Archive for the ‘Textile History’ Category

Mill Power: Steam

November 6, 2017

Harris Corliss

I realized today that there is a major Franklinville anniversary coming up this month. One hundred twenty years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1897, the “Upper Mill” started up its second steam engine- an engine that still exists, though no longer in Franklinville, and still has lessons for us about powering manufacturing.

P&PC 023

The interior of P&P Chair Company in Asheboro, where the lineshaft down the center of the building was originally powered by a Corliss engine.

Before the advent of individual electric motors to power machinery, finding the energy to manufacture goods involved harnessing natural resources to mechanical processes. The most important requirement was a plentiful source of water, required by steam engines and boilers as well as by water wheels. Whether turned by the force of flowing water or high-pressure steam, a rotating flywheel pulled a leather belt, transmitted through a complicated system of shafts, belts, ropes and pulleys to connect each individual machine to the rotating wheel.

Breast wheel at destroyed Richmond paper mill 1865.

Breast wheel in ruins of Richmond Va. paper mill, 1865

The mill’s original power came from one or more wooden water wheels of the breast (or “pitch-back”) type, the usual form of water wheel usually found in British and New England textile mills. . The entire reason to locate the factory at this spot on Deep River was to take advantage of the potential for water power, so a water wheel had to have been part of the original construction of the mill. The earliest written reference to any Deep River factory wheel comes in 1848, when a reporter mentions the two metal breast wheels installed in the rebuilt Cedar Falls factory, built by the Snow Camp Foundry. The wheel in Franklinville was probably covered at least with a shed to protect it from ice, but it is not clear what, if any, structure covered the water wheel until July, 1882, when the capital stock of the corporation was increased by $20,000 to allow construction of a two-story “Wheel House.” A new water wheel was installed in the basement of the Wheel House at that time, almost certainly some kind of turbine wheel. The original water wheels installed in the Union Factory in Randleman were early turbine wheels, but the low flow of water made them inefficient. For that reason the Union factory installed the first steam engine on the river, by 1881 if not before.

Harris-steam-engine-1911-nameplate-300x147

But water power is another story; this post is about steam, and the first steam boiler started to power the Franklinville factory in 1882. The records of the William A. Harris Steam Engine Company of Providence, Rhode Island (now in the New England Museum of Wireless and Steam) indicates that an 87-horsepower right-hand drive girder frame Corliss-type engine with a flywheel eleven feet in diameter was ordered by the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company on March 29, 1882.

George Corliss

George Corliss

The reciprocating steam valve patented by George Corliss in 1849 allowed for uniform speed and more efficient cutoff of steam, and quickly became the preferred industry standard for large mill engines. William Harris, formerly a superintendent in the Corliss factory, opened his own firm in 1864. Between 1874 and 1899 he delivered 18 engines to North Carolina manufacturers, including one to Randleman in 1881, one to the fomer Island Ford factory in Franklinville in 1896, and one to Cedar Falls in 1898.

william_a_harris

William A. Harris

Corliss engines were the workhorses of manufacturing in America. Franklinville alone, circa 1890, had four– at both cotton mills, the Bush Creek rock crusher, and the Makepeace Millworks. All of the big smokestack industries in Asheboro were powered by corliss engines; yet by 1950, all had been replaced by cheap electricity powering motorized equipment. The Age of steam-powered prime movers, 1880-1940, was barely one man’s lifetime.

UpperMillBoilerRm

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. 1897 boiler room and smokestack

The 1882 Franklinville engine was located in the Wheel House, and a Boiler Room was added to the south of the wheel house, together with a 69-foot-tall brick chimney flue for the boiler, fired by wood. The steam engine operated for the first time on November 24, 1882. An electric dynamo was attached to the water wheel in the fall of 1896, and in October the first electric lights were installed in the mill. (The superintendent noted that “then tallow candles and kerosene lamps became a thing of the past.”)

Harris Corliss 1

1897 FMC Harris Corliss Engine, front view, 1995

In 1895 the mill began an expansion plan which resulted in doubling the size of the factory by 1899. To prepare for that, in 1897 the boiler room was expanded, a taller smokestack was erected, and a new engine house was built to house a bigger 150-horsepower Harris Corliss engine. Evidently satisfied with the performance of its 1882 engine, the mill went back to the William A. Harris Company and ordered a new engine even larger than the old one.

Harris Corliss 2

1897 engine, rear view

Ordered on July29, 1897, the engine boasted an 18” cylinder and a 42” stroke, and provided more than 100 horsepower to the flat-belt pulley on its 13-foot flywheel. A new engine house was built, with granite bed stones anchored in a wheel pit deep beneath the mill. The engine was started for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1897, “by Benajah T. Lockwood of Providence, Rhode Island.” The engine turned continuously until December 23, 1920, when the new coal-fired Power House was built, and electric motor drives were installed in the mill.

Harris Corliss 6

1897 FMC engine, showing steam chest with corliss valve gear, Nov. 2017

The Franklinville engine then began a remarkable journey around North Carolina- remarkable for a machine the size of a box truck and weighing many tons. In July, 1921 it was sold to Builder’s Sash and Door Company of Rocky Mount, where it operated until April of 1933. It was then purchased by the Williams Lumber Company and moved to their mill in Wilson. Williams Lumber became Stevens Millwork in 1965, and the engine continued to run their saw mill and millwork shop until 1971, when the company closed. Scrap dealers disassembled the engine and sold it to someone who moved it to Smithfield, NC, but never set it up. There it was discovered by Shell Williams of Godwin, NC, who used a crane and lowboy to move it to Cumberland County in 1977, where it remains.

Harris Corliss 4

1897 FMC engine, showing governor

November 25, 2017 will be the 120th anniversary of this workhorse machine first coming to life in Franklinville, NC. It powered at least 3 different North Carolina manufacturers for more than 75 years, and could still go on for years more. It is a monument to American mechanical design and craftsmanship, as well as to the manufacturing power that built our modern economy.  A good reason to pause and remember the hard work of all the people who designed it, built it, moved it, operated it, and cared for it for more than five generations in Rhode Island and North Carolina.

Harris-steam-engine-1892

Robert Merriam, of the New England Museum of Wireless and Steam, operating their 1892 Harris Corliss engine.

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Denver Allred on Worthville

August 31, 2014
Denver Allred

Denver Allred, at home in Worthville, from the Courier Tribune, September 3, 1984.

One of the reasons I started this blog is that, having collected information on Randolph County history for more than 40 years now, I find that I’ve reached the point where I can’t remember everything I’ve found out.  I have have files I haven’t opened in a quarter century, and while I vaguely remember things people have told me over the years, I forget the specifics.  Here is an example.

In preparing the next post here, on mill village boating, I knew that at some point the Worth Manufacturing Company, owners of the mills in Worthville and Central Falls, operated a cotton barge on the river between the two mills.  But how did I know that?  Where did I find that out?

Happily my son Vlad has been helping me reshelve and clean out my office, which has gradually become the place where all the stuff goes when I won’t let him throw something away.  Able to open the farthest file cabinet again, I found a file labeled “Allred, Denver (Worthville).”  Inside was a surprise, an affidavit I made for Denver in 1985, which I had completely forgotten.  

I was in law school at the time, not yet a lawyer but already a notary, and as part of an investigation into the “navigability” of Deep River, I was asked by Ed Bunch (already a lawyer, and in solo practice) to interview Denver Allred about this question.  [The legal question was whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had jurisdiction over Deep River; federal law says that they regulate electricity produced on “navigable” waters.  FERC prevailed; that’s why the Randleman Dam Authority has to pay the low-head hydro operators along the river for the 8 million gallons a day diminution of the flow of the river.]

The Worthville mill pond was briefly drained of water when the cleanout plug failed.  From the Courier Tribune, June 19, 2013.

The Worthville mill pond was briefly drained of water when the cleanout plug failed. From the Courier Tribune, June 19, 2013.

This is a lesson in itself regarding history, when the historian himself can’t remember the daily details of his own life 29 years later.

Here is the document.  Afterwards, I’ve added from my notes in the file the parts of my conversations with Denver on other topics, who was a wealth of information. [He was the father of Worthville historian Becky Bowman, and I use her book on Worthville regularly.  Maybe she could add a lot here!]  I don’t think I ever tape recorded my conversations with Denver, but I might have, and have forgotten even that.  I have a lot of tapes stored away that I haven’t fully transcribed, especially if they weren’t all about Franklinville.

