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In Their Own Words

March 26, 1740

Stephens Noted Difficulty in Cultivating Cotton

Even this early in the history of colonial Georgia, William Stephens noted in his journal the problems associated with growing cotton as a commercial crop; problems that would be solved over fifty years later with the invention of the cotton gin in Georgia:

“…I betook myself again to Agriculture, and passed away a few Hours at the five-Acre Lot very agreeably, in improving it to various Purposes, as my Inclination or Fancy led me to conceive, hoping to come at an experimental Knowledge of what would turn to most Advantage, and be therefore worth my chiefest Care hereafter. Beside the usual Sorts of Bread-Kind planted, I thought Cotton deserved a Place not too scanty; at leastwise I would try, whether it would turn to any Account or not; for the West-India Cotton, which is perennial there, dies here every Winter (as I have found) and the annual Plant which will grow in this Country, produces plenty enough; and the Cotton is at least equal to the other, if not better; but so full of Seeds, that it cannot be cleansed by the ordinary Way of a Gin, nor by any other Means than picking out with Fingers; which is Work only for decrepid, old People, and little Children; for which Purpose Mr. Whitfield in- tends (he says) to provide a good Stock of it, for Em- ployment of the least of his Flock. …”

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, p. 541.