Randolph Manufacturing Company III

The 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company was one of Randolph County’s most visually impressive Victorian mills.

This view, taken from the hilltop front yard of the Dave Weatherly House, shows the north front of the factory.

The plan of the building is that of a block-E, where the center cross is the stair tower and the top and bottom lines are wings that extend over the head race on brick arches.

The Wheel House is that of the original Island Ford factory, located under the smokestack to the far left.

One of the most interesting features of the factory is the wooden bridge over the race to the main stair tower entrance.

The body of water directly in front of the mill is the “Bleacher Pond,” providing water for bleaching, printing and dyeing processes.

The aerial photo below, taken in the 1950s, shows the factory after numerous 20th-century additions. The stair tower has been removed, and the entire hollow center of the “E” has been filled in. An expanded weave room extends west to the steel bridge; the bleachery, print works, fleece napping, and sanforizing process are contained in the new wings to the east that replaced the old cotton warehouse.

Only the 1950s-era wings east of the smokestack survived the 1984/85 demolition of the rest of the building.

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3 Responses to “Randolph Manufacturing Company III”

  1. Jerry Williamson Says:

    I was born in what most referred to as the Williamson house on the hill directly across the road from the dam and race of “The lower Mill”. My parents were put to work as children (10 years old) and my father, John Tate Williamson worked in the “spinning room” as a “dolpher” all his life. I worked there for 13 years and my first job was opening cotten bales and putting the cotten in the “hoppers” in the upper mill and finished there as a printer in the print department in 1972, finally escaping textiles to finish my education at Appalachian State University. The mill finally went bankrupt and closed, as we all knew it would, after Mr. Clark died and his son took over the mills. I could spend days relating to being raised in a company house, getting pretty much everything from the company store, and the day to day life there. I am now 74 and can attest to the fact that, while the work was hard and the pay mostly a few cents above minimum wage and no one got rich, it was really not a bad life.

    Mr. Whatley is to be commended for the historical work. However, in reading most of the historical documents, which included some information about local musicians, I find no mention of Tommy Floyd and the Pinto Bean Boys who played on the Asheboro AM radio station and in the schools “chapel” stages. He was pretty popular at that time. In Franklinville, we pretty much had the old “showhouse” located where the present business is in the lower mill and had movies every Friday night, Saturday afternoons, and again Saturday night. (same movie of course) I usually saw them all three times. I got in free because my father sold the tickets on Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday afternoons were free to all anyway. Mr.Elvin and his brother Belvin Curtis ran the huge projectors.

    All things considered, with the exception of the lack of modern appliances and bathrooms, it wasn’t a bad life at all. The only thing close to drugs we had was sometimes finding a pretty good cigarette “duck” to get a puff or two before getting your fingers burned.

    Southport, NC
    March 1,2013

    • macwhatley Says:

      I knew Tommy Floyd and heard him play a number of times in his later years. Howard Saunders and half dozen of his friends used to get together at Howard’s house on Friday nights to play old time music. Howard played the fiddle and a little bit of everything.
      Belvin told me about running the projectors. I have looked for years for the movies of Franklinville that Mr. Clark made and they showed in between main features. There were movies of people walking around town or getting out of work. I have a bit of one that was made at a mill picnic circa 1947. But I haven’t found any others.
      Do you have photos of living in the Thomas Rice house? I’d really love to see pictures of the inside before the mill remodeled it into a conference room.

      • Jerry Williamson Says:

        Sorry, I have no photos. My parents had a Brownie camera but only a few family photos left. Doc Pool had some 8mm movies of the company BBQ party Mr. Clark held every Summer for employees and families in the park across the bridge near the upper mill and my father was in one showing he and some other workers serving the BBQ from long tables beside the BBQ pit. Doc died and closed the old company store before I was even aware he died. He had a niece but other than that I have no idea if he had any kin or what could have happened to the films. I would give anything to see them again. The white folks ate across the river and the black folks ate seperatly on the road side of the bridge

        Another memory I have is the carnation flower contest and fashion show at the old school house where women would make dresses from the printed flour sacks of Dainty Bisquit flour and the judges awarded some kind of prises to the one with the prettiest dress and best potted carnation.
        There was a man named Richard Parks, who was raised in Franklinville, but lived somewhere near Staley after getting married, but his mother lived there in a house that I think is gone now. I suspect Richard is dead now but his hobby was photography. Strange at the time! But if his photo collection could be located it would be amazing. May be some other old codger still living there may know about Richard and what may have happened to them
        One final rather funny memory. My Uncle Claude Williamson, buried in the methodist cemetery, was a soldier in a artilliary division in WW-1. He was pretty much the town drunk after the war but liked by everyone. He and a friend or two caught a ride in a boxcar of the train that ran from Greensboro to the mills along the river daily. Steam engine of course. One day it “jumped the tracks” a few feet from the lower mill and Uncle Claude jumped off and broke his leg. If he had stayed on the train he would have been fine since no cars or the engine turned over. He also brought home an artilliary shell from the war, which sat on a bookcase at home all my life there, and when he and all the rest died it wound up with me. I still have it and actually don’t know if it’s live or not. I must assume not, but who knows? Darrell, my son and I plan to take it to the graveyard and bury it above Uncle Claude

        Thanks again for all your work on the history and if I can be of any help with other information do not hesitate to contact me. I think you may know Darrell, who now lives in Randleman, and he can always contact me too. His cell is 336-362 5503.

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