Affidavit

According to my notes, I spoke with Denver Allred on February 1, 1985, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.  

He told me he was “the oldest man in Worthville.”  He was born in Gray’s Chapel, but his family moved here in 1903.  He said he went to work in the mill when he was ten years old, carrying drinking water to the hands in the spinning and carding room.  He did lots of other jobs, for every company that ever owned the mill.  More women worked in the mill than men; women were weavers and spinners, and the men’s did maintenance work, heavy work.

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# .  He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# . He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

 

He started working for Hal Worth, when Hal Worth lived in a house at the ballfield.  He worked for J.D. Williamson, who bought the mill from the receivers after the bankruptcy.  He worked for Wiley Ward, who took over after the Depression, when the town was in bad shape, he said he’d take up the financial slack if the town would dis-incorporate.  He worked for Fieldcrest, until they made him retire at 65.  Then he worked some for Baxter-Kelly-Foust after they bought from Fieldcrest.  He was an electrician, a fixer, a bricklayer, and worked once for Simon Varner, a contractor.   

The Worth house was torn down and rebuilt into a house near the cemetery, near the house Cicero Hammer lived in.  The second house across the road from the cemetery.  His wife’s father built the house we were talking in- had it built, by Cicero Hammer’s father, in 1885.  Cicero Hammer, the congressman, was raised in Worthville.  His father was a preacher, and built houses.  

Worthville_Mill_dam_Deep_River

He said the mill in Worthville ran on two turbine water wheels and a Corliss steam engine with more than a hundred horsepower.  It had an eight-foot flywheel and ran the shafts with a 30” leather belt.  He ran the Worthville turbines until they shut it all down.  They were still using the same old turbines.  The belts didn’t work as well as electricity, but it worked.

The mill back then mainly made “Hickory” sheeting and cottonade; most of it went to South America.  They made some seamless bags from waste cotton- sweepings and etc.  The bag looms would weave the bottom in them when they were through; that was sort of a curiosity.  A gadget would flip up, weave the bottom, and flip down.  The bottom was like a selvage, where they could cut the bags apart.  Most of the looms were Stafford looms; Draper looms came later.   

Stafford Bag Loom

[The standard Stafford looms were installed in July, 1915 (Bowman, p. 90) and junked and replaced with automatic Draper looms in August 1937. See Bowman, p. 166.  These first Stafford loom replaced in part the seamless bag looms that had been used since the 1880s.  The Franklinville factory was the first to manufacture seamless bags in North Carolina, starting in 1872.  Their looms were made by the Lewiston Machine Company, Lewiston, Maine, as were the original ones at Worthville.  Stafford also made bag looms, as seen here, but I believe Worthville was out of the bag business by the time they installed Staffords.]

J.A. Williamson was Secretary-Treasurer of the mill after Ervin Cox bought it from the receiver.  Mr. Williamson put in Stafford Automatic Looms; that was a curiosity too.  They used 6 or 8 shuttles stacked up in there; the loom would stop and change shuttles all by itself.  That was the curiosity.  People would come see that work.  Before that, the weaver had to change shuttles, start the loom up by hand.  The weaver had to put in a new quill and restart it.  The filling yarn was on the quills.  

This was the standard loom made by the Stafford Company, of Readville, Mass., after 1900.

This was the standard loom made by the Stafford Company, of Readville, Mass., after 1900.

The Worths here paid the best on the river.  Ramseur was a good town and all, but they just didn’t pay the money that they did up the river here. Weavers were paid by the cut, by the length of cloth on the roll. They’d fold the cloth up in bolts, put a big sticker on it- a Big Game Rooster.  Put it in big packing boxes lined with waterproof paper.  There was a big cheat in that.  They’d fill the bolts full of clay and tallow to make it weigh more.  Clay and tallow put on by a finishing machine.

Cotton came to Randleman or Millboro on the railroad.  They sent it to Central Falls to have it dyed; they dyed the raw cotton; dyed it every color of the rainbow.  Dyed it for yarn for shirting, checks and plaids, and cottonades (that was like gingham).  

It was Mr. Williamson’s idea to run the cotton barge between Mill #1 and Mill#2.  It took the raw cotton down, and the dyed cotton back up.  Then they’d spin it in Worthville.  Williamson brought the idea from Roanoke Rapids, where he was from.  The barge stopped before the first world war.  It quit when the mill company went broke.  

[From Deed Book 159, Page 11: The Worth Manufacturing Company was duly adjudged bankrupt by U.S. District Court on OCtober 30, 1913.  The auction of valuable assets held at Worthville on December 9, 1913 listed “one motor boat.”  C.J.Cox was the high bidder for the property, Mill #1, 57 “tenement houses,” all the machinery and cotton in process.]

The park was “down below the cemetery”, with a concession stand that made and sold ice cream and rented row boats by the hour.  There was a motor boat for rent, too.  But the cotton barge landing was down the river from the park, below the dam and covered bridge.  There was a foot walk across the river until the covered bridge washed out in 1910 or ‘11.  He saw the old covered bridge wash away.  Hopper’s Ford was where the foot bridge was, and that’s where the new bridge is now.  

Worthville Dam with bridge abutment

This bridge abutment on the north side of Deep River was evidently used by both the covered bridges and the steel bridge, all of which were washed away by high water.

[The Worthville covered bridge washed away in the storm of March 15, 1912.  G.E. Hill recalled when a new concrete bridge was under construction in 1939 that he left the mill that morning for his home on the opposite side of Deep River.  “An early spring rain had caused the river to rise to such an extent it appeared dangerous… Mr. Hill was on the bridge when it washed from the piers and when the the structure broke in the middle, Mr. Hill… was dragged from the waters before it was too late…”  Bowman, p. 201.]

The Central Falls dam backed water up to the site of the new bridge.  The barge landed just about where the bridge is.  There was a dock built on a canal, about a hundred feet from the river.  It was a flat-bottomed barge run by a gasoline engine.  There was a cab with a man on top to steer- two men operated it.  They’d run excursions on Sundays, so we could ride to Central Falls and back for a dime.  It was a big Sunday attraction.  One time some courting couples were on it, and a gar fish jumped out at them and scared everybody.  

When the river was up, the water was swift.  The boat would get away from them, and run onto the back.  Once it ran on the rocks and stuck.  They got men from the mill to pull it off on a long rope; Williamson was the boss, directing the operation.  The rope broke and everybody fell except one man.  “Why didn’t you fall, too?” Williamson said.  It was ‘cause he wasn’t putting out!

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# .  He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# . He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

Mr. Williamson had the first car in town- a big old Buick side-cranker.  When he drove it they’d wear dusters, goggles and hats.  Williamson got the telephone lines laid from Millboro to Worthville and into Randleman.  He was a big man.  So was Hal Worth.  Ervin Cox, who bought the mill from the court.   He owned both places, Worthville and Central Falls; lived at Central Falls.  He built Cox’s Dam, between there and Cedar Falls.  Whoever ran the mill- their politics would sway a lot of people.

The superintendent lived in that big house on the hill.  The first post office was in the Boarding House, below the standpipe- the two-story house on the right.  There was a mail slot in the door to the basement.  The Dowdys lived in the house across from him.  They later went to High Point, started Mann Drugs.  The school was where the Methodist Church is now.  The Union Church was near the office and the store, and the mill.  The Madison Williamson house was right there, too.  It burned in the early 1900s.  There was one big boarding house up behind the stand pipe.  There were three or four others at first.  During the first war, a Dorsett ran a boarding house, ran 3 shifts.  They’d change the sheets on the beds, and another shift would come in and sleep.  

There was lots of entertainment.  Joe Giles, a farmer, would have big corn shuckings, and have all grades of stuff to eat- pie, cakes, chicken stews.  If you shucked a red ear, that meant you could kiss the girl beside you.  He had four children, one boy.  He lived at Franklinville, married and lived at the Fentress place- his wife was a Fentress.  He was a slasher man, put the starch and sizing on the warp.  The Slasher Man was paid most of any machine operator- that was a big responsibility.  His brother Reuben also worked up here; was the Master Mechanic at Worthville.  John Bray was another Master Mechanic; he was a powerful fiddler.  

