INDEPENDENT OIL MILL

THE INDEPENDENT OIL BUILDINGS

215-217 RIVERSIDE 

IN 1840’s Benjamin Barr had his estate off West Main, he had moved to Jackson in 1836. He was an Irishman who came to America to make his mark. When he moved here he had a job working as clerk for Patton and Taylor. He took advantage of opportunities that came his way investing wisely. On the night of the West Tennessee earthquake Jan.4,1843 Benjamin married the wealthy widow Sarah Elrod. The new Mrs. Barr had a beautiful Victorian home and a vast amount of acreage off Main Street down the Bolivar Hwy. (Riverside Dr. ) Did I mention he took advantage of opportunities.

During the Civil War he was as a horse trader to both the Confederate and Northern Troops. After the war he became one the town leaders and wealthiest men. He died in 1890 over the years the land was sold off by the heirs. 

Eventually the home place was torn down to make way for the Independent Oil Company.

In 1935 F.B. Caldwell started the Independent Oil Co. Mr Caldwell would purchase the cotton seed from the cotton gins. The farmers had the choice to come back and get the seeds or sell them to the gin owner. The gin owner would then sell them to the oil mill. Mr Caldwell had done his research and saw a profitable business when he saw it.

He built a state of the art mill. The large pyramid buildings held the cotton seed the other buildings held the presses, refining equipment and containers for the finished product.wind

When I talked to different people I got many descriptions of what the oil mill did and the smells that could be smelled for miles. Of course that depended on the direction of the wind. Some said it smelled like peanuts or something bad cooking on your mother’s stove. Most said it was not always pleasant.

(Below is the results of my research done on History of the Cottonseed oil industry via internet and several articles written also via internet)

I discovered that the cottonseed oil mill was in operating before the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. Cotton is not only used for cloth after the cotton is ginned mills would reduce the seeds to four products linters, hulls ,oil , and meal.

Linters, the short fibers left on the seed after ginning ,this fiber is almost pure cellulose which is used in industrial fibers, surgical dressings and high quality paper products, During WWII and the Korean War the linters were used in the manufacturing of smokeless  powder for artillery shells. 

Hulls were used for roughage in  livestock feed. In the early days of the cottonseed mill the hulls were used for fuel for the mills. Then the ash from the hulls  would be sold for fertilizer or the  ash would be bleached to make lye soap. Some other uses for the hulls was mulch, packing material of sold to chemical manufacturers.

The meal after the oil was extracted was rendered to flakes,  cakes  or pellets used for a supplement for cattle feed because of the high protein content.

The first successful cottonseed mill in the U.S. opened in Natchez Mississippi in 1834. According to an old publication 1 part oil was mixed with 2 parts black pepper then cooked for 30 minutes cooled and bottled for liniment to use on sore muscles.

They would use this cooled mixture and add kerosene to use as liniment on horses.

From 1935 to 1967 you could ride down Bolivar Highway /Riverside Dr. and smell the oil heating. Then in 1967 the mill closed because of new regulations and the expense it would cost to update.

After the mill closed McCowat-Mercer purchased the property and after a massive clean up they use the buildings for their day to day operations. Then May 4,2003 when the winds came through downtown Jackson the buildings were damaged.

By working day and night the business was back up and running.

Now you know the story of the metal pyramids of Jackson.

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