Columbia Manufacturing Company, April 1886. Courtesy of Henry Bowers.
RANDOLPH COUNTY MILL VILLAGES: Ramseur
From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published January 28, 1981
The beginnings of Ramseur go back to the year 1843, when John Allen and Henry Kivett built a saw mill at a river settlement known as “Allen’s Fall.” In 1843 these two men and three partners began building the necessary capital to organize a cotton mill; in March 1848, with the addition of seven more partners, the Deep River Manufacturing Company was incorporated. By 1850 their brick factory was in operation with 14 looms, 400 spindles, and 6 carding machines. Eight houses had been built for the workers.
The company was subsequently sold to G.H. Makepeace and Dennis Curtis of Franklinville, who operated it until October 1879. At that time three investors from outside Randolph County acquired the property: J. S. Spencer of Charlotte, who became president; A.W.E. Capel of Montgomery County, who became superintendent, and W. H. Watkins, former sheriff of Montgomery County, who was secretary-treasurer of the corporation. Capel and Watkins moved to the village and assumed influential roles in community life. The factory was reorganized as the Columbia Manufacturing Company and the village renamed Ramseur after one of Watkins’ comrades in the Civil War.
In 1894 Capel, Watkins and Spencer founded the town’s only other industry, the Alberta Chair Works. Watkins and Capel were commissioners when the town was incorporated in 1895. Watkins donated property for the sites of the Masonic lodge and local school. Watkins, called the “leading spirit and guiding genius” of Ramseur, died in 1919, but the company continued under the ownership of his son-in-law, Fletcher Craven, and under his grandson A. W. Craven. The small firm weathered the Depression but ultimately could not compete with the giant textile firms which emerged after World War II. The size of the workforce dwindled to 135 workers by 1961; Columbia Manufacturing Company was finally closed in December 1962, and its assets liquidated in January 1963. However, the economy of the town had diversified to such an extent that the economic consequences were slight.
Today the Ramseur plant of Burlington Industries is the largest single textile employer in Randolph County. Portions of the original factory building presently house a furniture assembly operation. The structure has not been disfigured by subsequent additions and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
(Demolished in 2005—more on that later).