Blakely Steam Engine
Blakely Plantation
Vicksburg, Warren County, Mississippi

From the time I was six years old , I took the school bus to Redwood School until I graduated in 1954. The bus drove through the Blakel y Plantation land and passed their home which occupied a ridge mostly hidden from view by large hardwood tries. There was a certain mystery about the home and the occupants We knew the family dated back to pre-Civil War times, however the children of the current family did not attend Redwood School. Over the years my father and D. C. Blake became friends. Mr. Blake was often involved in some project that need a piece of equipment or a repair and my father loved to take on the challenge of creating or repairing something out of the ordinary.

Bogle (photo provided by Nick Blake)

On a visit home I was told of a project the family had undertaken. They were building a sailing ship based on plans they had obtained from the Smithsonian Museum. They had decided to limit the materials and tools as much as possible to lumber cut on their land and to use hand-tools they had made for themselves. The Yazoo River was not too far from their home, so they planned to haul the boat to the river, attached temporary outboard motor and take the ship to New Orleans and sail it in the Gulf of Mexico. When I heard this I urged my father to take me for a visit to see this project. We went there and were very kindly received. They generously took us around the project and answered the many questions we had. I was blown away by some of the walnut and persimmon hand planes they had made. The deck was walnut. The mast had come from a tall tree in their forest. They obviously greatly enjoyed the project, I told them it seemed to me that, "everyday is Saturday." The boat was christened, "The Bogle." A wonderful detaied article about the boat building history of the Blake family was written by Nick Blake. It is published here.

https://smallboatsmonthly.com/article/generations-2/#comment-4189

Mr. Blake told me he was involved in another project, the restoring of a steam engine which had been used to power a cotton gin from before the Civil War. He had constructed a walnut paneled building near the house to house the engine. I told him of my interest in steam engines and he kindly gave me a tour. It was a magnificent restoration. He provided me with a little self-made booklet with pictures. They are reproduced below in the Gallery. He had no information about the manufacturer as the name plate was missing. The gin dates to about 1849-1853 according to information in Benson Blake's diary.

After conducting some research it is my belief this steam engine was made by the American Machine Works. This is the manufacturer of the boiler cap contained in Mr. Blake's photos. Here is a entry from the New England Farmer (Boston, Massachusetts)14 Jun 1851, Sat. Sadly this Springfield, MA, company was known to be pro-slavery as many of its customers were southern plantations.

 

A second entry in the New England Farmer (Boston, Massachusetts)29 Jan 1876, Sat seems to confirm this. Tyler was awarded a Silver Medal for the Best Truss Engine by the American Institute of New York in 1855. It is possible the Blake engine was one of these. The American Machine Works were very well-known for their firearms. The supplied weapons and equipment at many armories of the time.

It is likely the steam engine was shipped out of Boston to New Orleans, then by steamboat up the Mississsippi River to Vicksburg and finally by wagon and mules to Blakeley Plantation.

 

 

 

From a document written by Mr. Daniel Carmichael Blake (1917–1982).

The color photos are of the Blakely cotton gin steam engine partly restored as of June, 1978.

The engine is of 10-inch bore and 25-inch stroke. The slide valve is as long as the cylinder. The valve rod is made thin to flex just outside of the stuffing gland. Flywheel is one piece casting 8-foot in diameter; rim is 15-inches wide.

The throttle valve that was actuated by the governor beam is missing. The name plate that was at the base of the governor is missing. There is no lettering on engine anywhere. Oilers for inboard main bearing, cross-head slippers and steam chest are missing. Cylinder drain cocks are missing.

The black and white photo of the engine in the gin shows a later type governor in place of the throttle valve, the name plate, and line shaft drive. This photo and the one of the gin building were taken by Mr. Charles A. Bennett about 1935. Other photos show the slide valve arrangement and cast iron boiler head of one of the two original boilers. The last time the gin ran was perhaps 1915.

Benson Blake owned three cotton plantations, one of which was Blakely, where this engine was located. It appears that the gin he was building in 1853 was the third gin to be on Blakely as in his diary in 1844 and after he often mentions the gin field and the old gin field in the same sentence. It is not clear whether the engine was new or from his old gin.

The following are quotes from the diary of Benson Blake:

“1841, Nov. 11th—Sold Whatley 277 yds of bagging, 640 lbs of rope, one bundle of twine at Vicksburg prices of this date.
1849, Aug. 30th—The gin is running.
1852, June 22nd—Cleaning up the gin house ready for ginning.
1853, Jan. 24th—Finished picking cotton on fifteenth but still ginning.
1853, April 12th—About 45,000 bricks made.
1853, June 13th—Hauling sand and lime for gin house. Ready to lay off foundation.
1853, June 20th—Gin house foundation started.
1853, July 17th—Stack not half done and gin timbers not all out.
1853, Nov. 20th—The framing of my gin most done. The boilers brought home and the brick masons making cisterns and ready to set the boilers.
1853, Dec. 25th—The new gin, the boilers and engine up, the machinery all at the spot, the brick work nearly all done. The frame not half up.
1854, March 13th—nothing more done to the gin house. The frame up and the mill and saw have been running since the first of February. (He was sawing lumber to make gin house).
1854, Sept. 14th—The gin house not yet done. William has been sick. Scaffolds not finished nor the press up nor the stands set.
1854, Oct. 20th—My gin is running and doing well.”