Lots of people played music then.  Charlie Ward; he was a powerful fiddler and guitar player.  He’s 90; he’s in Asheboro in the rest home.  Mark Johnson, he was a Worthville banjo picker, and a farmer.  He was some relation to Daner Johnson, the banjo man.  It was a special treat to hear Daner Johnson play.  He played anywhere and any time he took a notion.  Nep Johnson was his brother; lived up on the edge of Randleman; was a farmer and auto mechanic.

From the announcement of the annual Worthville Reunion, to be held May 3, 2014, in the  Courier-Tribune, 5 April 2014.

From the announcement of the annual Worthville Reunion, to be held May 3, 2014, in the Courier-Tribune, 5 April 2014.

Charlie Poole

August 23, 2009

[Charlie Poole- in his early twenties.]

The last week has seen a flurry of news and reviews that concern the man who may be Randolph County’s most famous native musician. All the publicity arises over the release of Loudon Wainwright III’s excellent new album, “High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.”

I first read the story in the Washington Post [Charting the Deep Waters of Old-Timer Charlie Poole], and then heard a really great interview with the singer by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=13 ].

Courtesy of my friend Tom Hanchett, music historian and a curator at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, here are a couple of more story links: Rogue State: High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project and I [from the Washington City Paper]; Loudon Wainwright III leads salute to bluegrass legend Charlie Poole [New York Daily News]; Loudon Wainwright dives into country music’s past [The Tennessean ].

But this story is new only in that Loudon Wainwright’s double-CD album is new. Back in 2005 the excellent 4-disc box set “You Ain’t Talkin’ to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music” (Legacy/Columbia Records) was produced by old-time banjo player Henry “Hank” Sapoznik, and Charlie Poole was the subject of symposium at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is also remembered annually at the Charlie Poole Music Festival in Eden (www.charlie-poole.com), so it appears that we’re in the midst of a full-blown Poole revival.

On September 28, 1985, the first (and only) Mill Village Music Festival was held in Franklinville, as part of the Franklinville Fire Protection Association’s annual “Fun Day.” (That was something volunteer fire departments used to do before tax support meant they didn’t need to raise money the hard way anymore). Local musician Gary Lewis produced the show, which had a number of bluegrass and old time musicians playing, including Poole biographer Kinney Rorrer’s group the Sweet Sunny South String Band. (Rorrer’s 1982 book Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole is the definitive biography.)

[Bob Johnson of Millboro showing the Poole house to a Greensboro News and Record photographer in 1984).

The reason I engineered this special event in Franklinville was to call attention to the fact that Charles Cleveland Poole was born March 22, 1892, in Millboro, part of Franklinville Township, in a tiny house still standing on the south side of the road from Millboro to Worthville.   Poole’s Wikipedia entry [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Poole ] is actually incorrect on this point, but his Dictionary of North Carolina Biography entry [ http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/movingday/bio.html ] gets it right.

With all this awesome documentation available, I won’t run through his whole life story, but I will sum up the significance of Charlie Poole like this:

Charlie Poole (L) and The North Carolina Ramblers.

After Poole and his band “The North Carolina Ramblers” went to New York in 1925 and recorded “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues” for Columbia Records, American popular music was never the same. At a time when there were no more than 600,000 record players in the south, their recording sold 102,000 copies—five times more than any other record that year. Up until that time, “hillbilly music” had never sold more than 20,000 records, and Poole’s success led the music industry to seek out new performers such as Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family. Poole didn’t write his own songs, but combined elements of ragtime, blues, Victorian parlor songs, and even the old minstrel music popular before the Civil War, with his own unique three-fingered style of banjo picking.

[The Charlie Poole bithplace in Millboro, Randolph County, 2009.]

Poole is identified with the mill village of Spray in Rockingham County, where his family moved in 1916, but his formative years were without doubt spent in Randolph County. Both his father Philip Poole and mother Betty Johnson Poole had been mill workers at Haw River in Alamance County, and their relocation around 1890 put the family in the center of the Deep River mill villages.  The house is more or less equidistant between the Worthville mill to the west (with the Randleman mills another 2 mills west) and the Cedar Falls mill to the southeast (with the Franklinville mills another 2 miles east).

Millboro had just been created in 1889 when the “Factory Branch” of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway had reached that point from Climax.

[The last remaining early store in Millboro]

For several years while construction of the line continued towards Franklinville and Ramseur, Millboro served as the shipping point for all the mills in the area, and a number of stores and boarding houses grew up in the area.

The Halliday hunting lodge in Millboro was a prominent draw for sportsmen, and featured its own shingle-style water tank above the tracks (see entry FT:10 in my book, p. 93).

By all accounts, Charlie Poole was already playing the banjo before 1900.  Poole’s first wife said she once had a photograph of him as a child, playing a banjo made out of a gourd. Only after Poole began work in one of the mills could he buy himself a real banjo for $1.50.

One story has Poole’s distinctive banjo-picking style growing out of a childhood accident where Poole caught a baseball bare-handed, breaking his thumb and permanently deforming his dexterity and grip.

Daner Johnson

But another story, from Homer Johnson and Loray Allred of Randleman, says that their uncle Daner Johnson taught Charlie Poole to play the banjo in Johnson’s own distinctive style.

Daner Johnson and his brother “Nep” (Napoleon P.) Johnson were first cousins to Poole’s mother, and Daner Johnson was 13 years older than Poole. According to Homer Johnson, Daner Johnson told Charlie Poole to “throw away them finger picks—anybody who has to use a pick can’t play a banjo.”

Daner Johnson popularized banjo-picking not just in Randolph County, but all over the region.  It was said that at age 25 Johnson won a gold-plated banjo by beating banjo recording star Fred Van Eps in a competition at the 1904 World’s Fair (officially, the “Louisiana Purchase Exposition”) in St. Louis. (As an aside, the St. Louis World’s Fair created the 20th century American diet: among the foods first popularized at the Fair were hamburgers, hot dogs, the ice cream cone, peanut butter, cotton candy, Dr. Pepper and iced tea!)

Daner Johnson must have been a major influence on Charlie Poole’s ability to play their shared favorite instrument. Johnson and Poole continued to play together as adults, on visits to Poole’s sister’s home in Spray, or Johnson’s brother’s home in Draper.

[Daner Johnson tombstone at Melanchthon Church, Liberty, NC.]

Daner Johnson was almost as much a “rambling man” as Charlie Poole; he never remarried after the death of his second wife Pearl from pneumonia, and wandered from friend to friend, playing music, doing farm work and drinking heavily. He died in 1955 and is buried in the cemetery at Melancthon Lutheran Church near Liberty.

[Addendum:  I’m indebted to a post at banjohangout.org [http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=155578 ] for a reference to Patrick Huber’s book “Linthead Stomp,” which features Charlie Poole’s photo on the cover.  Says Barnes and Noble, “Linthead Stomp celebrates the Piedmont millhand fiddlers, guitarists, and banjo pickers who combined the collective memories of the rural countryside with the upheavals of urban-industrial life to create a distinctive American music that spoke to the changing social realities of the twentieth-century South.”   Huber explores how the culture of industrial work and mill village life contributed to the music of Poole, Fiddlin’ John Carson, the Dixon Brothers, and other pioneers of the mis-named “hillbilly music.”  Finding the roots of old time string bands in mill village culture fits right in with Randolph County’s pioneer contributions to cotton mill village life.]

Addendum:  Reading through the local columns of The Courier, the local Randolph County newspaper, for 11 August 1927, I discovered this note:

“A reunion of the Poole family will be held at Nixon’s Pond, Sandy Creek, on State highway 62, Thursday August 11.  A picnic dinner will be served.  All relatives and friends of the family are urged to attend.  Charlie Poole, of near Leaksville, promises to have his string band at the reunion.  Mr. Poole’s band has recently been playing for records for the Edison Phonograph Company, and have been in New York City for some time on this mission.”

McCrary Eagles II

July 30, 2009

Sometimes when I try to put everything I know into one post, it gets w-a-y t-o-o l-o-n-g (See textile processes, above.)

So last time I refrained from putting in those photos I mentioned of the 1935 Eagles game in Randleman.

The seven pictures I have came with the three Bud Scarboro photos, which all seem to date from 1934 or 1935.

