Cotton Warehouse History

A Presentation by Keith Ales

1945-1946

Federal Compress and Warehouse Company

A privately owned independent warehouse and storage for cotton bales, FCWC also rented warehouse space to tenants.

Buildings 1, 2, 3 were constructed with all wood (including floors), a concrete firewall between buildings 1 and 2, and a brick firewall between 2 and 3.

The company was licensed under the USDA's Warehouse Act, and federally bonded cotton receipts were negotiable as cash.

1949

Mr. John Watters helped pour the still-standing concrete firewall between buildings 1 and 2.  According to Mr. Watters, James Robertson was killed when a piece of angle iron fell during firewall construction. Mr. Watters also said buildings 4 and 5 were built in 1949.

Mr Watters worked at the Compress 43 years, retiring in 1989, holding numerous jobs including construction, loading, unloading, and night watchman (a spooky job!)

George Campbell, Jimmy Joe and Mike Campbell’s dad, was Superintendent for 35 years. Other superintendents include Mr. Mayes & Neva Mayes, Duck Oldham, Charles Herbison, and Charles Power.

Houston Potts Sr

Houston Potts Sr
Photo and article courtesy of
The Panolian

Mr. Richard Hudson was assistant superintendent from 1977-1995.

Others employed at the Compress were Mike Addington, Julius Morrow, Loys Darby, who was a nightwatchman, and Sara Thompson York, who worked as office manager.

Jimmy J. Campbell worked during summers while in high school and gave me several other names: Willie "Hi-Ball" Smith, Jesse Ferrell, and Knowledge Conner.

The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 made cotton production profitable by mechanically separating raw cotton fibers from the seeds.

The Warehouse Act provided a method of compressing cotton about 2/3 the size of the large "flat bales" that were produced by the many gins in this area.

Mr. Houston Potts came to work early in the mornings and started the steam operated presses.  Coordination was made with the city to turn on the gas for the presses. [Read article on Mr. Potts retirement] The smaller compressed bales could then be moved, using 2 wheel carts, into storage.

Then they were carted to the docks and loaded onto railroad cars at first. Then eventually trailer trucks were used instead of the railroad.

The warehouse issued storage receipts to the growers that had a number, name of Farmer & Gin. They sliced samples off the bales after weighing for producers to sell cotton buyers.

Hunter and Pelligrin were cotton buyers who had permission to build an office on the property.  Cotton was then sold and shipped to cotton mills in the Carolinas, and later some of it was sold and shipped overseas.

1970

Parker Hannafin leased building 5, later both building 4 and 5, to produce automotive air conditioning parts.  They raised or cut off all the support posts and poured a concrete floor in those two warehouses that had previously been wood.

The Compress office then moved from building 5 into the building where Danny Holland is now. 

1982

Danny Holland first rented the old Hunter and Pelligrin office which is the building charitable organization Helping Hands recently occupied prior to the flood in the April 2015. 

Danny started his cotton brokerage business after being in the farm loan business in Arkansas. He had previously been with Production Credit Association in Batesville.

Danny a short time later purchased the Compress office and 8 1/2 acres that included the water tower closer to Highway 35 S. 

The Hunter and Pelligrin building was included in the purchase, but it was in bad shape. Since it was still on property owned by the Compress it could not be torn down per the original deed from Federal Compress.

1990

Parker Hannifin moved to a new facility on Highway 6 East.  About that same time, Federal Compress sold to a group of local gins including Batesville Gin, Sledge Gin, Dixie Gin, Como Gin, Senatobia Gin and Ice, and Coldwater. These gins renamed the business "Batesville Compress & Warehouse."  

Names of those involved with the gins were Nolan West, Son Harris, Sledge Taylor, Harold Vaughn, Mike Bartlett, and perhaps others.

A new "universal density" (U.D.) press was developed to compress bales received from the gins. Prior to 2008, gins bought equipment and shipped cotton themselves, and most of the cotton warehouse became vacant.

2008

The original buildings, 1, 2, and 3 were torn down by Philip Thomas from Morrilton, AR.  He reclaimed the oak lumber from the 145,920 sq. ft. of buildings.  (After being in the flooring business for 40 years I know the value of reclaimed oak lumber!)  The brick from the firewall between buildings 2 and 3 was also reclaimed. 

The concrete firewall is still standing by itself.  The large press was in building 3, and is now on display inside the Farmer's Market in building 4.

2012

My background is with cars, having grown up around them with my dad, then earning a degree in auto tech from Northwest Community College prior to graduating from Ole Miss in Business Administration.  Danny and I started attending local car shows together with his truck and my cars.  We traveled to look at cars he saw in ads, and Danny eventually bought a 1957 corvette.  We talked about the interesting concept of a classic car dealership.  Danny didn't have a place to store his recently purchased Corvette, so he got permission to store it in the 77,000 sq. ft. metal building next to the old, empty Cotton Warehouse. 

When Dana, their daughter, moved to Asheville, NC in 2004 the idea of a farmer's market took shape when he saw one near there.  Danny was thinking about a productive use for that big, old, empty, dilapidated warehouse next to his property.

2013

Negotiations with Batesville Compress & Warehouse were finalized with Mr. Harold Vaughn, Sledge Taylor, and Mike Bartlett.  Danny purchased the 11 1/2 acres, the metal warehouse building, 88,000 sq. ft. remaining of the old Batesville Compress Building, and another water tower.  He and I continued shopping for cars and putting them into the metal building next to the grain elevator, which had also been used to store cotton by the local gins.

2015

In July 2015, the Farmers Market opened until October in building 4 of the Compress. In November we moved about 15 cars from the metal building, into the old Compress building 5.  The newer metal building was leased to Big Delta Power Sports. 

Many major improvements and repairs were made to the old building including decking and rafters on about a quarter of it, and new roofing on the entire building.  Columns and siding were replaced all around the perimeter, and others columns repaired inside where they are on 16 foot centers. 

The buildings were cleaned up, power washed, and equipment disposed of.  The re-press was put on display and the sprinkler system refurbished from a wet to dry system.  Most of the old air compressers were replaced.   All lighting was changed from 3 phase 480 volts, to single phase 240 and 120 volts. 

The bathrooms were reworked including plumbing and water heaters.  The front office was cleaned up, and Danny actually used it for his cotton brokerage business while his office was refurbished after the 2015 flood. 

The front was improved with decks and handicapped ramps and metal awnings.  The showroom glass was put into the wall for the classic car building, and overhead doors replaced in the farmer's market. 

Safety features include fire control, clearly marked exits, fire extinguishers, and a security system.  Heat was added to both warehouse ares and central heat in the office. 

Dennis Mangrum was in charge of all renovations, and Vernon Ferrell did the carpentry.