The Plantation Agriculture Museum

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I love agriculture museums and I especially love museums about crops we don’t grow in the Midwest, so it was a given that I would love the Plantation Agriculture Museum that is located in Scott Arkansas.  On a hosted trip to the North Little Rock area, I had a chance to visit this amazing place where the site where the museum sits is a story in itself.

 Linda Goza, the Site Superintendent said, “This building was built-in 1912.  It was the commissary for the Elmhurst Plantation and in 1927 they added the Scott Post office.”

When doing research for the article I wrote about the Plantation Museum for Farm World I also found there is a Scott Plantation Settlement that I didn’t get to that also looks interesting.IMG_2580

At the Plantation Museum, the building the museum is in, the former commissary served as a general store. The original Elmhurst Plantation belonged to Conway Scott and he obtained the farm from a land grant issued by James Madison for 160 acres.  The main house was located about five miles away along the river.  “Steamboats loaded took cotton to New Orleans,” Linda Goza explained.

Robert L. Dortch, a local planter took over the store.  Linda Goza said there were rumors that Scott lost it in a poker game, but again, that is a rumor.  When the store closed and the Post Office moved in the early 1960s Dortch converted the building into a plantation museum. Linda Goza added, “The Dortch family got into steam traction engines and had rides. Then they decided to make the Plantation a museum.”

Open from 1960 – 1972 as a museum, in 1985, Senator Bill Foster Linda Goza explained, “Pushed legislation for a state park.”

The state took over in 1986; they did a complete structural renovation of the structure and the installation of exhibits. They opened in 1989 as the Plantation Museum.  Today, the museum interprets Arkansas’s legacy of cotton agriculture. The exhibits cover from Arkansas statehood in 1836 through World War II, when agricultural practices quickly became mechanized. Exhibits include growing and picking cotton, as well as ginning and storing the seeds. The tour  includes the 1912 museum building, Dortch Gin Building, and Seed Warehouse No. 5. 

Inside there are many interesting displays, history of the devastation of the Boll Weevil, stories of cotton co-ops and information about how steam and later tractors changed farming with their new technologies.

Since I love old iron, I found the display of the Planter Jr. the farm and garden tool interesting.  Linda Goza said it was S.L. Allen developed the tool but she added, “He is most famous for inventing the Flexible Flyer sled.”

Besides the sled there is also a very cool steam shovel toy that was made for Robert Dortch by a blacksmith at Marlsgate plantation where he lived as a boy. One display also has the Clipper, a lawn mower made by the Clipper Co and that was of interest to me because this company was located in Dixon, Illinois.

Outside there are cool antique tractors and a couple of cotton pickers with the most fascinating the Rust Cotton Picker.  Ms. Goza said, “We think we have one of the only Rust Brother cotton pickers.  John rust started developing a cotton picker, a pull behind, mechanized cotton picker.  Then he put an engine in a stand alone.”

John Rust is credited with inventing the mechanical cotton harvester.

Outside exhibits also include a cotton pen, which is a structure built on runners. The pen was pulled by mules or a tractor. It was positioned near the field being picked. The Dortch gin building offers a view of a fully restored ginning system including two 80 saw gin stands, a two-bale press, blowers and a belt driven line shafts that were operated by the Dortch Gin Company.  The last outside building is the Seed Warehouse No. 5 that was built in 1948 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is where they stored and bagged seeds for the Robert L. Dortch Seed Farms.

The Plantation Museum offers insight into the cotton farming world and I thought it was wonderful!  For more information about the Plantation Museum, call 501-961-1409 or log onto the website https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/park-finder/park.aspx?id=44.