Dates are written on the backs of the photos, but are confusing. For example, the photo above is captioned “Clark Thornburg catching; Bright Holland batting, made at Randleman, N.C. 1934”

But the photo is all but identical to this one, captioned “Press Burge in action, 1935.” The tin roof over the dugout, the wooden cage protecting the crowd from foul balls, the women in white dresses behind the catcher, the boys in overalls- all appear to be the same, though labeled a year apart.

The owner wrote “Jack Cox, 1935” on this view.

This one just says, “Monk Davis, 1935”. Monk Davis was the uncle of J.B. Davis, the current CEO of Asheboro furniture manufacturer Klaussner Furniture Industries.

Here is the only photo of a pitcher in action, labeled “Grant- Pitcher, 1935;” behind him in the outfield distance is the scoreboard.

And the scoreboard is shown in detail here, the most visually-interesting photo, and of course it’s the only one where the subject is not identified. But the 1935 chalk board/ scoreboard couldn’t be much different from modern Major League electronic scoreboards… The Home Team evidently won this game 3-1, so given this McCrary Eagle’s happy aspect- looking for all the world like he hit a game-winning home run- this scoreboard may not have been in Randleman. Unless, that is, the Eagles at the time played their home games where ever they could find an empty ball park- a problem not unknown to new teams.

The last photo is the only one in the collection of a non-Eagle. The Oak Ridge player is captioned on the back of the photo “J.O. Scarborough- Oak Ridge Left fielder. He, leading his club in batting in 1925 [sic- 1935?], batted .439 with five homeruns. Miller- at bat; Bruton- catching.” I assume that the name refers to the Oak Ridge Military Academy, located in northwest Guilford County, NC [www.oakridgemilitary.com]. FYI, in one of the many ironic paradoxes of Piedmont history, Oak Ridge Institute was founded in 1852 as a Quaker boarding school. During World War I, the ROTC came to campus, and by 1929 the school had been transformed into a full-fledged military academy- since 1991 the “Official Military Academy of North Carolina.” The paradox, for those who are still stopped a few phrases back, is that Quakers historically have fervently held to the so-called “Peace Testimony,” putting them on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from war and the military. For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_Ridge_Military_Academy , since the school’s own history link doesn’t appear to be working. They have been nearly sunk by financial troubles this summer, after all.

McCrary Eagles Baseball

July 29, 2009

It has been too long since I posted here- both because of the length of my textile processes posts, and because it has been the height of summer, and the yard, the garden, vacations and birthdays have taken up my time. Sorry!

In line with both textiles and summer is the topic of baseball; particularly the textile league team of Asheboro’s Acme-McCrary hosiery mill. The 1937 McCrary Eagles team is pictured above, because in that year the team won the North Carolina semi-pro state title and went to the national championships in Wichita, KS (they lost there). Pictured above are (left to right, and front to back): Pat Short, Hayes Harrington, Sam Lankford and Jack Underwood (bat boy); Mal Craver, Guy Clodfelter, Neely Hunter (Manager), John Griffin, Jack Cox and Bob McFayden; Paul Cheek, Lester Burge, Hal Johnson, Mike Briggs, Gates Smith, Hooks Calloway, Tom Burnett, Red Norris and Charlie Barnes (Trainer).

Baseball goes back a long way in Randolph County—Trinity College was playing UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State as early as the 1880s. The Deep River textile communities joined in the “Deep River League” at least by the turn-of-the-century, and the games between those communities were cut-throat contests for community pride and pecking order.

The McCrary Eagles baseball team was assembled starting in 1933 or 1934; by the 1940s there was also an Eagles basketball team. I’m being vaguer than usual on these dates because I’m really writing here about a group of artifacts, not the team as a whole.

In May of 2007 I met a very nice guy from Troy, Jerry Parsons, who played American Legion baseball in Asheboro on the fabled teams of 1967-1970, with players who were legends at the time- Jimmy Dollyhigh, Scott Rush, Mike Voncannon, Keith Green, Larry Hollingsworth, and Tommy Raines. Jerry walked into my office and offered to sell me a virtually complete McCrary Eagles uniform. He had bid it in at the estate auction of Bud Scarboro in the 1980s. Bud was the long-time operator of the Gulf Service Station in Wadeville, NC, and had been born in Mt. Gilead.

Fifty years before his death, Bud Scarboro played on the 1934 and 1935 McCrary Eagles teams. Like many southern boys of the time, baseball ran in his blood, and in his family. His brothers Ray and Junior also played for the Eagles at some point, and his cousin Ray Scarboro pitched for the White Sox and for the Yankees in the 1952 World Series.

Along with the uniform came eight snapshots processed by the “Flying Film Company Inc.” of San Antonio Texas. They were apparently taken in 1934 or 1935 (both dates are written on the photos) at a game played in Randleman between the Eagles and a team from Oak Ridge.



In the first group of three, Bud Scarboro poses for the camera in his Eagles uniform, the same one I bought from Jerry Parsons. I have everything shown except the cap, the belt and the shoes, and what the real thing best illustrates is how much black and white photographs bleed the vivid life out of the scene.

The actual uniform is a surprisingly thick, scratchy cream-colored wool; the lettering, stockings and Eagle arm patch add vivid blue and red accents to the ensemble.

(The stockings I received are obviously not the solid blue or red ones worn by the team in all their pictures, but these have been well worn all the same.)

The uniforms were top quality- made by Spalding, supplier of Major League uniforms. Bud was a size 42- large even by modern standards, but positively chunky by the measure of Depression-era scrawny Southern boys.

4 Not pictured in any of the action photos, but being worn in Wichita by Mal Craver and Hooks Calloway is the warm-up jacket, a heavy weight wool jersey with brown trim and an elaborate blue eagle on a red circle.

The eagle clutches gear and lightning bolt symbols which show that it was modeled, if not stolen outright, from the National Recovery Administration Blue Eagle. The NRA was a New Deal Agency created by one of President Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.  It was led by Hugh Samuel Johnson, a retired US Army general and businessman, who saw the NRA as a national crusade to increase employment, reduce “destructive competition,” and regenerate industrial production. The program was ruled unconstitutional in 1935 by the US Supreme Court, but most of it reappeared later that year in the National Labor Relations Act.

The NRA was popular with workers because it set the first minimum wage laws. The Blue Eagle (said to be a stylized Art Deco version of the tribal American Thunderbird) was part of a successful publicity campaign which made “voluntary” membership in the NRA effectively mandatory. Since any business that supported the NRA could put the symbol on shop windows and packages, businesses that didn’t were often boycotted. Branding its baseball team with the name and symbol was obviously meant to show that Acme-McCrary was a big supporter of the NRA!

Cotton Textile Manufacturing Processes

June 23, 2009

What follows is an illustrated outline of the stages and processes involved in manufacturing cotton textiles. I worked it up to support a lecture I’m giving to the N.C. Humanities Council Teacher Institute in Chapel Hill, which is this year studying the theme “The Culture of Textiles in North Carolina.” All of the historic photographs illustrating the processes were taken in Randolph County; most of them in the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. George Russell, the superintendent of that mill from 1905 to 1925, created a remarkable album of his own amateur photographs in and around the mill, circa 1916.

Raw Material: Cotton Agriculture.

Randolph County has long been known as the foremost county in the state for wheat production, while its tobacco and cotton crops have always been minimal. It is ironic therefore, that this iconic postcard photograph of North Carolina cotton agriculture illustrates a farm near Asheboro. The photograph was taken by the state’s best known female photographer of the early 20th century.

Transportation.

FMC Teamsters, 1915. Mule teams were the usual choice to draw heavy loads such as these 500-lb. Bales of cotton. The Randolph Mfg. Co. on the east side of Franklinville used oxen instead.


The Cotton Gin .

The cotton Gin, whether located near the cotton field or the cotton mill, was the beginning point in processing the cotton boll into cotton cloth. Farmers brought their cotton to the gin, where the seeds were pulled from the fiber by the teeth of tiny “saws,” and the cotton fiber then pressed into five hundred pound bales. The gins were located in the upper floor of the two-story frame building at left; wagons bringing cotton from the fields unloaded sacks underneath, and the ginned cotton was baled at an adjacent screw press. This photo is probably not of the original gin, which was located beside Elisha Coffin’s grist and saw mill. The cotton gin also operated at a site on the head race east of the dam near the ox barn and and horse stables, and this may be a photo of that operation. In the early twentieth century the gin was moved to a location behind the new company store on Main Street, now the site of the Franklinville Volunteer Fire Department.

