Posts Tagged ‘Randolph Manufacturing’

Coffin’s Mills

May 21, 2009

Coffin’s Mills, 1912, from the George Russell album of Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Author’s Collection.

Flour milling is Franklinville’s oldest activity. Since at least 1801 the falls of the river there powered a grist and saw mill which had in turn nurtured a small community of shops and houses. In 1821 those mills were acquired by Elisha Coffin; from him the settlement took its name, “Coffin’s Mills,” and became the site of one of North Carolina’s oldest textile factories.

That’s Franklinville history in a nutshell, but the answers to the basic “who, what, when and where” questions of the town’s founding are all more complicated.

The first person known to have held title to the site of Franklinville was Jacob Skeen, who in 1784 received it as a grant from the State of North Carolina [See Randolph County Deed Book 2, p.136 (State to Jacob Skeen, 2 Nov. 1784) and Book 4, p.108 (Skeen to daughter Jane, 23 Sept. 1790)]. In 1795 Skeen’s daughter and heir, Jane Safford, and her husband Revel Safford, sold the 400-acre tract to George Mendenhall, who in turn sold it to Benjamin Trotter, both of whom could recognize good mill real estate [Book 17, p.226 (Jane & Revel Safford to George Mendenhall, 9 Sept. 1795) and Book 8, p.401 (Mendenhall to Benjamin Trotter, 28 July 1797)]. Both men were millers, but it is unclear whether they made any use of the site, and their intentions may have been purely speculative. Mendenhall owned the substantial mill on Deep River now known as Coletrane’s Mill, and he seems to have acquired sites for other mills as investments. In 1801, Trotter sold the property to Christian Morris; that deed refers to “Benj’n Troter of Randolph County and State of No. Carolina (Miller).” [Deed Book 8, p.441 (Trotter to Christian Moretz, 15 Oct. 1801)].

Either Mendenhall or Trotter could have been the first to utilize the property as the site of a grist mill. Local tradition, however, states that the first mill at the site was built by the 1801 buyer, Christian Morris (or Moretz), a member of the German community in northeastern Randolph. [J.A. Blair, Reminiscences of Randolph County, 35 (Greensboro: Reece & Elam, 1890)].

Whether or not Morris built the first mill, by 1802 he was being taxed for the operation of a large cotton gin (verbal shorthand for ‘engine’). Invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, the unpatented invention spread quickly around the South, and Randolph County had five gins subject to taxation the year Morris erected his machine. [“Return of the Cotton Machine for the Year 1802,” in Randolph County Miscellaneous Tax Records, C.R. 081.701.5, North Carolina State Archives]. Morris’s was one of the larger machines, featuring 30 saws designed to pull the cotton fibers from the seeds. Since Morris also operated a wool-carding machine and saw mill at the mill, it appears that the site rapidly acquired the characteristics of a rural trading community. At the tiny frame mill a farmer could have his corn and grain ground into flour, have his timber sawed into lumber, gin the seeds from his cotton, and have the wool from his sheep carded for his wife to spin into yarn.

Morris died about the year 1812, and his extensive property holdings were divided among his children by the county court. Morris’ oldest son, John, received the mill tract, but since he had moved to Lincoln County, North Carolina, someone else must have run the mill until it was sold to James Ward in 1818. [Deed Book 14, p.124 (John Morris to James Ward, 2 April 1818)].

Elisha Coffin, taken about 1855.

Elisha Coffin (23 November 1779 – 22 May 1870) was a son of Nantucket Quakers who moved to the New Garden community (now Guilford College) in the 1770s. In 1816 he purchased a mill site on the Uwharrie River (Deed Book 13, Page 127), but soon sold that and purchased the Deep River mill from Ward [Deed Book 14, p. 531 (Ward to Elisha Coffin, 25 Dec. 1821)]. Owner and operator of several other mills in Guilford and Randolph Counties mills, Coffin was also a farmer, merchant and politically active Justice of the Peace. He organized a group of investors under the name of “The Randolph Manufacturing Company,” with the aim of building Deep River’s second cotton factory. [Southern Citizen (Asheboro), 3 March 1838], and ambitiously named the small community to honor Jesse Franklin, then the governor of North Carolina. It continued to be known locally, however, as “Coffin’s Mills on Deep River” until the name “Franklinsville” was officially recorded in the town’s 1847 legislative act of incorporation. [Chapter 200, Private Laws of 1846-47, ratified 18 Jan. 1847]. Coffin sold his property in 1850 after pro-slavery interests took control of the factory (Deed Book 28, Page 479), and purchased 345 acres on Richland Creek (Deed Book 28, Page 480) from Thomas Lucas—probably the mill site now known as “Kemp’s Mill.” He eventually moved back to Guilford County, ending his career as proprietor of the “College Mill” at New Garden.

