Bessemer City, NC
Southern Cotton Mill 1895 after a snowfall (Double click to view clear image). Note: man is standing in the middle of the railroad tracks. Courtesy Bill Wornall
Bessemer City is located in the western part of Gaston County on the main line of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. Rich mineral deposits including iron ore led to the name based on the Bessemer process for iron manufacture. Today, lithium deposits are providing life to the mining interests as new high tech batteries depend on the lithium ion. The town was chartered in 1893 with John Askew Smith as a principal developer. He also built a fine hotel atop Whetstone Mountain. With money in hand and the tempting growth of cotton mills in other parts of the county and elsewhere throughout North Carolina, Smith and his partner J. A. Pinchback organized a textile mill. They were not astute textile men and overspent on the building, leaving no money to purchase equipment. Stonewall Jackson Durham, John M. Odell and the Odell Manufacturing Co. of Concord, NC, purchased the partially completed mill in late 1895, and completed construction in the following year. The new company, Southern Cotton Mills, was chartered December 10, 1895 and opened with 8,000 spindles and 362 looms. This was the first mill in Bessemer City and the eighteenth in Gaston County. The company expanded in 1905 and now included 16,272 spindles and 400 looms. The national economic panic of 1907, however, brought an end to the company and it failed in 1908. Caesar Cone of Greensboro as receiver under court order operated it for a time. The mill was sold for a second time at auction in 1909.
After 1909, Osage Cotton Mill
Courtesy Bill Wornall
Slater Manufacturing Co. was organized in February 1909 for the purpose of purchasing the bankrupt property. Mr. D. B. Coltrane was elected president and manager. The plant operated 15,216 spindles and 401 looms to manufacture yarn and madras cloth. Under further amendment of August 19, 1909, the name was changed to Osage Manufacturing Company, with the same incorporators. In 1913, C. Judson Huss, of Huss manufacturing, also in Bessemer City purchased the mill. They manufactured 38-inch and 39-inch drills and jeans weight fabric. After operating with modest success, they sold to Reeves Brothers, Inc. of New York City. The plant operated as a wholly owned subsidiary until 1955 when it became an integral part of Reeves Brothers. Eventually there were 20,000 spindles and 350 looms. In 1994, shut down part of the operation and laid off 140 workers. Weaving continued. Finally, the mill closure was announced on October 4, 1995. 1
- Ragan, Robert Allison, The Textile Heritage of Gaston County North Carolina 1848-2000. Charlotte: R.A. Ragan & Co., 2001.
- According to the 1920 Davison Blue Book, The Osage Mfg. Co was incorporated in 1909 by R.B. Pitts, and the agents were Reeves, Jennings Co. of New York. The 1975 Blue Book says it was part of Reeves Brothers, Osage Division. The mill still stands, but it’s not listed in the 1999 Blue Book. No mention of the Southern Textile Mill in the Blue Books. (Peter Metzke)
The Osage Mills in Bessemer City, NC, do not get a mention in the Draper figures, so one can presume that the Whitin Machine Co may have looked after them. (Peter Metzke)
Images Courtesy Bill Wornall and the cards from the Bill Wornall Textile Post Card Collection.