The bale originally was owned by the great-grandfather of cousins Fred Jones and Jack Combs. C.C. Jones had a large plantation at what now is Jones Crossroads about seven miles east of West Point at the Troup-Harris county line.
“The story goes that a debt was owed on a mule by a sharecropper,” Fred Jones said. “My great-grandfather took the bale as payment on the mule.”
The bale, which retains its original metal ties, is estimated to have been ginned in 1870, five years after the Civil War.
“It’s remarkable they were able to get back into business,” Combs said of the family farm.
Time passed and C.C. Jones kept the bale on his farm. The sharecropper never paid the debt, and the mule died. The price of cotton went down, and it wasn’t economical for C.C. Jones to sell the bale.
“He just kept it,” Fred Jones said. “It sort of became a novelty.”
In 1904, the state began looking for the oldest bale of cotton to display at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. C.C. Jones traveled to the fair with the bale. After the bale returned home, it was stored in a warehouse in West Point until 1970, then donated to the state for display under the gold dome at the Capitol.
“For 35 years it was on display on the fourth floor of the Capitol,” said Kay Minchew, director of the Troup County Archives.
When the local museum was planned, she and curator Laurie Sedicino asked for it back.
“Until there is a state museum built, we will probably keep it,” Minchew said. “We’re excited to have it back in Troup County.”
Jennifer Shrader can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (706) 884-7311, Ext. 236.