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. It is probable that the original windows were closed only by sliding wooden shutters, as in the Walker/Nixon mill and Dennis Cox mill. The dormer window lighting the attic floor is even later, probably added around 1880. The steeply-pitched roof of the building provided space for grain storage, and the north-facing lucam in the gable allowed wagons to be unloaded between the cotton factory and grist mill, and the grain sacks hoisted into the attic. An earlier photograph suggests that the lucam might have been remodeled, and could have been enclosed originally as at the Walker/Nixon mill.

The 2 ½-story frame building shown above is the smallest, and probably the oldest, Randolph County grist mill in any surviving photograph. The photographer is looking northeast, at the western and southern walls of the building. The grist mill shown here was about 30 x 30 feet in plan, and was situated about 75 feet west of the river and 25 feet from the south wall of the cotton factory boiler house and smokestack. At that location the building was sitting approximately 15 feet above the level of the river, and judging from the water level of the race the water wheel under the shed must have been a “pitch-back” style breast wheel. The flowing water would have hit the buckets of the wheel somewhere between 10 and 11 o’clock, causing the wheel to rotate counterclockwise. The shed roof to the right (or southern end) of the building covered the water wheel, and to its right, out of frame, was a sash sawmill. The head race is dry while the crew rebuilds it, but the mill operates even without the water power. The smaller shed roof to the left, at the northwest corner, is attached by piping to the vertical steam boiler visible at left, and exhaust steam spraying out of the pipe just above the jib boom crane indicates that the engine must be running.

1885 Sanborn map (the 1888 map is identical). The boiler and engine house of the cotton mill is just to the north.

According to the 1885 Sanborn Insurance Company map of Randolph County, the mill was heated by an open grate fireplace and lit by candles. It featured three “run” of mill stones on the first floor, with a “smutter” machine and “bolting chest” on the second floor. From this we can reconstruct the entire operation of the mill. A farmer delivered his harvest to the base of the north wall, where the windlass in the lucam hoisted the grain into the attic, called by millers “the sack floor.” From there the grain dropped by gravity to the “bin floor,” where the grain was cleaned and stored in large wooden bins. The smutter and bolter
mentioned by the insurance agent were on bin floor, and were the minimum machinery required to produce high quality flour. A smutter is an enclosed fan which cleans the raw grain by blowing mold, rust, fungus and dirt particles off the kernels. A bolter is an inclined, revolving wooden cage covered with silk; flour conveyed into the bolter was sifted by the silk, with the smallest particles falling through the silk at the high end to make the finest quality flour, the next grade through the silk in the center called the “middlings,” and the coarse bran collected from the bottom as breakfast cereal and animal feed.

To start the grinding operation, a wooden chute was opened to funnel grain from the bin floor to the “stone floor,” where it fell into the “hopper,” held in place by the four-legged “horse” atop the “stone case,” a circular wooden frame enclosing the working pair of millstones. From the hopper grain vibrates into the “shoe,” a tapering wooden trough through which the grain is fed into the stones. The turning upper stone, or “runner,” does the grinding work against the fixed “bed” stone. The ground meal or flour worked its way to the center or “eye” of the bed stone, where it was channeled through a spout into a bin or bag on the “meal floor,” at ground level, or conveyed back to the sack floor for bolting or further storage.

Grist mills with just one or two stones were considered “custom” mills, because they ground to the personal specifications of the farmers who patronized the mill. What the farmer brought in (wheat, rye, barley, oats or corn) was what he got back, in a different form (flour, meal, bran), less a portion retained by the miller as his fee (the toll”– no money changed hands). The bolter was another step in refining the finished product, and allowed the miller to collect an additional toll. A “merchant” mill had three or more “run” or pairs of stones and operated year-round, packaging the flour in 100-lb. bags and 196-lb. barrels for sale to the general public. Although a single pair of stones could be used to grind any kind of grain, one stone was usually reserved for grinding wheat and one for corn, and the stones were furrowed in a way that worked best to grind each type of grain (no one bothered with 5-lb. Bags then!). Many mills used an expensive “buhr” stone imported from France for grinding the best quality white flour, while corn could be ground on American granite or sandstone. In a merchant mill, the third stone was sometimes used to clean grain or de-hull oats, barley, or buckwheat; but by 1885 it is likely that the third stone was being used to regrind the middlings, producing higher quality flour. That procedure was called “new process” milling, and it was developed to compete with the new “roller mill” technology developed in the late 1870s which used grooved porcelain or toothed steel rollers to pull the grains apart rather than grind them. Roller milling was the biggest technological change in the milling process in 2,000 years. The invention of roller mills not only outmoded grist mills, but caused a complete shift in the types of wheat that were produced by American farmers.

