In the early days of Burke the most important agricultural crop was cotton. To prepare the cotton for shipment by railroad, three gins were eventually built.
One gin, operated by Bill Havard, was located directly south of Burke School on Ryan's Chapel Road across the road from the former home of Hillary Thigpen. According to Tuey Davis, Havard was the second owner of the gin. Pearl Havard says that Havard previously owned a gin at Renfro Prairie and sold it to move to Burke, moving his machinery with him.
Jesse Scarborough, who grew up near Beulah remembers hauling cotton from their farm in a wagon to the Havard gin. They followed a road that passed the home of C. B. Fairchild and connected Burke and Beulah. Lyndal Harris remembers dropping his pocket knife in the cotton laden wagon, and before he could retrieve it it was sucked into the vacuum tube and into the gin machinery. The concrete foundation of the Havard gin persisted until the 1950s.
A second gin was operated by the Weeks family on their property just north of Ryan Chapel Church.
The location of the third gin is unknown.
Although the writer does not remember either of the Burke gins, he accompanied his father Elroy Murrah on trips to the gins at Huntington and Nacogdoches. The truck. which had side frames to increase capacitcy, was driven under an open driveway attached to the gin building. A large tube, flexible at the top, was suspended from the rafters and connected to ducts that led into the gin building. The tube was vacuum-operated, and an operator maneuvered it over the truck and drew the cotton into the gin. It always fascinated the writer that the workers at the cotton gin seemed to have missing fingers, undoubtedly lost in the gins whirling machinery. Inside the gin building the machinery separated the cotton seeds from the fiber. At the rear of the building a compress squeezed the cotton in to large bales that were then secured with steel straps and covered with burlap. These bales were loaded onto rail cars and shipped to the cotton mills. The cotton seeds were ground into a meal that was fed to cattle, and they also produced a valuable oil.
A working cotton gin museum can be seen at Burton, Texas.