.

This once-in-a-lifetime project was supported by three-fourths of Congress and 4000 Americans, representing projects in every state. For more information on the Local Legacies project visit the Library of Congress website.