In 1912 the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced this antique grist mill with a greatly-expanded modern roller grinding operation. That three-story “Roller Mill” opened in 1913, operated until 1990, and burned in 1992. When their picture above was taken in 1912, the gang of men were building wooden forms for the concrete walls of the new roller mill head race, or “forebay.” At least eight of the fifteen men in the photo appear to be African-Americans; they are not the ones white shirts, vests and ties. At this time the only jobs in or around the factory for black workers were the ones requiring heavy lifting, usually in the mill “yard,” loading and unloading wagons or managing the 500-pound bales of cotton in the opening room. Here the construction crew digging and forming up the new race appear to be entirely or predominately black.



January 29, 2009


From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published April 29, 1981.

The Enterprise Manufacturing Company, ca. 1890.

The wooden factory was replaced circa 1915.

Coleridge was the home of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company, the southern most cotton mill built on Deep River. Its construction in 1882 was the final link in the chain of Randolph County’s water-powered textile industries which had begun to be forged in 1836. The company was organized by H.A.
Moffitt, an Asheboro merchant, and Daniel Lambert and James A. Cole, prominent citizens of southeastern Randolph. The original structure was a two-and-one-half story wooden building housing 800 spindles and 26 workers. The facilities of the corporation included a wool-carding mill, saw mill, and flour mill.

The surrounding village was known first as Cole’s Ridge and then as Coleridge, after James A. Cole, who in 1904 sold a majority interest in the company to his son-in-law, Dr. Robert L. Caveness. By 1917 it was said that “R. L. Caveness is at the head of practically everything in Coleridge,” and it was under his influence that the brick mill facilities were built. The factory (built in the 1920’s) is of utilitarian design with Tudor Revival entrance towers. The company store, bending mill, and warehouse (all built circa 1910), and the company office and Bank of Coleridge (built in the 1920’s) were all constructed in the Romanesque Revival style. Caveness also directed the town’s only other industry, the Coleridge Manufacturing Company, which made parts of bentwood chairs.

The Concord Methodist Church was built in Coleridge in 1887. Just behind the church building was located the Coleridge Academy, which included a room for the Masonic Lodge. The academy was formed in 1890 from two smaller schools, and closed in 1936. The Bank of Coleridge was founded in 1919, opened a branch in Ramseur in 1934, and moved there in 1939. The Enterprise Roller Mill, grinding wheat with steel rollers instead of stones, was the first roller mill in Randolph County. Its “Our Leader” flour was
very popular in the area. Dr. Caveness remained personally involved in the operation of the mill, although he tried to return to his medical practice in 1922.

The Enterprise Manufacturing Company Store

In 1959 the mill boasted 6,000 spindles and 150 employees, manufacturing cotton or knitting yarn and twine. In 1951, Dr. Caveness died and the business immediately began to decline. His heirs sold out to Boaz Mills of Alabama in 1954, and in 1958 the mill was closed and the equipment sold off. The buildings have since been used as warehouse space.

The village was Randolph County’s first historic district, and has been placed on the National Register or Historic Places. Its 1970 nomination stated that “the chief appeal of this site is as a picturesque example of a riverside mill seen in one of North Carolina’s oldest manufacturing sections.”

These illustrations can be found in the Randolph County Public Library’s collection of historic photographs, .

They were previously used to illustrate portions of Randolph County: 1779-1979, the county bicentennial book.

Randolph Manufacturing Company Interior

January 17, 2009
Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Before we leave the east end of Franklinville, here’s my only interior view of the 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company mill.

It’s the spinning room, but the weave room boss, Oliver York, is the mustachioed gent second from the left.   Mr. York must be visiting for the photographer, either George Russell, the superintendent of the upper mill, or “Jack” Parks (Hugh Parks Jr.), the son of the mill owner, both of whom were amateur photographers at the time.

