Vallentine’s Gin and Store in the quaint Orangeburg County town of Cope offers visitors a step back in time when the county played a major role in helping the nation produce more than half of the world’s demand for cotton.
In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, forever changing the clothing industry. Before his invention, cotton cloth was extremely expensive and difficult to make. Then along came the cotton gin, a machine that quickly and easily separated cotton fibers from the seeds, a job formerly performed by hand.
One hundred and 18 years later, J.I. Vallentine built his own cotton gin in Cope in 1911, putting his family into a business that has continued to thrive for more than a century.
In 1937, his son, the late Robert Vallentine, took over operation of the gin, which has since become a joint family venture.
If they’re around at the right time, visitors can see the gin in full operation as the raw cotton is sucked into the gin for processing, then cleaned and packed. Cotton bales, weighing approximately 480 pounds each, are stacked for delivery to various processing plants.
Vallentine’s Gin isn’t the only relic in operation. A unique feature on the premises is Vallentine’s General Store, which was built in 1911 along with the gin. The store offers a peek into the past through its showcase of memorabilia from the 1930s and 1940s. One area in the store is set aside for cotton souvenirs, including T-shirts, cups, dolls, etc.
When it was built in 1911, the store sold everything from horse collars to knitting needles.
Vallentine’s Gin and Store is one of Orangeburg County’s Discovery Sites on the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. Stretching 17 counties and 320 miles across the state, the SCNHC is committed to promoting and preserving the cultural, natural and historic resources of South Carolina.