500 Main St Tarboro, NC 27886 (252) 823-7241

Norfleet Cotton Press

 Norfleet Cotton Press
Ca. 1840; W end of Town Common at Albemarle Ave., Tarboro
 
Isaac Norfleet constructed this press in the mid-19th c. on his plantation southwest of Tarboro.  Originally used to press fruit for cider and wine, it was converted to process cotton about 1860.  
The structure of mortised and tenoned heart pine timers stands 22 feet high and contains a central vertical shaft.  A large wooden screw, 19 inches in diameter, was powered by mules hitched to the sweeps—long beams attached to the top of the shaft.  The screw drove down a wooden packing lock to compress 300 to 350 lbs. of cotton into bales.  Moved to the Common ca. 1938, the press was restored in 1976 by the Edgecombe County Historical Society.  Such structures were once a frequent sight in cotton-growing areas, but most have vanished.