July 7, 2015

Catahoula Parish Moss Gins in the late 1930s

Louisiana Spanish Moss
In the 1930s, Catahoula Parish was one of several Louisiana parishes with gins that processed Spanish moss.  One such gin was mentioned in the September 8, 1936 edition of the Biloxi Daily Herald of Biloxi, Mississippi.

Biloxi Daily Herald - 9/8/1936

A description of the cleaning processes and uses of Spanish moss can be found in the following 1937 document from the State Library of Louisiana:

There are only two states which produce moss for commercial consumption--Louisiana and Florida.  Only about one-third of the former grows moss, and the out-put is approximately 90% of the product consumed in the United States.  Unknown to many persons, the annual receipts of the moss industry in Louisiana runs into millions of dollars and employs hundreds of persons.
The moss is picked from trees by farmers and their families and other persons who find time for such.  It is then carried to the gin where it is bedded out and soaked with water until the greyish outer coating has decayed, and only the black, horse-hair fiber remains.  It is then hung on wires, stretched on posts, to dry.  Next the moss is taken into the building where it is stacked until laborers, usually negroes, portion it out on crude tables and shake out the loose sticks, dirt and other foreign particles.  It is then put into the gin for further cleaning, and pressed into bales weighing about 150 pounds each.
Moss is used for upholstering expensive, springless furniture, pullman cars, coffins, etc. Formerly it was used for the upholstery in automobiles, but as it is quite expensive, the manufacturers have turned to a less costly article.
Do any of you know where the different gins were located in Catahoula Parish?  Did someone in your family operate or work in one of these gins?  Please leave a comment below or email rootsfromthebayou@gmail.com if you have information you'd like to share.


  1. My husband Tim Davis's grandfather, Joe G Davis owned and operated one for several years on the bank of Black River. The concrete foundation is still there.

    1. Thank you for the information, Melissa! Hope all is well with you and your family. Please give Margie a hug for me. --Deb