Clifton Manufacturing Co

Converse, SC

Spartanburg County, SC

Clifton Manufacturing Company was incorporated January 19, 1880 with a capital stock of $200,000 (1). Mills at this time were normally built along rivers where a change in slope gave opportunity to harness water power. With prior experience downstream on the Pacolet River, Edgar Converse, a native of Swanton, Vermont, organized cotton mill at Hurricane Shoals. The noted engineering firm of Lockwood Greene was selected to design the mill. Clifton Mill No. 1 (named or the cliffs overlooking the Pacolet), began manufacturing in 1881 with 7,000 spindles, 144 looms and 600 operatives, who lived in the nearby mill village. (2) The company prospered and authorized another mill in August 1887. The new mill, named Clifton No. 2 was located just downriver on Cannon’s Shoals. Construction began in 1888 and began production in 1889 with 21,512 spindles, a three­fold increase over No. 1. Early products for these mills included sheeting, drills, and print cloth.

In May 1895, management authorized a third mill to be located just north of mill No. 1. This mill, Clifton No. 3, would have 34,944 spindles and 1092 looms. Albert H. Twichell succeeded Edgar Converse as president of Clifton Manufacturing upon the death of Mr. Converse in May, 1899. Clifton No. 3 opened in 1900.

The Flood of 1903

A devastating flood on June 6, 1903 tore through the valley and caused havoc. One witness said of Clifton No. 3, “The five­story, 50,000­spindle mill trembled for a while, then gave way, a wall of water rose 40 feet in minutes. Mill No. 1 was next in line. The entire mill village within 100 feet of the river was destroyed. One­third of the mill disappeared. When the water reached No. 2, it took away half the four­story mill.” (3)

clifton_no-3

Image from Cramer (4)
Courtesy of Peter Metzke

 

 

 

 

 

The photo above, showing what was left after the flood. (This photo must have been taken long enough after the flood for inspection of the RR bridge to have occurred as you will note the train traveling over the bridge )

In the debris below: the foundation only including part of the tailrace, the boiler tube 1 inch up in the bottom L/H corner, fly wheel from a stationary engine which may have been a Corliss, two compressor tanks side by side so evidently still mounted to a base plate, and you will note the two story wooden home washed half way down the bank on the opposite bank. This must all have been before those workers went to task in collecting anything of use as in the other photo from the Hub City writers project. (5)

The photo of the flood waters early morning was of Mill No. 3, which was positioned on an inside corner of the

river – it was totally washed away.

No. 3 was mechanically driven before its demise although the power plant remained intact probably saved by it being just around the corner / plans to rebuild the mill took in a few factors:

1. To build it on higher ground.

2. A new power plant located on the old one incorporating electric­ generation from both ­- two McCormack horizontal 42­inch turbines, supplemented by a 750 H.P. tandem compound Corliss engine ( make unknown ). The actual exciter was not named but would probably be a G.E. unit as these were plentiful during this era and more than one would have been used: at least ten to fifteen exciters would have been required as future plans were to run 80.000 spindles with a start­up amount of 36,000.

Again, our friend Stuart W. Cramer was the supplier. (5)

clifton_no-_1

Image from Cramer (4)
Courtesy of Peter Metzke

 

 

 

 

This photo shows the trolley track by the side of the mill, the force of the water picking up the sleepers (or ties) and twisting them until the rails and ties looks like a fence.

And a closer view to the damaged end of Clifton No. 1, below.(5)

damaged_end_to_clifton_no-_1

Image from Cramer (4)
Courtesy of Peter Metzke

 

 

 

 

 

And a view inside the carding room.

carding_room_in_clifton_no-_1

Image from Cramer (4)
Courtesy of Peter Metzke.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, the clean up to the weave room.

weave_room_clean_up_clifton_no-_1

Image from Cramer (4)
Courtesy of Peter Metzke

 

 

 

 

 

You will notice that while they had the height they firstly cleaned the shafting & pulleys before getting down to the rubbish built up on the floor. We will never know, but a good proportion of the machinery could have been washed into a corner of the room, thus the reason to clean the shafting first, plus of course getting back to work ASAP as jobs were not in supply due to so much damage throughout the entire area, this was a tragedy that again was not well put through the wires nor newspapers. (Over a hundred years later as we both know, New Orleans got the same treatment ) (5)

Recovery After the Flood

The mills were rebuilt after the flood.

cliftonmillno1spartanburgsc

cliftonmillno1colorized

 

 

 

 

Clifton No. 1
Clifton No. 1 colorized

cliftonmill3conversesc

cliftonmill3conversescback

Clifton No. 3 relocated to the top of the hill
Card mailed Sept 3, 1907

Reverse of card. Mailed from Converse to
Trough, the old name for Pacolet, SC

Postcards courtesy of Bill Wornall
Textile Postcard Collection

pacoletriverbridgeconversesc

nationalhwypacoletriverbridgeconversecottonmillspartanburgsc

Updated postcards show relocated mill No. 3 and the new US 29 bridge

When Twichell died in 1916, J. Choice Evins became president. Stanley Converse became president in 1945. The company expanded in 1949, 1952, and again in 1957. Dan River Mills bought Clifton Manufacturing in 1965 and began shutting down the mills in 1968. Tuscarora Yarns purchased No. 2 in 1983 and operated there into the 1990s. The mills closed and demolition began in 2002.

 

Sources:

  1. Teter, Betsy Wakefield, editor. 2002. Textile Town Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Hub City Writers Project, Spartanburg ISBN 1-­891885-­28-­6                         Appendix.
  2. Mike Hembree, The Birth of Clifton – Boom Town on the Pacolet, ibid.
  3. William M. Branham, The Flood of 1903 –Terror Along the Pacolet River, ibid., p 77
  4. Stuart W. Cramer. 1904 – ­1909. Useful Information for Cotton Manufacturers, Queen City Printing and Paper Co., Charlotte, Vol. 1­ – 4.
  5. Peter Metzke, Personal communication, July 2010. 6. The following web site has a wealth of information on Converse, Twichell and Clifton Manufacturing.