The spinning room ran the length of the 2nd floor of the longest section of the building, between the stair tower and the river.  The weave room was on the first floor, below, as was common in every factory (looms vibrated, and hundreds of looms running in sync vibrated enough to shake a building down, unless they were situated on the lowest floors).

The spinning frames were manufactured by the Lowell Machine Shop, one of the oldest makers of American textile machinery.  The company began as the in-house machine shop of the Merrimack Mfg. Co. in Lowell, Mass., and later merged with the Saco Mfg. Co. of Biddeford, Maine, to become Saco-Lowell.   These are “ring spinning” frames, a technology invented in the 1820s but not embraced by manufacturers until the 1850s.  Early spinning frames used revolving “flyers” to draw the yarn out into thinner and thinner lenghts, and to build cones on a bobbin, and were called “throstles” because the high-speed whirring sounded like birds.  Ring spinning replaced the flyer with a tiny steel ring, or “traveller,” which slipped over the yarn and created a drag when it ballooned out while spinning.  Doffing full bobbins and replacing the travellers were common jobs in the spinning room.  The buggies in the foreground are full of bobbins.

The machinery is being powered by a system of overhead shafts and pulleys, connected by ropes on the far end to the water wheel and steam engine, and by leather belts to the actual spinning frames.  Hanging from hooks along the center row of wooden columns are metal fire buckets full of sand.  The mill had its own electric dynamo from its construction in 1895, but the single clear light bulbs hanging from individual wires throughout the room are almost lost among all the power shafts and pulleys.  Sprinklers and humidification pipes aren’t yet visible, but would be installed by World War I.

The amount of lint on the floor gives an idea how dusty a spinning room always was, but nothing can show the usual high noise level of the spinning room, or the even more deafening sound of the weave room.  At the time of the photo, obviously, the room would be quiet– all the machinery has stopped, shown by the fact that the pulleys aren’t blurred by motion.

Randolph Manufacturing Company III

January 11, 2009

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.

Randolph Manufacturing Company II

January 8, 2009

Before we leave the back (south) side of the 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company, here are two more pictures of interest.

The above view is looking up Deep River towards the northwest; the 1901 Island Ford Steel Bridge is in the dim left background.

Both of these views probably date from the mid-1950s, as the western brick extensions to the lower mill weave room have been built out over the river on pilings almost all the way to the steel bridge.

Two other important additions are visible- the wooden toilet towers. These wooden enclosures are 20th-century versions of the “garderobes” built onto medieval castles—two-story privies cantilevered out over the river, where the waste products (!) drop straight down into the water.

The eastern-most toilet tower can be seen in the photo below, behind the tree in the left center; that tower’s waste dumps into the tail race flowing out of the arch.

Photo No. 2 was taken from the steel bridge, looking down river, east toward the Community Building. The actual historic Island Ford is just at the bottom of the photograph, a rocky shallow spot that allowed crossing the river. Since the photo in yesterday’s entry, numerous additions have been added to the eastern side of the mill, including a two-story metal-sided addition to the old Island Ford wheel house.

Going further east, the wood-framed additions on concrete piers below the Community Building are designed to expand the cotton warehouse, printing, bleaching and shipping departments.

Both photos show how meticulously clean the Randolph Mills maintenance crew kept the river banks. In the days before gas mowers, bush hogs and weed-eaters, crews of (usually black) men and (usually white) school boys on summer vacation kept the whole Town chopped and scythed and spick and span and painted uniformly white. Before the stock laws passed in the early 1890s, the same result was obtained in the landscape by herds of roving free-range livestock, which happily ate most of the stray vegetation not protected by fencing.

Randolph Manufacturing Company, circa 1900

January 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island Ford Manufacturing Company, circa 1870?

January 5, 2009

This is an original photograph of the Island Ford Manufacturing Company, built on Deep River east of Franklinsville in 1846.

The picture belongs to my friend Henry Bowers of Cedar Falls, who found it in a flea market. It’s almost identical to a steel engraving that appeared in the 1895 “Cotton Mill Edition” of the Raleigh News and Observer, so it may have been taken specially for that purpose. But nothing much would have changed in this scene between 1850 and 1890.

The photographer is standing to the northeast of the mill, on the river road trending towards Ramseur (then called Columbia). It appears to be spring- some trees have leafed out, but not all.

The 1846 Island Ford mill was 40-feet wide by 80-feet long; the addition to the north (in the foreground) was added later especially for additional weaving equipment.