The gin was being torn down in 1940 and at that time D. W. Blake loaned the engine to Mr. Charles A. Bennett, Principal Agricultural Engineer, U.S.D.A. Mr. Bennett put the engine on display at Stoneville, Miss. where it remained until it was returned to me in 1974.

An article by Mr. Bennett in the August 11th, 1956 issue of The Cotton Gin and Oil Mill Press mentions the gin and shows a photograph of it.

Authentic information is needed on the missing parts.
D. C. Blake, Box 68, Redwood, Miss. 39156

About this Item

Title
Blakely Gin, Blakely, Warren County, MS
Contributor Names
Historic American Buildings Survey, creator
Blake, C Benson
Created / Published
Documentation compiled after 1933
Subject Headings
-  cotton gins
-  Mississippi -- Warren County -- Blakely
Notes
-  Survey number: HABS MS-138 
Medium
Photo(s): 3 
Data Page(s): 2 
Call Number/Physical Location
HABS MISS,75-BLAK,2-
Source Collection
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)
Repository
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Control Number
ms0168
Rights Advisory
No known restrictions on images made by the U.S. Government; images copied from other sources may be restricted.  http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/114_habs.html
Online Format
image
pdf
Description
Photo(s): 3 | Data Page(s): 2

The first evidence available to the U.S. Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory is a wooden cleaner constructed by a gin hand in 1840 at the Blakely Plantation Gin a few miles north ... steam engine, which is on display at the Blakely Plantation.

 

Blakely Gallery

Note to Mel Oakes from Daniel Blakely.

Document from D. C. Blake

Comment in Journal of Cotton Gin and Oil Mill, August 11, 1956.

Historic American Buildings Survey James Butters, Photographer August 26, 1936 FRONT (SOUTHWEST VIEW) - Blakely Gin, Blakely, Warren County, MS

Blakely Steam Engine.

Blakely Steam Engine

Blakely Steam Engine

Blakely Steam Engine Governor

Blakely Steam Engine Governor

Blakely Steam Engine Governor

Blakely Steam Engine, slide valve at top, intake and exhaust manifold in middle.

Blakely Steam Engine, operation: Steam enter through a flange at the top of the steam box, it continues around the slide valve, exerting force on the valve to keep it in contact with the valve opening surface.When the slide valve is in the position shown steam passes through the left port into the piston chamber on the left, exerting a large force on the piston top. On the right side of the piston, the pressure drops since the slide valve has provided access for this steam to the outside. Note the steam moves through the righthand port into the cavity inside the slide valve and back into the valve housing and out the exhaust port.

The slide valve is moved back and forth by a rod connected to the drive wheel. As the slide valve moves to the right it will exposed the left port to the high pressure steam. Now steam will enter the cylinder on the left side of the piston and drive it to the right. The right side of the slide valve now covers the two ports at right permitting the steam to reach the exhaust port. When the slide valve moves to the left the reverse happens. (Many thanks to Nick and his father, Daniel Blake for this explanation.) You can see the the slide valve and its chamber in the photo above this one.

Similar slide valve steam engine. The difference is the center exhaust chamber, E, is divided into two openings rather than the one shown here. Also the slide valve has two chambers, SV, one at each end.
An animation can be seen here. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8f/Steam_engine_slide-valve_cylinder_animation.svg
(Thanks to Christina Ross and the volunteers at the London Museum of Water and Steam for their reference to this annimation.)

Blakely Gin House

Historic American Buildings Survey James Butters, Photographer August 26, 1936 FRONT (SOUTHWEST VIEW) - Blakely Gin, Blakely, Warren County, MS

Picture of Blakely Gin in Journal of Cotton Gin and Oil Mill, August 11, 1956, December.

2. Historic American Buildings Survey James Butters, Photographer August 26, 1936 (GROUND FLOOR) DETAIL PRESS (LOOKING SOUTH) - Blakely Gin, Blakely, Warren County, MS

3. Historic American Buildings Survey James Butters, Photographer August 26, 1936 (SECOND) DETAIL PRESS (LOOKING EAST) - Blakely Gin, Blakely, Warren County, MS

American Machine Company, Springfield, Mass

A typical horizontal steam engine, 1848. From Scientific American, Volume 4 (4 November 1848), page 54.

Blakely Steam Engine.

1. Historic American Buildings Survey James Butters, Photographer August 26, 1936 FRONT (EAST ELEVATION) - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

2. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 VIEW FROM EAST - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

3. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 GENERAL VIEW FROM SOUTHEAST - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

4. Historic American Buildings Survey James Butters, Photographer August 26, 1936 REAR (SOUTHWEST CORNER) - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

5. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 VIEW FROM NORTHWEST - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

6. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 PARLOR, NORTHWEST CORNER - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

7. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 PARLOR, LOOKING SOUTH - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

8. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 PARLOR ROSETTE - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

9. Historic American Buildings Survey Lester Jones, Photographer February 19, 1940 CHICKEN HOUSE - Blakely Plantation, Blakely, Warren County, MS

It is quite probable that there were many attempts to clean cotton mechanically. The first evidence available to the U.S. Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory is a wooden cleaner constructed by a gin hand in 1840 at the Blakely Plantation Gin a few miles north of Vicksburg, Miss. (fig. 1-3). It was driven by a steam engine, which is on display at the Blakely Plantation. (Cotton Ginners Handbook by William E. Mayfield, 1977)

 

Description of Gin

 

Description of Gin

 

Three level cotton gin, 1889. The engine (steam in the Blakely case) would have been attached to the pulley above the 1889 at the lower right

 

 

Bogle