Inman Mills

Inman, SC


The Boston Journal of Business and Textile Industries – Dec 8, 1900 reported that a new cotton mill had applied for a charter.






Inman Mills, Inman, SC

The impetus for the development of Inman Mills was the growth of textiles following the Civil War and the development of railroads in the piedmont. James A. Chapman was the descendent of many generations of educators, ministers, and patriots. He was a native of the Spartanburg area, practiced law in New York City, married Rachel Buchanan McMaster of Winnsboro, SC (1899), and established a law practice in Middlesboro, Kentucky. How in the world did someone with this background become interested in textiles? Nevertheless, he returned to his roots with a wife two sons and a daughter. He had no apparent problem in organizing a textile mill. After securing about 600 acres from his brother, an uncle and J.R. and B. F. Brown just north of the Southern Railway that connected Spartanburg and Asheville, NC, a charter was written in 1900. The Browns took sixty shares of common stock in exchange for their portion of the acreage. The railroad stop for the mill was named for John Inman, a railroad tycoon. Andrews.

Financing was arranged with local investors and vendors. No commission house was involved. Inman Mills never sold through a commission house. The mill began in 1902 and by 1907 there were over 19,000 spindles in operation feeding 500 looms. By then the cotton consumption was in excess of 2,7­00 bales per year making sheeting. The quality was good and in high demand. Longer hours were added. The Charleston News & Courier wrote (1907): “There are very few cotton mills in this state that run at night…. As a matter of fact, if the mills wanted to run at night, they could not do so on account of the lack of labor. These few mills that do run at night pay the help from 10 to 20 per cent more for night work than day work and, even for this additional inducement, they are unable to get any considerable amount of night help…. Within the last few days, Inman Cotton Mills has started to run part of its machinery at night…. Inman Cotton Mill pays 15 cents per side for its night spinning…. A young man or woman can readily run 10 sides…. A weaver could operate from 8 to 10 plain looms (non­automatic).”

James A. Chapman founded the mill and also ran the mill. A new hand asked his foreman who was the big man with the Panama hat? It was Chapman who often walked through the mill, often accompanied by his young son, James who was known as “Little Jim.” During summer vacations, his son worked as a machinery erector. He graduated from Wofford College, Spartanburg and studied engineering at Cornell. When he returned to the mill in 1916, he worked under Gordon Cobb, the superintendent. When Cobb left for another job in 1917, “Little Jim” became superintendent at age 24. New success followed. In 1920, the mill had 40,000 spindles and 1,000 looms. In 1924, automatic looms replaced the non­automatic, more floor space was added and the two­shift around­the­clock operation was begun. Andrews

The younger Chapman succeeded his father as president of Inman Mills and later became president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. Both of these positions were also held by his son, Jim. The two acted as partners and business moved along smoothly. Young Jim even had time to raise chickens as a hobby. In 1928, the two were asked to manage Riverdale Mills, downstream in Enoree, 25 miles south of Spartanburg. They agreed without visiting the plant. Let this be a lesson to us all. Later, “Mr. Jim said that if he had seen the mill, he would never have agreed to run it – it was too run down. Later, Riverdale was merged with Inman and became the second plant.

Robert H. Chapman, the second son of the founder, joined the company in 1937. He served as Vice President and assistant treasurer. Other Chapmans followed along in the family business.

The Chapman family has fought over the years to preserve jobs in the Inman area. When met with the challenge to modernize in 1959, the new Saybrook plant was built at a cost of $5 million. It was the first new plant built in Spartanburg County in 24 years. Further expansions included the Ramey Plant, built in 1966, and Mountain Shoals built in 1990. Both are located in Enoree just upstream from Riverdale. Richie


The Spartanburg Herald­Journal , Feb. 16,1963
Why is cotton sold to Japanese mills at a lower price?






In the early 1990s, Robert H. Chapman III became president upon the death of Marshall Chapman. Cousin Norman H. Chapman (son of Joseph Chapman) became executive vice president. The open trade policy of the late 1990s and early 2000s led to realignment and consolidation. The original Inman Plant and the Riverdale Plant in Enoree were closed in 2001. Plans to make the Riverdale Plant into condos (Inman Mill Lofts) was announced in 2006. 3



  1. Andrews, Mildred Gwin, The Men and the Mills ­ A History of the Southern Textile Industry. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1987.
  2. Richie, Lisa Caston, “A Dynasty in Inman – Four Generations of Chapmans at the Helm,” in Textile Town, edited by Betsy Wakefield Teter, Hub City                        Writers Project, Spartanburg, SC, 2002, p292­3.
  3. Google search December 11, 2008.