It was officially three stories tall with a basement and an attic, which made for five separate floor levels. The stone or brick basement level was maintained in the 1895 structure, which was added just to the west of the frame building pictured. The brick structure in the left foreground is probably the Picker House, which was normally separate from the mill, and normally built of noncombustible materials due to the explosive nature of aerosolized cotton dust.

The attic was created by the clerestory monitor roof, which opened up the attic and made it into brightly-lit useable space. This type of roof was a familiar feature of 18th and 19th-century textile mills; well known both in New England and in Great Britain. It is probable the original Franklinsville Mfg. Co. had a similar roof, which was rebuilt as a simple gable after the 1851 fire. The bell cupola here is apparently identical to the one on the rebuilt Franklinsville factory, and to the 1850 Columbia Mfg. Co. in Ramseur.

This building was demolished circa-1894/95 as part of the construction of the Randolph Manufacturing Company.

Island Ford Village, Franklinville

January 2, 2009

I’m pulling out a number of my photos of the east side of Franklinville, the 1846 Island Ford Village. Here is the intersection of East Main Street with Academy (originally Mulberry) Street; the road trending diagonally up the hill to the left is Weatherly Avenue, where the Dave Weatherly House sits behind the trees at the top of the hill.

The smokestack of the Randolph Mfg. Co. is just behind the telephone pole in the right middle ground; the original bell cupola has been removed from the 1895 stair tower, probably placing the date of the photo in the late 1930s.

The Lower Company Store is at the visual termination of Main Street, which took a left turn around the store and continued over the hill toward Ramseur. At the time of this photo, the store would have been transformed into the “Community House” and movie theater.

The three Lower Cotton Row houses to the left of the store were all demolished in the late 1930s during the construction of the Lower Mill Bleachery. The Bleachery itself was added to the mill between the Island Ford Wheel House and the old Cotton Warehouse. The natural cotton cloth woven in the mill came out of it bleached bone white, then to be sent for printing in the adjacent printing department, and then napping (if for sale as flannel) or shipping (if for sale as feed bags). None of the 1846 Island Ford Cotton Row Houses have survived, but all had a two-story form generally identical to the Thomas Rice house on Weatherly Ave. Thomas Rice was the Master Carpenter who built the Island Ford Mill, and probably also his own house and the worker houses.

A concrete swimming pool had been built behind the Cotton Row houses about 1930, but a defect in the concrete caused a wall to collapse and the pool was ruined. It was rebuilt in connection with the Bleachery Pond, a spring-fed reservoir holding the (massive) amount of water required to bleach, dye and print the cloth. The houses were replaced with a pump station and small treatment facility to purify the water.

In the woods at the head of the creek feeding the Bleacher Pond was the “Pest House,” a small house used to isolate Franklinville residents who were suffering contagious diseases. The 19th century endured quite a few such diseases, generally thought to be incurable, and exile to the Pest House was often feared as a sentence of death.

Deep River Cotton Factories in the Civil War

October 6, 2008

[First draft of copy for the Franklinville Civil War Trails marker– far too long, but including citations and background.]

Franklinville tells the story of Deep River’s unique place in Civil War history, with sites representing Randolph County’s anti-slavery and anti-war sentiment as well as North Carolina’s military and industrial support for the confederate cause.  The Franklinville Manufacturing Company, to your right, was built in 1838 by a group of Quaker abolitionists and is the oldest standing water-powered textile mill in North Carolina. Within two miles east (downstream) stood the 1846 Island Ford factory and the 1850 Columbia factory, both now destroyed. Further upstream on Deep River were the Union Factory (1848, at Randleman), and Freeman’s Mill and Oakdale Mill (1861, Jamestown), in Guilford County.

Two miles upstream stands Franklinville’s war-time corporate partner, the 1846 Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company. Two of the chief stockholders in the combined “Cedar Falls Company” were State Treasurer (later Governor) Jonathan Worth, and his brother Milton (the state Salt Commissioner).   From 1861 to 1865 the Franklinville/ Cedar Falls mills combined to spin cotton yarn and weave sheeting which was cut and sewn by local seamstresses into “shirts and drawers” (long underwear worn under the woolen uniforms). Bales of these were shipped by ox cart to the North Carolina Railroad in High Point, then distributed to troops by the quartermaster from warehouses in Raleigh. The Cedar Falls Company was the largest single supplier of these goods to the quartermaster during the war.

