Randolph Manufacturing Company, circa 1900

Since I was speaking about my collection of original unpublished antique photographs of Randolph County, here’s a great one.

This is the back side of the Randolph Manufacturing Company, built in 1895 on the site of the wooden 1846 Island Ford Manufacturing Company. The photo is obviously taken on a cold winter day, probably circa-1900, but nothing much would change from the viewpoint of this picture before 1925. From the position of the shadows, falling down the size of the mill at about an 85-degree angle, the time of day must be around 11 AM.

The camera is looking at the south side of the building, from a position at or near the front yard of the Joe Dan Hackney house. (I have a great picture of that I’ll show one day.)

The Island Ford mill was positioned just under the smokestack. The two-story, 7-window-bay section under the smokestack seems to include original brick basement and the three-bay section is the wheel house of the Island Ford Factory. The 10 windows of that section are a different size than the tall 1895 windows of the expanded mill, and the C-shaped plan of the 1895 structure is added on just to the west end of the Island Ford foundation.

The archway just under the plume of steam is where the tail race water exits from the turbine wheel; originally one or more wooden or iron water wheels would have been located in the wheel house there.

The free-standing brick structure immediately to the right of that section is a cotton warehouse. Directly on the other side of it runs the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, and above that is the river road (now East Main Street) winding towards Ramseur. The wooden structure up the hill just above it (about 2:00) is the Lower Company Store, which was later transformed into a community house and movie theater by Randolph Mills.

Across the street from the factory and arrayed on the opposite hilltop are about a dozen mill houses, part of the island Ford mill village which was also situated up and down Mulberry Street (now Academy Street) just out of the picture to the left. The hilltop crowned by the Dave Weatherly House is likewise just out of the frame to the left. Only one of the mill houses on the side still stands, and likewise one on the right side. Both are in poor condition. Just above the company store, and across the street, was the mill owner’s home. At the time of the picture, it was the home of Hugh Parks, who had come to Franklinsville from the Parks Cross Roads area in the 1850s to work as a clerk in the Island Ford Company Store. During the Civil War he became the superintendent of the factory, and after the war he gradually acquired a controlling interest in both factories, and ran them until his death in 1910. Until the 1890s Parks’s house had been the home of Alexander S. Horney, one of the town’s original settlers. A.S. Horney and his father, Dr. Phillip Horney, were partners in the original 1836 Cedar Falls factory with Henry Branson Elliott and his father Benjamin Elliott. Dr. Phillip Horney lived at that time in what we now call the Julian House on West Main Street, the oldest (1819) surviving home in Franklinville.

The identity of the man playing a banjo in the mule-drawn wagon in the foreground is unknown, but his rig is headed toward the Island Ford steel bridge over Deep River, just behind the small house in the left foreground.

To confuse matters, “Randolph Manufacturing Company” was the original 1838 name of the Upper Mill company that took the name “Franklinsville Manufacturing Company” when it was rebuilt after the 1851 fire. To muddy the waters even further, the name of the very first local cotton mill corporation chartered by the state legislature in 1828 was “The Manufacturing Company of the County of Randolph.” The name “Randolph Manufacturing Company” replaced the original name “Island Ford Manufacturing Company” when the new brick building was built in 1895, and continued to be the official name of what locals called simply “the Lower Mill” until the two separate companies were merged into Randolph Mills, Inc., in 1923.


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