Glencoe Cotton Mill

Glencoe, NC

The Glencoe Cotton Mill was begun in 1880 and was the last water­powered mill built in Alamance County North Carolina. The mill, situated on the Haw River north of Burlington, NC, was operated by the Holt family until 1954. When the family closed the mill, it became a ghost mill and ghost town until acquired by Preservation North Carolina in 1997. Most of the mill village homes and a barber shop have been restored and are occupied.

The Holt family opened a number of cotton mills in Alamance County during the latter part of the 19th century. The brothers William and James Holt built the Glencoe Cotton Mill just upstream from another mill named Carolina.


James H. Holt, Sr. and Seven Sons






William E. and James H. Holt, Jr., sons of James H. Holt, Sr.









Glencoe Cotton Mill
Early 1880s
Textile Heritage Museum
Kathy Barry

Here is an 1975 abstract from the Inventory of Historical Sites conducted for the North Carolina Department of Archives and History and the National Park Service written by Dr. Brent D. Glass 1975 :


In adapting the water right to power the entire mill, the Holts apparently extended and deepened the mill race to approximately 600 yards. Except for the areas around the water gates and the wheel house, the race did not receive any structural reinforcement. It was a ditch which channeled water from the Haw River to the wheel house, and out along the tail race back to the river. Half way along the west bank of the head race a set of gates could be opened to dump water into a spillway running directly to the river without passing through the mill; this spillway and gate are no longer in place. A second spillway with a manually operated gate could channel water from the front of the head race’s trash rack directly into the tail race. Water could also flow through a manually operated gate in the wheel house before passing through the water turbine.”

The mill continued to use the log and stone dam which backed up water for the grist mill’s pond. The dam was approximately 250′ long and 8′ high, giving a fall of 13.5′. [10] The Holts expected to draw 152 horsepower from the fall. George F. Swain, a hydraulic engineer who studied the site in 1881, wrote “according to my estimate I doubt if this can be done unless the pond is large.” [11] The original water­power system furnished a maximum of 130 hp to the Holt plant. [12]

In 1881 the Holts purchased a James Leffel Patent Double Turbine water wheel from Poole & Hunt Company of Baltimore, Maryland. The Holts paid $1,896.42 for the 66″ #2 water wheel, the vertical and horizontal shafts, the gearing and the pedestals. Below, an ad for the Company from 1887.


Courtesy of Peter Metzke



The Leffel Company is still in business today.

An Illustrated 128­page hand book of James Leffel’s improved double turbine water wheel for 1885 and 1886 has been scanned and is available on the Internet.

From the 1880s until after 1900 the Glencoe’s operation in terms of product, size of plant, number of employees, mode of power, machinery, and production remained fairly constant. In 1894, apparently dissatisfied with the horsepower generated by the Poole & Hunt (sic James Leffel) 66″ turbine, Glencoe installed a new turbine. Robert Poole & Son Company, the successor firm of Poole & Hunt, offered to install a 66″ Special Water Wheel providing 23% more power under the same head for $875.00. The Holts declined the offer and ordered a 48″ Cylinder Gate Victor Turbine from the Stilwell­Bierce & Smith­Vaile Company of Dayton, Ohio. The new turbine was installed in September, 1894, in the old wheel house without altering the size or arrangement of the flume remains in place today (1977).



The second image  is a repositioned actual photo of the “runner.”








The image shows the water turbine “case” with the “wicket gates.” The runner is inserted and you have the complete turbine as shown on the left above. In the background to the left is a crown wheel that allows transfer of power vertically. Thanks to Ted Hazen, Pond Lily Mill Restorations













The Victor Turbine Water Wheel was removed by the Glencoe Electric Company in 2008 and discarded in the front yard. A new generator will produce hydroelectric power and be joined to the electrical grid.




Water Storage

The mill needed additional water storage for safety.

Textile Equipment

According to Glass, “The Lowell Machine Shops in Lowell, Massachusetts, furnished most, if not all, the original spinning machinery installed at Glencoe.”





Thumbnails of Lowell Equipment
Courtesy of Peter Metzke





















“During the 1890s Glencoe probably ran its limited napping cloth operations in the cloth room on the third floor of the Mill Building. The increased production of napped cloth necessitated the construction of additional space to accommodate the new napping machinery. In September, 1903, Glencoe hired 0. A. Robbins & Co., Architects and Mill Engineers, from Charlotte, North Carolina, to design a Finishing and Napper Room. [35] The limitations on space adjacent to the Mill Building and the limited horsepower available from the existing water turbine contributed to the decision to build the Finishing and Napper Room adjacent to the Dye House since a boiler and steam engine could power both the Dye House, the Finishing, and Napper Room machinery.”


O.A.Robbins ad, Charlotte City
Directory 1907

And more from Glass’s history about the steam engine from Hamilton:

“In December, 1905, Glencoe hired Ludwig & Co., of Atlanta, Georgia, to determine the power used in the Dye House and the Finishing and Napper Room. Ludwig found the Finishing and Napper Room utilized 20.8 hp; the Dye House 10.83 hp; the Dynamo 3.65 hp; and 20.5 hp was lost to the total friction load in the engine and shafting. The total power from the engine was 55.78 hp. Ludwig agreed to study additional water, electric, or other power sources and in the mean time suggested inspecting the shafts and pulleys for signs of wear and increasing the steam power. Ludwig also pointed out that the friction load for larger engines would constitute a lower percent of the total power. [38] The power study may have influenced management’s decision to install a larger steam engine because in November, 1906, they purchased a Hamilton­Corliss Horizontal Non-Condensing Engine from the Hoover, Owens, Rentschler Co., of Hamilton, Ohio. The cylinder was 12″ in diameter and had a 30″ stroke. With 100 pounds of steam pressure and running at 90 revolutions per minute, the engine produced 83 hp. The band fly wheel was 9’ in diameter with a 15″ face and weighed about 5,700 pounds. [39]”


Hamilton-Corliss Image from Techantiques:



Jerrie Nall and Kathy Barry acquired the office and company store and created the Textile Heritage Museum in 2004. A thread cabinet which housed J&P Coats thread in the store is just one of many original articles on display at the museum

In 2006, Frank Gailor of Raleigh acquired the mill buildings from Preservation North Carolina and has plans to convert the space into offices and apartments.

In 2008, the Alamance County Recreation and Parks Department created Great Bend Park with a walking trail along the banks of the Haw River and onto the island formed by the river and the mill race.



Glencoe Mill Plaque installed 2009







The Holt home restored by George and Jerrie Nall all decked out for Christmas 2009