The Cotton Warehouse.

Before the factory was in operation, farmers hauled the bales to larger cities for sale; later the cotton bales were stored in a cotton warehouse until needed by the factory or until transport by railroad to some other factory. Until the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway opened service to Staley in May 1884, raw cotton and finished products had been carried to Greensboro by wagon. On November 15, 1886, the shipping point was changed to Millboro, northwest of Cedar Falls; by May 17, 1890, regular rail freight and passenger service was available in Franklinville. Frame cotton houses were used throughout the nineteenth century, until the pictured brick warehouse was built in the summer of 1900.

The Opening Room/ Picker or Lapper House.

The ties binding a bale of cotton were cut in the Opening Room, and cotton from several different bales mixed together in the middle of the floor, as shown. Handfulls of cotton were then thrown into the hopper of a Opener-Feeder, where large metal teeth shredded the compressed cotton and fans blew out some of the leaf fragments and trash. A moving belt then fed the cotton into the Picker, or Lapper, which created a flat lap, or roll of cotton. These rolled laps were taken off the end of the picker and hung on racks, ready to be rolled into the Card Room.

THE CARD ROOM

Carding Engines.

These are the Saco-Pettee revolving flat top cards installed in 1907. In the background the gear end of a set of slubbers is visible, with cast lettering that says “Saco-Pettee/ 1911.” Examples of both of these machines survive in the mill today. The laps were cleaned and condensed on the carding machines and twisted into “sliver” or ‘roving’ (about the size and shape of rope) that was coiled into the roving cans shown.


Drawing frames.

The cans were next taken to “Drawing Frames” (pictured above) where sliver from multiple cans were twisted together and coiled into another can, which was then taken to Roving Frames, starting with Slubbers (shown below) where multiple cans were again twisted into roving, about the size of a pencil, and wound onto large wooden bobbins. The roving bobbins would be carried to the spinning room by the card room hands.

Slubbers.


The Card Room Hands (1915).

As shown, all the card room hands were men and boys. The work was mostly heavy lifting.

The Spinning Room.

In the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company of circa-1910, the Weave Room (and separate Opening Room and Slasher Room) was on the first floor, the Card Room was on the second, and the Spinning Room was on the third floor. Two types of spinning frames were required, one set to produce coarse warp yarn, and another to produce finer filling yarns. Warp yarns were spun onto stubby wooden bobbins, which could then be transferred to larger packages in the warper creel, taken to the dye room for dyeing, or spooled off and warped into skeins for sale as bundle yarn, or twisted together to make packing twine. Finning yarns were spun directly on to the pointed “quills” which snapped into the Draper filling battery on a loom.

The Spinning Room, Franklinsville Mfg. Co., before 1915.

The Spinning Room
hands.

Most spinners were women, although the supervisors were male, and “Bobbin Boys” “doffed” the full bobbins, throwing them into waiting buggies for transport to the next stage.

The Warper Room and Drawing-in Room. The woman is standing beside the warper and warping creel. To the far left may be a drawing-in stand, or it may be part of a warp-tying machine, which was a later advance on drawing-in a pattern by hand. Filling yarns were “drawn in” to the desired pattern through reed and harnesses in the “Drawing-in” Room; the loom’s entire “tackle” could be taken to the weave room to change the pattern on a loom. In the foreground are full warp beams waiting to be taken to the weave room.

The Drawing-In Hands, 1915.

The Dye House.

Colored cloth could be made by weaving with colored yarns or by dyeing natural cotton finished cloth by the yard. Colored yarn could be made either by dyeing the raw cotton before it was spun (often the method of choice for denim production), or by dyeing the natural yarn after spinning. In the 19th century only the signature red, blue or brown stripes in seamless bags needed to be dyed, so the dye house was a small addition to the back of the boiler room. In the 20th century, a bleachery was built at the Lower mill and flannel was dyed and printed in multi-colored patterns. Plaids were woven in many other Deep River and Alamance County mills, but never in Franklinville. A very simple one or two-color check could be woven on a plain or Draper loom, but multi-color plaids required a “box” loom with multiple shuttles carrying the different colors. Crompton and Knowles, or “C&K,” made the most popular American box looms.

The photograph above shows a view of the Central Falls Manufacturing Company dye house around 1900. Raw cotton is being forked out of the dye kettle; it would next have to dry completely before it could be picked, carded and spun. The blue indigo yarn used in Denim twill was usually “dyed in the raw” like this because the twill weave also used a natural white filling yarn; dyeing the denim after weaving would have colored both warp and weft yarns blue.

The second photograph shows a different dyeing process about 40 years later. Women’s hosiery at Acme-McCrary corporation in Asheboro was dyed after the knitting process was complete but before inspection and packing.

The Slasher Room.

Even coarse cotton warp yarn was too delicate to weave on mechanical looms without special treatment. Each individual warp thread was strengthened by dipping it into a vat of hot starch, or “sizing,” and then pulling it around a steam-heated copper drum to dry, before wrapping it onto a warp beam. The Franklinville mills used two circa-1900 Lowell Machine Shop slashers when they closed; the machines were perhaps the oldest then in use in any American factory. Because of their size (each the size of a tractor trailer) they could not be easily salvaged when the lower mill was demolished. Slasher room hand was one of the heaviest, hottest and stickiest jobs in the mill. From here the iron beam of warp yarn could be taken to the floor of the weave room and tied directly onto a working loom, or stored for future use.


.

The Weave Room (1915). The bag looms used in the Franklinsville mill throughout the nineteenth century were made by the Lewiston Machine Works of Lewiston, Maine. The first bag was woven in 1872 by Kate Russell, the daughter of Weave Room Overseer J.B. Russell. Most weavers were women. Men who learned to weave usually did so to learn how to repair the looms, and ultimately became “fixers” and supervisors. Weavers and Fixers were the most skilled and highly-paid floor employees in the mill. The bag looms used in the Franklinsville mill throughout the nineteenth century were made by the Lewiston Machine Works of Lewiston, Maine. Before 1915, weavers were paid by the number of bags that were woven on each machine per day. After the change to sheeting production, weavers were paid by the “cut”, or number of yards woven per day. In 1909 four bag looms were purchased from the Draper Company of Hopedale, Mass., because the company’s “Northrup battery” was revolutionizing the process of weaving. Draper’s innovative battery (the revolver-like cylinders shown to the right) automatically replaced empty bobbins in the shuttle with a new bobbin full of yarn. This automated one of a weaver’s most time-consuming tasks, and made it possible for a worker to double, triple or quadruple the number of looms he or she could operate. Labor activists later referred to this as “the Speed-Up.” When the changeover to sheeting manufacture was made in 1916, all 160 new looms were purchased from the Draper Company. The Draper “E” model looms shown were introduced in 1898 and became the workhorse of the southern textile industry. They were made in various sizes up to 1930. The standard width of cloth woven in 1915 was just 28 inches; forty inches or more in width was considered a ‘wide’ loom. A dozen 40″ or 42″ looms remain at the mill in Franklinville.

The Weave Room Hands, 1915.

(Hugh Buie, Weave Room Boss, 4th from left).

Parks-Cramer Humidifier, or “Air Conditioner”

The Parks-Cramer Company involved one of the outstanding figures in the development of the southern textile industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Charlottean Stuart Warren Cramer. The company was founded in 1918, when the G.M. Parks Company, manufacturers of industrial piping, heating, and ventilation systems based in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, purchased Cramer’s business interests. The new company established business operations in Fitchburg, Boston, and Charlotte. Stuart Warren Cramer was one of the principal inventors and entrepreneurs promoting the growth of southern cotton textiles. Born in 1868 in Thomasville, North Carolina, he attended the United States Naval Academy and the Columbia University School of Mines. In the early 1890s Cramer was chief engineer and manager of the D. A. Tompkins Company in Charlotte, the South’s foremost distributors of cotton-mill machinery and supplies. Its owner, Daniel Augustus Tompkins, was a major builder of cotton mills and a leader of New South industrialization. Cramer soon established his own textile engineering and contracting firm in Charlotte.

