Historical Alamance County Waterpowered Textile Mills

Alamance County Water­powered Mills – built 1837 ­1881 With many thanks to Mark Chilton compiler of the Historical Atlas of the Haw River 2008 listed below:

Ossipee James N. Williamson opened the Ossipee Cotton Mill in 1882. The mill was sold to Consolidated Textile Corporation in 1920, Burlington Mills, and later, to Glen Raven Mills, Inc. (Chilton 2008, Whitaker 1949)

Altamahaw In 1876, Lovick and Andrew Lambeth sold their gristmill property to Berry Davidson, who partnered with John Q. Gant, a local cotton gin operator, to open a cotton mill, which opened in 1881. The mill originally made Alamance cotton plaids. The mill operated using waterpower until 1913, when electricity was introduced. A transition was made to hosiery. The Gant family still owns the former cotton mill as Glen Raven Mills. Glencoe Cotton Mill In 1880, James H. and William E. Holt built the last water­powered textile mill on the Haw. See web information Alamance County

Carolina George W. Swepson bought a mill site from Joseph Trollinger in 1865 and resold it to the Holt family in 1866. The Holts and John Q. Gant built the cotton mill in 1869. The mill was expanded in 1904. The mill is used as a warehouse today. The dam was built in 1868 to serve the mill. The dam was constructed of wood with a stone abutment, 200 feet long and six feet high. By 1950, the dam had long been destroyed, although the abutments are intact.

Big Falls John Trollinger bought land here in 1834 and completed the High Falls Manufacturing Company by 1838. The tailrace of the water­powered mill drained into Stony Creek, rather than into the Haw River. The mill burned in the 1870’s and was rebuilt by 1887, (Gleaner 3/17/1880, 4/14/1880,and 8/11/1887) and renamed Big Falls. Gustave Rosenthal renamed the mill Juanita in 1894 (Gleaner 8/23/1894). J. N. Williamson again renamed the area Hopedale after buying the mill in 1905 (Gleaner, 3/16/1905). Copland Fabrics has operated the mill since 1941. This is the longest operating mill site in the state of North Carolina.

Granite Falls area At least three dams were built in this immediate vicinity. The first supplied power for the Granite Cotton Mill, built by Benjamin Trollinger in 1844. The second dam was built in 1858 when Thomas M. Holt bought the property (Swain 1880). The lowest dam was built in conjunction with the T. M. Holt Mill. Holt built the Cora Mill (later named Tabardrey after his three daughters) here in 1881 and the T. M. Holt Mill in 1893 (Gleaner 1/19/1893). The Cone family bought both mills in 1927 (Gleaner 4/21/1927) and they became a part of the Proximity Manufacturing Co. Corduroy became the mainstay of production.

Swepsonville In 1868, George W. Swepson built the Falls Neuse Cotton Mill on the Thomas Ruffin property. The mill was in full operation in 1870 with fifteen spinning frames and 150 looms making Alamance Plaids (Whitaker, p142). Fire destroyed the mill in 1880 and it was rebuilt. The mill name was changed to Virginia Mills in 1886. From 1868 until 1901, four African­American men poled a barge of raw cotton from the railroad at Haw River located five miles north and returned with finished textiles (White 2002, Gleaner 9/12/1876). From 1901 until 1912, the mill used a steamboat (Gleaner 1/31/1901, 11/16/1912 and 7/10/1913). The cotton mill burned again in 1893 and was rebuilt using brick. In 1949 more than 1,100 workers produced upholstery and drapery fabrics and rayon dress goods. Manufacturing at the mill ended in 1970. The mill was demolished in 2007. The mill dam, built in 1895, once stood seven feet high. Only a row of wooden uprights remains today. In 1905, Virginia Mills installed hydroelectric turbines at this dam and at Puryear Dam downstream and switched to electric machinery. The Puryear plant was renovated in 1927 and closed in 1970. On Big Alamance Creek a tributary of the Haw River

Bellemont Elfin’s Mill stood here before the first bridge was built in 1811; the site was called Efland’s Ford. The Holt family bought the site in 1879 and built the Bellemont Cotton Mill (Gleaner 4/8/1879). The ruins are just southeast of the current NC 49 bridge. Timbers stick up from the dam site and can be clearly seen from the bridge.

Alamance Michael Holt built gristmills here in 1765 and again in 1812. Edwin M. Holt and William Carrigan built the region’s first or second cotton mill here in 1837 (Big Falls, now Hopedale was begun in 1834 and completed in 1838). The mill burned in 1872 (Pierpont 1953) and was rebuilt. The rebuilt mill was used by Standard Hosiery Mills beginning in 1926 and was used as a part of the hosiery finishing plant. The mill was dismantled in 1947 and part of the timbers used in the reconstruction of the old Stafford gristmill near Kimesville. (Whitaker 1949, p103, 142)  This site is stated to be the location of the first yarn dye house south of the Potomac River (1853)  On the Haw River further south

Saxapahaw John Newlin began building the region’s third cotton mill in 1844 and completed the mill in 1848 or 1949 (Hughes 1965, Whitaker, p102). The mill was sold twenty­five years later to Edwin M. Holt and his sons­in­law to form Holt­White­Williamson Co. They made cotton ginghams (Whitaker 1949). At some point the current brick buildings were completed. In 1927, B. Everett Jordan and his family (Seller’s Manufacturing Co.) bought the mill (Gleaner 9/8/1927). The original cotton mill building was demolished in 1937. The mill became a silk and rayon mill for full­fashioned hosiery under the Jordan family. The mill closed in 1994 following tornado damage (Times­News 5/20/1994). The property has been totally renovated and made into condominiums overlooking the Haw River.

Sources:

  1. Chilton, Mark, An Historical Atlas of the Haw River, Carrboro, NC, 2008.
  2. Whitaker, Walter, Centennial History of Alamance County 1849­1949, Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Burlington, NC, 1949. Alamance County