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The West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center
121 Sunny Hill Cove

The West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center has more than 8,000 square feet of exhibit space that includes three fresh water aquariums, information on the Hatchie River, and a room dedicated to local West Tennessee musicians.  The Center also traces the post-bellum history of cotton in Brownsville and surrounding West Tennessee.

With access to two rivers, the Mississippi and the Hatchie, and several county roads, cotton and other agricultural products were sent to markets in Memphis, 60 miles away, and beyond.  By the 1840s, Haywood County was one of the leading producers in Tennessee.  The region grew high-grade cotton with a long and heavy staple.  In the 1850s, the railroad expanded further the reach of the community.  Though the Civil War brought the end of slavery and a decline in cotton, the industry rebounded after the conflict on the backs of sharecroppers and tenant farmers.

The post-war cotton boom in Brownsville was strong in the first decade after the war.  The Brownsville Manufacturing Company, a new cotton mill, was established in 1874. The mill contained over 3,000 spindles, 125 looms, and employed 120 people, most of them women.  The company manufactured domestic linens and cotton drilling, a fairly rigid and durable fabric used for tents and trouser linings. The mill consumed 1,200 bales of cotton annually. In 1882 the factory burned and was never rebuilt possibly due to the decline in the cotton industry. During and after World War One, agriculture in Brownsville, much like the rest of the South, was successively shaken by the boll weevil, the migration of African Americans north, the collapse of the cotton market, the 1927 Mississippi River flood, a severe drought that followed, the Great Depression and New Deal crop reduction programs. Combined, these events transformed the old labor intensive, tenant-based system of farming.  Machines started to take the place of workers.

Sleepy John Estes
Hammie Nixon
Tina Turner
Alex Harvey