Cotton Trading in 1900s East Texas

Early Massey Family household circa 1890s

G.M.C. Massey (standing, middle left) with family, East Texas circa 1890s

My grandfather, G.M.C. Massey, wrote of his life in rural East Texas circa the early 1900’s. Here he describes buying and selling cotton, speculating on price changes — an early “day trader” of sorts.

I had been teaching at Reilly Springs the year 1917-18 and Robert Yantis hired me to take care of his store while he was up at Sulphur Springs buying cotton, and I got the Idea that if he could make anything buying cotton, That I might be able to make as well.

So I talked to him about it and he encouraged me and made me a proposition to buy from him. And I worked for him in that capacity a few days and did so well for him that I went to Sulphur Springs, and made arrangements to buy for myself, and went into it for myself. And everything went well, as the market was bullish and the price was going up all the time. So I worked at it gingerly along for several days, the market was steady and Bullish.

So I was buying slowly only a few bales each day and selling at night; And making from 15 to 25 dollars per day. So I just decided that I could make 100.00 dollars just as easy as to make 25.00 dollars. So the next day I cracked down and bought 100 bales and made over 400.00 dollars. That gave me more confidence in myself. And the next day I bought 250 bales and the market slowed up and I just made about 400.00 dollars out of that. So I kinda slowed up and bought 180 bales, and if I had sold them that night I would have lost on that day’s work. But I bought Insurance on that much and held the Cotton.

But the banker tried to get me to sell that night, And he told me that I had plenty money made to take 100 dollar loss but I did not know how to take a loss, But he told Me that I had made over a thousand dollars and If cotton went down on me with that much cotton on hand Just 2 cents, It would wipe out all that I had made all the fall, But I was very well set and Of course I had to learn a lesson.

Well my school began at Reilly Springs on the next Monday so just went on and started my school. Each evening after school was out I would go to the Telephone and call the Bank, and find out how the market was and It was going down from a quarter to 35 cents each day and it looked like that I was going to lose all that I had made. So on Friday evening when I called the Cotton had Gone down from 28 to 26 cents, And the banker told me that I had lost all my money and I had better come up the next day and put up some more money or sell what cotton I had and straighten it.

So I went down to Yantis that evening to see Uncle Dan Webster, and asked him If I could get 500 dollars and he said I could and he just counted out 500 dollars to me and I went back home well pleased. Then the next morning I went up to town pretty well set to put up some more money and we were over at the exchange watching for the Market to open. And at 9 o’clock the market came in Quarter up and I liked to have fainted but before night the market was 26.50. Now my pain had passed away and I did not have to put up any more money. So I went back to school and I slept better that night than I had for a whole week, But I called the bank every day after the market closed, and each day it had gone up from a quarter or a half and I bought from 50 to 100 bales each day to ride up. I found out that it was a lot easier riding up than it was down. Then by Friday when I called The market was standing on 28 cents.

Therefore I had a little money made on the cotton that I bought to ride up. And I had not lost on my old purchase only the Insurance and interest. So I stayed around all that day and watched and the market went to 28.50 and I cashed out and went home well pleased and I got plenty of rest the next week. I believed that the market would go to 30 cents by Xmas But I could not afford to buy cotton and hold it and continue to teach school. The way that the market was going on I knew that my Interest, and my time; would be divided so that I could not afford to take the risk. Though I thought that the market would go up till Xmas, and that during that time It would reach 30 cents. And if I had acted upon my Judgment, And bought 200 bales and set down on it I would have made at least $2,000.00 clear as it was possible to be. But that was all to risk, and I did not have any money to lose, and I was going to have to borrow most of the money to make the purchase; however the Banker was anxious to loan me the money, And promised to watch the market, and keep me posted.

But I decided against the Investment, and, since that time decided that I was goofy for not Rezining my School; going into the Cotton market for keeps. However I am resigned to fate; for I believe the scriptural Quotation “all things work together for good to them that Love the LORD, and are called according to HIS purpose.” Then in January of the next year I bid in the San Angelo-Sonora Star mail route, And moved out here for that; and what followed have already been told in the report that precedes this. It seems that a great part of my life was been bound up in shallows and in miseries. But I will not let my mind dwell on that long as I am resigned to fate too much for that. I always am reminded that If things were not as they are, we do not know how they would be. That is hard to See, and to believe; but it is true in any way.

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in G.M.C. Massey, Memoirs and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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