Cramer’s specialty in industrial engineering was in the humidification systems for textile factories, and it is said that Cramer coined the term “air conditioning”. In 1904, he introduced an electrically operated heat and humidity control mechanism, and in 1905, an automatic hygrometer. These instruments were predecessors of the Psychrostat, a humidifier control instrument, which injected a fine mist of water into the air, to moisten and “condition” the cotton fibers. Cramer’s best known patent was for the “Cramer System of Air Conditioning,” not just a method of cooling air, but automatically regulating temperature and humidity (high humidity static electricity and made cotton fibers adhere together and spin better).

The Cloth Room.

The Bushnell Baling Press is in the left foreground. In the center background is an automatic cloth folding machine. Sheeting is being packaged for sale here, although seamless bags were baled up and shipped in a similar fashion. From the cloth room, bales would be taken to the warehouse for storage until shipping out on the railroad.


The same Bushnell Press, in the ruins of the Columbia Factory, 2004.

Seamless Bags.

From 1872 to 1915, the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company made woven tubular “seamless” bags. The process of weaving a tube was invented by Cyrus Baldwin, a supervisor in the Amoskeag Machine Shop, and the bags were first woven in the huge Amoskeag Company mills of Manchester, NH. The Franklinsville mill was one of the first factories in the south to import the technology after the Civil War. By 1890 several dozen mills in the US were weaving the bags, which were widely used for shipping flour, corn, seeds, and frozen meat on railroad and steamships. Their popularity was due to their strength (no side or bottom seams to burst) and their durability (seamless cotton bags were returned to the processer, washed, and reused many times). The product suffered a precipitous decline after 1934, when the Pure Food and Drug Act prohibited re-use of food product packaging. Some mills retooled to produce a revised product, “pillow tubing”—actually seamless bags made of much lighter count yarn, and used for craft embroidery of decorative designs. The Franklinville mill retooled in 1915 to switch production to sheeting and other plain weave products. The last seamless bag was woven in the mid-1970s in Alabama by the Bemis Company.

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company: A Pictorial History

June 22, 2009
Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

(This was partially written years ago as part of a walking-tour brochure of Franklinville, but I revised it recently to put a better face on the rather sad present condition of this historic factory, which is now Randolph County’s 3rd designated historic landmark.)

The 140-year story of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company has one of the best-documented visual histories of any North Carolina cotton textile factory.  Portrait photographs of stockholders are known dating from the mid-1850s, the same time a professional artist, David L. Clark, lived in the community and left an extensive written account (although none of his sketches have been found).  A daguerreotypist is listed in the 1860 census, and F.L. Ellison operated a photography business in the community during the latter 1800s.  At the turn of the century, both Hugh Parks, Jr., the mill owner, and George Russell, the mill superintendent, were amateur photographers.  Their work is now indistinguishable, as the oldest Franklinville photographs all descended among members of the Parks and Makepeace families, who were related to both Parks and Russell.  Approximately the time of the 1923 sale of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company to Randolph Mills, Inc., George Russell compiled a an extensive written and photographic history of the mill in identical scrapbooks, one kept by him and one given to Hugh Parks, Jr.  The Parks scrapbook descended to Carrie Parks Stamey, the middle daughter of Hugh Parks, Jr., and was copied in 1985.  Mrs. Stamey also possessed a number of unique individual photographs, which were also copied at that time.  The George Russell scrapbook descended to Margaret Williams of Franklinville, and was given to Mac Whatley in 1987.  Most of the following pictures come from those scrapbooks, although various individual views are used from other sources now found in the Whatley collection.  The quoted passages are taken from the written history of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company as found in the scrapbooks and compiled from the original corporate records, the location of which are now unknown.


Faith Rock. The power of water falling over a series of stone ledges in the path of Deep River is the whole reason manufacturing grew up at the place which became known as Franklinsville. As the river flows from Guilford County through Randolph County its level drops some five hundred feet. As it reaches Franklinville it strikes a huge stone outcropping known as Faith Rock and turns, creating a dogleg bend in the river. In 1782 Faith Rock was the site of a Revolutionary War confrontation between the pro-British Colonel David Fanning, who chased the Whig Andrew Hunter along the ridge and into the river. Soon after the spot was recognized for its industrial potential, and several speculative owners purchased land around the falls before the site was developed as a mill seat.


Coffin’s Mill on Deep River. Flour milling is Franklinville’s oldest activity. Tradition credits construction of the first mill to Christian Moretz (or Morris) in 1801. The 2 ½-story frame building shown here was about 30 x 30 feet in plan, and housed a wooden water wheel that powered three mill stones and a minimum of flour-processing machinery. By 1802 Morris was being taxed for the operation of a large cotton gin, and he also operated a saw mill and wool carding machine. The availability of such a variety of products and services led to the formation of a lively rural trading community even before Elisha Coffin bought the property in 1821. Much if not all of the building pictured must dated from the time of Coffin’s ownership, as the oversized twelve-over-twelve window sash are appropriate to the 1830s. The southern wall of the Boiler House is visible in the left background. In 1912 the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced the antique grist mill with a greatly-expanded modern operation which used steel rollers instead of stones to grind the grain. That three-story “Roller Mill” opened in 1913, operated until 1990, and burned in 1992.


Elisha Coffin (b. 11-23-1779, d. 5-22-1870). Elisha Coffin was born in the New Garden section (now Guilford College) of Guilford County. He was the son of Quaker emigrants from the island of Nantucket who moved to North Carolina in the late 1760s and early 1770s, and both his father and grandfather had served as crew members on whaling voyages to the Arctic. Elisha Coffin learned the trade of a miller and millwright, buying and building a number grist mills in Guilford and Randolph. For 60 years Coffin’s family of Nantucket Quakers served as the liberal backbone and conscience of Piedmont North Carolina, spearheading the fight against slavery. The very year Elisha Coffin purchased the mill on Deep River, he and his father assisted nephew and first cousin Levi Coffin, “the President of the Underground Railroad,” in transporting escaped slave Jack Barnes to freedom in Indiana. Coffin ran the various mills on Deep River until 1838, when he allowed the new Randolph Manufacturing Company corporation to purchase the operation as an adjunct to textile manufacturing.


Island Ford Manufacturing Company, built 1846. No photograph or drawing of the original Randolph Manufacturing Company mill is known, but the Island Ford mill half a mile downriver was built 7 years later by Elisha Coffin, George Makepeace and a very similar group of investors. The two mills probably looked much alike, although the Island Ford mill was built of wood while the Franklinsville factory was of brick. (The two-story weave shed in the foreground was added to the Island Ford mill in the 1850s.) Construction began on the Franklinsville factory in the summer of 1838, and spinning and weaving operations started in March, 1840. The monitor roof effectively gave the mill four usable floors; in the Franklinsville factory it appears that this was used as the “dressing room,” where hot starch was applied to warp yarns. It was there that the fire started which destroyed the building on April 18, 1851.


Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. 1874. Samuel Walker, Agent. The west side of the mill, with all the employees lined up for the camera. A ladder leans against the gable roof. A Greek Revival-style bell cupola covers the northern gable peak, while a chimney stack rises from the southern end. Lighter-colored brick are clearly visible up to the level of the second floor joists, marked by cast iron tie-rod ends; this indicates where the original 1838 walls were found to be solid enough to build upon. There are at least forty workers posing on the ground, three on the tall ladder, and one sitting in a third-floor window. From March 21, 1859, the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company had been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Cedar Falls Company, under the supervision of George Makepeace. Ten looms designed to weave seamless cotton bags were installed in April, 1872, and ten more were installed in July, 1874. George Makepeace having died in December, 1872, the mill was now under the management of Samuel Walker.


George Makepeace (b. 9-19-1799, d. 10-9-1872). Makepeace learned the textile industry in small mills around Wrentham, Massachusetts, on the Rhode Island border not far from the birthplace of the textile industry in Pawtucket. Makepeace was hired by the Franklinsville company to install the machinery and train the workers. He was en route to Randolph County on December 25, 1839, when his daughter Lucy was born in Petersburg, Virginia. For many years Makepeace was one of the region’s only skilled experts in textile manufacturing, consulting with mills all around the Piedmont and training the next generation of North Carolina’s textile management. During the Civil War the Cedar Falls Company under Makepeace’s management was the largest integrated textile manufacturing operation in the state, processing raw cotton into yarn, cloth, and clothing. In 1862 he reported that the Company “had been furnishing the State Government for the past year with a large amount of its manufactures for the use of the Army and is now under contract to supply fifty thousand shirts and drawers for the army.”


Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1876). Taken from the northwest, with the northern gable end clearly visible, although the sun reflecting off what appears to be a metal roof is hiding the bell cupola in its glare. The lighter-colored brick of the original first floor is still visible, as are the two chimneys at the south end. Wooden board sidewalks are provided across gulleys and muddy tracks. There are approximately 35 people posing on the ground, and at least two looking out of third-floor windows. The factory had undergone three ownership changes in the previous two years. The Cedar Falls Company had sold the mill to the Randleman Manufacturing Company on July 28, 1875, but less than a year later, on the Centennial day of July 4, 1876, the partners Hugh Parks, Benj. Moffitt and Eli N. Moffitt bought the property for $24,500. Hugh Parks was then the Mayor of Franklinsville and the primary owner of the Island Ford mill downstream. “At this time the mill was a three-story brick building, 40 x 80 feet, with picker room, 34 x 40 feet, built of stone and some distance from the main building. The mill was then equipped with twenty looms for weaving seamless bags, and the necessary preparatory machinery. The only bag made then was a 16 ounce bag, branded ‘Franklinsville,’ which had both double warp and double filling. Hugh Parks and Benj. Moffitt took charge of this mill at once, keeping James F. Carter, Overseer of Carding; Nathan A. Fergerson, Overseer of Spinning; and Jesse P. Arledge, Overseer of Weaving. It was only a short time until Hugh Parks put in Matthew Sumner [as] Superintendent, who was also Superintendent of the Island Ford Manufacturing Company.”


Stockholders of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, 1876. On January 26, 1877, the three partners formed a corporation, contributing $30,000 of capital in shares valued at $500 each. The first stockholders meeting was held March 28, 1877, at which Hugh Parks was elected President, Benj. Moffit Secretary- Treasurer, and Eli N. Moffitt, director. The new capital was used to modernize the mill’s equipment.


Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1883). Hugh Parks, Sr., Pres. Benj. Moffitt, Sec. & Treas. Baling Room Completed. The factory has undertaken a major expansion in the intervening 7 years. In July 1879 the old throstle spinning frames were replaced with ring spinning frames purchased from and erected by the Lowell Machine Shop. A spooler was installed at the same time. In February, 1880, new railway heads, drawing frames and speeders were erected, and in December 1880 and January 1881 a new picker and eighteen cards were installed. A two-story addition was built to the mill in July 1882. Called the Wheel House or Engine House, this wing was much more elaborate architecturally than the old mill, having brick quoins at each corner and gothic-style hood moldings over doors and windows. The wing provided space for a new water wheel and the first steam boilers and engine, which were installed and started for the first time on November 24, 1882. The smokestack for the boilers is visible at the south end of the Wheel House. At some undisclosed time the 1850’s gable roof was replaced by a flat roof with paneled brick parapets. This was undoubtedly done to qualify for insurance protection by one of the Factory Mutual insurance companies based in New England. The Factory Mutual companies had determined that the wooden trusses of gable roofs were fire hazards, and promoted replacement by flat roofs built with “slow-burn,” or solid tongue-and groove decking, construction. The one-story Baling Room housed the printing, sewing, baling and shipping operations of the mill. The Baling Press was operated by the rope-drive pulleys punched through the walls of the mill and separate Baling Room wing. A new picker, eight more cards, a spooler, a warper, and ten more looms were also installed at this time. This new equipment heralded the weaving of the first 14-ounce bags, having a double warp and single filling. The new product was branded “Parks,” in honor of the company’s President, Hugh Parks.


Group Employee Picture, Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, ca. 1885. The group is assembled in the mill yard between the oil or waste house and the mill, facing the company store, where the photographer stands. Oil for lubrication and lamps was housed in a separate building from the factory, as were rags and cotton waste used for cleaning.


Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1886). Taken from the southeast, with the 1838 stone Picker House in the foreground. The Wheel and Engine Houses are still just two stories, and it is obvious that the boilers are fired with wood. Four different weights of seamless bags were now made in the mill, the increase having been made possible by the addition of a slasher, which made lighter weights of yarn suitable for weaving by strengthening them with starch. “In February 1884 the first slasher was put in, which was known as a hot air slasher and was made here in the mill. It was in March of the same year when the first single warp bags were made. They were a 12 ½ ounce bag branded ‘Chapman,’ and an 11 ounce bag branded ‘Dover.'” These products proved popular, and increased the demand for bags beyond the mill’s capacity to spin lower counts of yarn. Therefore, in 1887, a 17×40 foot addition was made on the west side of the Picker House, “and five new Lowell spinning frames and a new spooler were added, and the manufacturing of Chain Warp began, by use of the Circular Mill.” In October 1888 the Baling Room was expanded and the first cylinder slasher was installed. By 1893 the demand for seamless bags was such that ten more looms were installed, and in 1894, as the orders for single warp bags increased and those for double warp bags lessened, it became necessary to add two more cylinders to the slasher. The first self-feeder and opener was installed in the Picker House in February, 1896.


Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1892) Hugh Parks, Sr., Pres.; Benj. Moffitt, Sec. & Treas. Tower Completed. The most obvious new feature is the brick tower positioned at the northeast corner of the original building. “Up until 1892 all the roving and yarn were carried in bags, up and down the steps, by boys; but after the tower was built and the elevator installed, the task was made much lighter.” A separate tower for stairs was another requirement of the Factory Mutual companies, as the old open stairways inside the mill could act as chimneys during a fire. Besides new stairs and an elevator, the tower also supported a wooden water tank feeding the new sprinkler system. Even though the scrapbook label clearly states that the above picture dates to 1892, when the tower was completed, it appears that it actually dates to 1895, as a third story is obviously present atop the 1882 Wheel and Engine House. “In 1895 the third story was built on the engine room; and two new Hopedale twisters were put in, replacing the old ones, for making selvage for bags and twine for hemming.”


Employee Group Picture, ca. 1895. The employees are assembled in front of the stair tower, facing the company store.


Smoke Stack. Built 1897. “In October 1896 J.E. Duval started the first dynamo in this mill, and then tallow candles and kerosene lamps became a thing of the past.” But the boilers and draft stack of 1882 proved inadequate to handle both the increased production of the mill and the new technology of the 1890s. “In 1897 a new engine room, 19×36 feet, an addition to the boiler room and a new smoke stack were built, and a new boiler and engine were installed and started on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1897, by Benajah T. Lockwood of Providence, R.I.” The double door under the shed roof led into the boiler room. The steam engine was located in the wing to the left of the door. The dynamo was evidently a D.C. generator, as the subsequent 1920 turbine boiler powered the first AC generator. “The old No. 1 Keeler boiler was sold and delivered to Kersey-Carr Company on February 23, 1921.”


1897 Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Corliss-type steam engine. The original steam engine installed by the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company in 1882 had been purchased from the William A. Harris Company of Providence, Rhode Island. Harris had worked with the original George Corliss company before starting his own factory, and specialized in large mill engines using the highly-efficient Corliss valve gear. The original engine had a 14″ diameter piston with a 36″ stroke; its flywheel was 11 feet in diameter. On July 29, 1897, the Franklinsville company ordered a new engine having an 18″ piston, 42″ stroke, and 13-foot flywheel designed to carry a 24″ leather belt to power the mill’s lineshafting. After installation the engine was used continuously until December 23, 1920, after which the mill was renovated for electrical drive. On July 21, 1921 the engine was sold and removed to C.R. Preddy of Builder’s Sash and Door Company of Rocky Mount, N.C. On April 5, 1933, it was again sold and moved to Williams Lumber Company of Wilson, N.C. Williams Lumber was bought out by Stevenson Millwork in 1965, and the engine operated until that business was liquidated in 1972. It was disassembled and stored in a field in Smithfield until 1977, when it was purchased by Shell Williams of Godwin, N.C. Williams moved the engine to his home on U.S. 301 in northeast Cumberland County and re-erected it on a concrete block foundation. It was located there in 1995, and identified from the original W.A. Harris records now in the possession of the New England Museum of Wireless and Steam. Inside the upper half of the flywheel is faintly visible, in red paint, “Franklinsville Mfg. Co., Franklinsville, N.C.”


