Greenwood Mills

Greenwood, SC


In 1986, Greenwood Mills was selected by Textile World as the Fourteenth Annual Model Mill. While adopting a new “look of the future’, Greenwood reflected on the past and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1989. The company was founded as Greenwood Cotton Mills in 1889 by William L. Durst, a Confederate soldier who was with Lee at Appomattox. The mill was capitalized by 1,000 shares with a par value of $100 each, which Durst offered for “as little as 50 cents a week and nothing down.” Cash was scarce in those days when bartering was a very important way of doing business.(1)

The original two­story brick building produced cotton print cloth, sheeting and twills with 2,500 spindles, 84 looms and 75 employees processing five bales of cotton a day. With the construction of a second mill in 1905, capacity grew to 20,556 spindles and 485 looms. Durst died in 1902, was succeeded by his brother, John, and in 1908 by James C. Self, a bank cashier. The mill was heavily in debt ($10/spindle). Still, Mr. Self managed a deal with Draper for several hundred new automatic looms. In 1916, Self purchased 50% of the company’s stock. (1)

Self was a very astute businessman. In 1920 when the post­war recession hit and cotton dropped to 15 cents a pound, he bought every bale he could until his warehouse was overflowing. Before the cotton was fully consumed, cotton was doubled and worth 30 cents per pound. In the Great Depression when many companies were in deep trouble, Self purchased all outstanding shares of Greenwood stock in 1935. The mills operated three shifts a day. Self acquired Ninety Six, SC Cotton Mill and the Matthews plant. That plant was expanded in 1937 to become the largest plant in the world to produce fabrics from spun rayon. (1)

Other milestones:

1948­ A $21 million modernization including construction of the Harris and Durst Plants;

1955­ Self died and his son, James C., Jr. became president. New expansion added eight plants in eight years;

1968­ Dyeing and finishing was added with the acquisition of Monsanto’s Orangeburg, SC facility now known as the Liner Plant.

In summary for the 1985 award by Textile World, Greenwood Mills consisted of 17 plants; sales were estimated at $400 million. The company was strong in denim and was diversifying into poplins, twills and 100% combed cotton.

Officers (1985):

James C. Self, Jr., Chairman and CEO

W. Matthew (Matt) Self, President and COO

Thomas O’Gorman, executive vice president, president of Greenwood Mills Marketing Co.

In 2005, the third generation rose to the top management spot. James C. Self III, was promoted from executive vice president and COO to president. The company operates two plants in Greenwood, a joint venture plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico and a sales office in Huntington, NY.


  1. L. A. Christianson, Jr. “Greenwood Mills greets the future with market savvy,” Textile World, June 1986, p38­
  2.­histories/Greenwood­Mills­Inc­Company­History.html excellent review through 1996.