The Vagabond – Cotton compress in downtown Gadsden


By Danny Crownover

Gadsden’s first and only cotton compress was located where the A.T. Stocks Medical Building once stood at the northeast corner of Chestnut and Fifth streets.
The building was connected with the city’s first brick cotton warehouse, which was located on the site of the First National Bank at the southeast corner of Broad and Fifth streets.
The compress’ boiler room was located on the corner where Dunaways’s Drug Store was located.
Colonel R.B. Kyle built and owned the warehouse and Captain J.M. Elliott, Jr., operated the compress, which ran for a number of years and packed cotton for shipment by steamboat and rail to all points of the world.
The cotton compress’ crew, which included Ben Wacasey, Jake Wacasey and Stephen Clark, were experts in handling the bales of cotton to and from the press. They were expert in making cotton bales, painting identification letters and numbers on each and every bale that would have done credit to an artist. Among the weighers at the warehouse were Lawrence Smith and Charlton Brown.
Ben Wacasey was the best kite maker in Gadsden, making hundreds for the local youth. He understood the art of balancing his kites so that they would fly higher and steadier than any others. He built the kites by exact measurement and always put on the right amount and weight of tails. His kites were steady in air pockets and sometimes taxed the strength of several boys to hold them in a stiff wind.
The Fifth Street side of the compress featured a board sidewalk that inclined both ways from the middle to make trucking easier. In later years, the warehouse was used by wholesale and retail grocery stores and an express company. When the first National Bank was built on Broad Street, the rear half of the old structure was cut up into small shops.
After the compress was torn down, the lot remained vacant until A.T. Stocks erected a five-story structure which operated as a medical building.

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