It was a Small World for Milam Cotton
Editor's Corner by Mike Brown
Rockdale Reporter - 2016-04-14
Do you think farmers ever stand in their fields and dream ”who is going to eat this?”, “who is going to wear this?”, “will anyone think about where this comes from?”.
The answer to that question is probably “no.” The farmers I’ve known — and I’ve known a lot — aren’t given to dreaming.
That wastes time and farmers don’t waste time. They’ve got things to do, always and forever.
But just over 100 years ago, a Rockdale-area farmer did just that. Stood there at the gin and wondered where his cotton was going. His name was Louis Lewis.
Love that name.
So he did something I’ll bet a lot of people have wanted to do. He wrote a note on a little card and slipped it into a bale.
His note was simple. It said:
“My name is Louis Lewis. I am a farmer and I live on Rural Farm Delivery Route 6 near Rockdale, Texas. I grew this cotton.
“It was ginned Oct. 28, 1915 at Gus Backhaus’s Gin.
I got 11-1/2 cents a pound for my cotton. Whoever finds this note, could you please let me know.
“And can you tell me how much it brought at the mill?”
Many months went by.
I’ll bet Louis Lewis had forgotten all about it. Or maybe every once in a while he would look out at his fields and wonder “where did my cotton go and will I ever hear from my note?”
The answer to that one was yes.
One hundred years ago this week Mr. Lewis got a letter.
It was dated March 21, 1916. It was a from a man named William Glover.
Mr. Glover said he worked at the May Mills Spinning Company as an under carder.
(A carder disentangled, cleaned and intermixed fibers to produce a continuous web, or sliver, suitable for subsequent processing.)
Mr. Glover said he was looking at the floor of the May Mills mill and saw a little card. He picked it up.
It was Mr. Lewis’s note.
Mr. Glover provided his address as follows: William Glover, 640 Ormskirk Road, Pemberton Wigan, Lancashire, England.
Yep, the Milam County cotton had crossed an ocean and wound up a third of the globe away.
Glover provided a little more information. Lewis’s cotton had brought 7-1/2 pence per pound at the May Mills facility.
One pence in 1915 was about two U. S. pennies. So Lewis’s 11-1/2-cent-perpound cotton was worth 15 cents on the other side of the big pond.
Glover provided even more information. It seems Lewis’s bale of cotton was headed to the battlefront.
It was to be made into clothing for the French Army. “So it will do its bit to knock out the Kaiser,” Glover wrote.
It’s actually kind of sad to read that when you know what happened.
World War I had begun in August, 1914. So Glover’s country had already been at war for a year and a half.
But in Lewis’s country It was a “back pages” story.
How could Lewis know that in Rockdale and throughout Milam County there were young men, perhaps even working in his fields, who would be in the trenches of France the following year.
Some of them wouldn’t come home. We remember them here every May.
It’s a small world.
Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas