RANDOLPH COUNTY MILL VILLAGES: Randleman
From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published December 31, 1980.
Randleman was founded by the Union Manufacturing Company in 1848. The stockholders were all residents of the nearby Quaker settlement of New Salem. The factory was sited near an earlier grist mill run by Peter Dicks, a successful farmer and merchant and one of the founders of Guilford College. Houses were built as residences for the mill agent, Superintendent, and eight families of workers in 1849. Several of these houses still stand, although the original factory building burned and was
In 1868 the mill was sold to John Banner Randleman and John H. Ferree. Randleman had been a factory superintendent for the Holt family of Alamance County, and formed his Randleman Manufacturing Company to compete with the Holts’ production of “plaids” gingham or checked material.
One of Randleman and Ferree’s donations to the community was the second St. Paul’s Methodist Church building, the first brick church in Randolph County. The interior of the church, built in 1879, was decorated by Forsyth County artist Jules Korner. Ferree took control of the company after Randleman’s death in 1879. When Union Village was incorporated on March 29, 1880, Ferree asked that it be renamed Randleman in memory of his partner.
Ferree was a shrewd businessman who had interests in all three of the town’s steam-powered mills, as well as the Naomi Falls village and the mills in Worthville and Central Falls. The Naomi mill and related houses were developed as a separate village just down river from Randleman. In an unusual ceremony in 1880, the Naomi factory and its machinery were dedicated “to the Glory of God, for the purposes of Christian Work,” by Braxton Craven, the president of Trinity College. Naomi is
now part of the City of Randleman.
In June, 1911, the Randleman and Naomi Falls water-powered mills were consolidated with the Plaidville and Marie Antoinette steam-powered mills to form Deep River Mills., Inc. This conglomerate owned 150 dwellings and employed 800 of the town’s 2500 residents. In 1930 the corporation collapsed in the face of the Depression, leaving workers jobless until other textile operations moved into the facilities after 1934. The 1933 auction of the Deep River Mills property effectively ended the historic textile operation. Today four of the mills are used as warehouse space; the Naomi Falls factory is operated by J. P. Stevens.