Island Ford Manufacturing Company, circa 1870?

This is an original photograph of the Island Ford Manufacturing Company, built on Deep River east of Franklinsville in 1846.

The picture belongs to my friend Henry Bowers of Cedar Falls, who found it in a flea market. It’s almost identical to a steel engraving that appeared in the 1895 “Cotton Mill Edition” of the Raleigh News and Observer, so it may have been taken specially for that purpose. But nothing much would have changed in this scene between 1850 and 1890.

The photographer is standing to the northeast of the mill, on the river road trending towards Ramseur (then called Columbia). It appears to be spring- some trees have leafed out, but not all.

The 1846 Island Ford mill was 40-feet wide by 80-feet long; the addition to the north (in the foreground) was added later especially for additional weaving equipment.

It was officially three stories tall with a basement and an attic, which made for five separate floor levels. The stone or brick basement level was maintained in the 1895 structure, which was added just to the west of the frame building pictured. The brick structure in the left foreground is probably the Picker House, which was normally separate from the mill, and normally built of noncombustible materials due to the explosive nature of aerosolized cotton dust.

The attic was created by the clerestory monitor roof, which opened up the attic and made it into brightly-lit useable space. This type of roof was a familiar feature of 18th and 19th-century textile mills; well known both in New England and in Great Britain. It is probable the original Franklinsville Mfg. Co. had a similar roof, which was rebuilt as a simple gable after the 1851 fire. The bell cupola here is apparently identical to the one on the rebuilt Franklinsville factory, and to the 1850 Columbia Mfg. Co. in Ramseur.

This building was demolished circa-1894/95 as part of the construction of the Randolph Manufacturing Company.


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