So the other day I was doing some research on Uncle Jerry’s spring, seeing if I could find any kind of information on it when I came across a picture of the historical marker in Palmyra. I knew where this marker was an I had read it once before but this time through something stood out.
Near here, at the “square” spring, is the site of Watson’s Cotton Gin Factory, where “articles manufactured are said to be unrivaled in their performance and durability.”
You know where this is headed… Lowry and I set out to find it. We went back to Uncle Jerry’s spring and began to look around. While digging through the brush Lowry recalled a trek in which her and a few friends had found a square spring once before while exploring the edges of the creek. A hundred feet of so through the woods, dodging thorn vines and kicking can, we came near a clearing. “If there was a factory, maybe they had to clear the woods for construction”, I thought to myself…
After we checked out the square spring, we spoke to the property owner and it turns out the previous owner cleared the land so so-much for my hunch but it all worked out anyway. The owner had heard that during the civil war confederate soldiers, in fear of Sherman bringing his men through the area, dismantled the mill and threw boulders into the spring to keep Union soldiers from being able to use it. It was a wonderful venture and we will continue to dig for information.
In 1843 Jesse H. Watson moved to Palmyra, Ga. In 1849 he was appointed Postmaster(1). The machinery for the mill was propelled by water taken from an underground spring originating from the near-by Indian Springs to the Kinchafoonee creek some 300 yards north. The limestone was cut back and the head of water raised high enough to run the machinery. In May of 1850 he placed an ad in the Albany Patriot looking for workmen for his Cotton Gin Factory. By 1852, testimonials began rolling in about the gins made at Watson’s factory. Most were boasting about the new rounded saw tooth Watson had patented, and it was even mentioned in the January edition of Augusta’s Southern Cultivator in 1854.
Unfortunately in April of 1857, an ad was placed in The Albany Patriot for the selling of Watson’s 10 acres west of the Kinchafoonee (to include his home, factory, and mill), 125 acres east of the Kinchafoonee, as well as 6 slaves, a road wagon, a lot of house furniture, and “other articles too tedious to mention” in order to pay back his creditors. The last I could see of Jesse H. Watson was a call to mail in the February 24, 1900 copy of The Albany Weekly Herald where he had mail that was undeliverable.
(1) Source: http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/lee/history/postoffice.txt