The corporation organized a company of volunteer troops from the Cedar Falls and Franklinsville area (Company M, 22nd N.C. Regiment, known as the “Randolph Hornets”), with the factory paying all expenses for uniforms and equipment.  The Hornets were mustered into service and were drilled and outfitted at Middleton Academy, a college preparatory school located between Cedar Falls and Franklinsville.  Both mills declared a holiday to see the men march off to war on July 10, 1861.i

The economic embargo was hard on southern factories, with special materials required for textile manufacture becoming increasingly difficult to find.  Early in the war goods such as lubricating oil, spare parts and card clothing were obtained from England via blockade runner.  By war’s end the factories were trying to make do with inferior substitutes which caused frequent breakdowns and loss of production. Skilled employees also became hard to find. With the loss of military-age males, the factories increasingly turned to women and children for labor, and working hours were extended into the evening hours.ii

From the beginning of the war the Deep River factories were seen as an economic target. Troops were stationed at each factory to protect it from damage or destruction by roving gangs of deserters and anti-Confederate saboteurs. In June, 1861 Franklinville factory stockholders organized the county’s first Home Guard unit to protect the factories from “the Abolitionist and Lincolnite among us”. Units of Mallett’s Battalion of the Raleigh Guards were camped in Franklinville throughout the fall of 1863, and on August 15, 1864, four members of a “Senior Reserves” unit were ambushed and killed on the road from Franklinville to Asheboro.

Many other North Carolina factories fell victim to military operations.  The Great Falls cotton mill in Rockingham was burned by Sherman’s advance forces on March 7, 1865.  Seven of the eight Fayetteville factories were burned by Sherman on March 12th.iii The Patterson woolen factory near Lenoir was burned by Stoneman’s Raiders on March 28, and the Elkin woolen factory on April 1.iv On April 10 Stoneman burned cotton storehouses and railroad bridges in High Point and Jamestown before turning west toward Salisbury, where cotton factories were burned on April 12th.v On entering Raleigh on April 14, Sherman issued orders that his army would next move to Asheborough on its way to Salisbury and Charlotte.  If General Johnston had not surrendered at Bentonville on April 18th, the Deep River factories would certainly have been destroyed by the federal “total war” against Confederate

More than two dozen buildings in Franklinville date from the antebellum period, including “underground railroad” activist Elisha Coffin’svii home (1835), the factory (1838/1851), Hanks Masonic Lodge (1850), and the homes of workers and mill supervisors.  The sites of the Bush Creek Iron Works, Middleton Academy and the Cedar Falls factory are a short walk up the riverside rail trail.  The grave of Lt. Elisha C. Horney, Elisha Coffin’s grandson killed at Gettysburg, can be found in the hilltop Methodist cemetery, among those of other veterans.

[SIDEBAR: North Carolina under Governor Zebulon Vance was the most successful of all southern states in supplying the needs of its soldiers.viii Vance held exclusive control of several textile mills and purchased one-third of the production of the remainder of the state’s forty-six factories.ix In return, certain vital technical employees were exempt from military service.x In March 1863, the state Clothing Bureau reported the annual production of 75,000 uniforms from purchase of “four hundred thousand yards wool cloth, and seven hundred thousand yards sheeting and osnaburgs.”xi An 1864 production census revealed that North Carolina’s factories produced the annual equivalent of 9 million yards of cloth, more than half of the total production of all the Lower South states.xii]

SIDEBAR: Not far from Middleton Academy was the Bush Creek Iron Works, the only iron foundry or “bloomery” operating in the county during the war.  Ore mined at Iron Mountain, about 2 miles southwest, was cast into “pigs” in a charcoal-fired furnace, and processed into bar iron on forges with water-powered trip hammers.  The quality of the iron produced there was so high that it was reserved for special projects such as the propeller shafts and drive trains of the ironclads built on the NC coast during the war.  The total output of the iron works was small, however, and it never filled all of its contracts with the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau.

i Wilson 43

ii Wilson 151.

iii Wilson 217

iv Wilson 224

v Wilson 226

vi Wilson, id.

viiLevi Coffin: Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, The Reputed President of the Underground Railroad,” Cincinnati, 1876. p. 34.

viii Each winter a North Carolina soldier was given two uniforms, two shirts, and two pairs of “drawers.” In September, 1862, that required a state outlay of $500,000. Wilson, p. 53.

ix Wilson, pp. 101,118 and 123.

x Wilson 109

xi Wilson, 111, from “Letters Received by CMG,” NCDAH.

xii Wilson 118