Unloading Water Wheel (1909). The mill’s original power undoubtedly came from one or more wooden water wheels, probably of the breast (or “pitch-back”) type. The type of “new” water wheel installed in 1882 is unknown. In the major expansion of the mill of 1899, a 44-inch Leffel turbine wheel was installed and started August 14, 1899. The dynamo which provided lighting in the mill was run by this wheel until 1901, when a separate steam engine was installed for that purpose. In 1909 the old water wheel and water house was torn out, and a 285-horse power horizontal turbine wheel was installed by D.J. Heiston and Jake Lindemuth of the S. Morgan Smith Company of York, Pa. After conversion of the mill to electric drive in 1920, the turbine was used as back-up power for emergency pumps until about 1940. The wheel housing visible on the railroad car still exists in place under the mill, although the runner wheel appears to have been removed.


Seamless Bags made by Franklinsville Mfg. Co., 1901. “The double warp bags were discontinued this year, as the demand was for a single warp and single filling bag; this required more slashing, and a new two cylinder slasher was installed in August, 1901. This year the brands were changed; the 16 ounce bag was branded “Atlantic;” and the 14 ounce bag, “Lone Star.” In 1915 the corporate secretary wrote, “Some months ago Hugh Parks, Jr., saw the destiny of seamless bags, and after visiting Baltimore and New York, decided that the best thing to do was to make a complete change and to manufacture sheetings instead of bags. It was decided to build an addition (52×73) to the weave room and install 160 looms, for weaving sheetings, and the necessary preparatory machinery. In January, 1916, all the bag looms were thrown out; and the last bag was woven by Arthur Ellison on January 30, 1916. Arthur Ellison gave up his position in the weaving room January 30, 1916; when Hugh B. Buie was put in charge of the room. The last bags (22 bales) were shipped November 16, 1917 for the account of Amon Green & Co., Baltimore, Md., to Carleton Dry Goods Co., St. Louis, Mo. These bags were sold April 19, 1915.


Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1913). Benj. Moffitt, Pres. Hugh Parks, Jr., Sec.-Treas. Taken from one of the wooden bridges which crossed the head race, this view looks northeast toward the south sides of (from left to right) the Picker House (now two stories); the Baling House (in the center, now also two stories and housing the slasher, the drawing-in room, the warper room, and spooling); the main mill; the Wheel House (now three stories); the Engine House (one story); the Boiler Room (one story, but having a gable roof with clerestory). The shed porch on the far right belongs to the new Roller Mill, out of sight.


The Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Roller Mill, circa 1920. Built in 1912 and put into operation in 1913, the roller mill made Excelsior brand flour. Later the Excelsior brand was limited just to whole wheat flour, and the new Dainty Biscuit brand was given to more refined white flours. Its drive wheel shared the head race water with the cotton mill until conversion to electric drive.


Construction of the Feed Mill, 1936. This is a detail taken from a larger view from Faith Rock across Deep River, looking northeast. A major expansion of the roller mill operation in the late 1930s provided for increased sales of chicken, rabbit, horse, mule, goat and hog feeds. The terra cotta tile silos were built for wheat storage. The three-story 1899 wing of the cotton mill and the one-story 1915 weave shed are visible in the center of the picture.


Expansion of the Card Room, circa 1944. During World War II John W. Clark received special permission for extensive remodeling and repair of the 100-year-old facility. Steel girders and I-beams recycled from other buildings were used to create a new support structure for the mill, completely independent of the exterior brick walls. The Opening, Picker and Card Rooms were expanded into the court yard between the old wings by bulldozing the intervening hills.


The “Upper Mill” area of Randolph Mills, Inc., circa 1950. Taken by Aero-Pix of Raleigh, this aerial photograph shows the entire complex of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. The original mill, as expanded in 1899, is at left center; the Baling Room wing to its right and the Picker House just about that. Across the road is the 1884 Company Store, then serving as the machine shop. Directly above it is the 1919 Power House and Smokestack (125 feet, 2 ¾ inches of radial brick on a fifteen-foot-deep foundation of crushed stone and concrete, demolished about 1975). Heading west from the Power House is a house used by the company as a hotel, now the site of the company garage. From there to the dam was the original location of the company stables and barn, and the cotton gin. On the opposite side of the head race just below the dam is the Peanut House; across the road from there is the Chicken Hatchery; adjoining it is the antebellum residence of the President of the Company; then the Feed Mill and Roller Mill.


RANDLEMAN

February 2, 2009


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
rebuilt.

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.

CENTRAL FALLS

February 1, 2009

RANDOLPH COUNTY MILL VILLAGES: Central Falls

From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published March 25, 1981

Central Falls, ca. 1970, as a Burlington Industries Plant

Central Falls, ca. 1970, as a Burlington Industries Plant

Central Falls was founded in 1881 as the home of the Central Falls Manufacturing Company. J.H. Ferree, part-owner of the mills in Randleman and Worthville, was one of the founders of the Central Falls firm, which also included prominent men and women of Randleman and Asheboro. The site was presumably named after Central Falls, Rhode Island, a major center of textile manufacturing. A brick mill as well as a community building and 25 houses were built, with the community building also housing non-demoninational church services. The building was sold to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1882, and survives today under a brick veneer skin added after a minor fire in 1934.

The Central Falls factory employed 65 people in 1884, weaving 2,000 years of sheeting per day on 35 looms. In 1886 the Worth Manufacturing Company purchased the Central Falls plant and renamed it Worth Mill No. 2 (the Worthville factory becoming No. 1). One of Dr. Worth’s most unusual operations was freight and passenger service between the two villages via steamboat. Worth Manufacturing entered bankruptcy in 1913, and the Central Falls factory subsequently underwent several reorganizations. The factory is presently owned by Burlington Industries.

Construction of the new highway bridge, 1929, replaced the old covered bridge at Central Falls.

Construction of the new highway bridge, 1929, replaced the old covered bridge at Central Falls.

Central Falls was awarded a post office in 1882, but was never incorporated as a town. The village was included in the Asheboro Sanitary Sewage District in 1941 as the city’s discharge point into Deep River, and is now completely within the Asheboro city limits.

The village is still more than just another neighborhood of Asheboro, however, and suffers from something of an identity crisis. The most chronic complaint today concerns the condition of the community building, once the Central Falls School, which has been heavily vandalized and is unuseable. The community could greatly benefit from its renovation.

CEDAR FALLS

January 31, 2009

RANDOLPH COUNTY MILL VILLAGES: Cedar Falls

From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published November 26, 1980


The Cedar Falls Factory (“Sapona Cotton Mills”) and Covered Bridge, ca. 1940.

The first textile factory on Deep River was built at Cedar Falls. A group of Asheboro lawyers and businessmen began to promote development of such a factory in 1828; “The Manufacturing Company of the County of Randolph” was incorporated by the state legislature in February 1829. The Elliott family of Asheboro provided their grist mill site on the river to encourage investment, but the stockholders were unable to raise enough money to start construction until 1836. A wooden building housing 500 spindles was erected and powered by an overshot water wheel. The company was re-chartered in 1846 so that a new brick mill building could be built. At least two walls of this 3-story structure survive today.

In 1860 the mill operated 1500 spindles and 38 looms. producing both yarn and sheeting material. The company was one of the first in the state to use a brand name, “Cedar Falls,” on all its products. George Makepeace, a Massachusetts native, and his son, George Henry, were both superintendents of the mill during the nineteenth century. Governor Jonathon Worth one of the original 1829 incorporators, was president of the company at his death in 1869. His brother, Dr. J.M. Worth, became president and reorganized the company in 1877. At the same time Orlando R. Cox resigned his elected office of Sheriff of Randolph County to become general manager of the Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company.


On the steps of the Cedar Falls office: unknown, Orlendo R. Cox, Fletcher Cox, unknown, ca. 1890.

By 1884, under Cox’s leadership, the mill had grown to include 2,144 spindles, 30 looms and 90 employees. About 1890 he built his large Victorian home on the hill overlooking the mill; in 1895 he built a second factory, the “Sapona Manufacturing Company,” downstream from the original mill. Cedar Falls’ best-remembered period of management began in 1939, when Dr. Henry Jordan, brother of Senator B. Everett Jordan, bought the village. In 1978 Jordan’s heirs sold the property to Dixie Yarns, Inc.