The Chronicle Mills

Belmont, NC

The Chronicle Mills, Belmont, NC was the 28th textile mill built in Gaston County and the first to be built (1901) in the town of Belmont. The idea for a mill in Belmont is credited to Robert Lee (R.L.) Stowe, a local merchant. Though he had no personal experience in textiles, he was a shareholder in the Ozark Mills at Gastonia. Every other town in the county had a mill and Stowe reasoned that Belmont should have one as well. He called a meeting of local investors and raised $85,000. The mill was chartered March 18, 1901. The name was chosen to honor a Revolutionary war patriot from Gaston County, Major William Chronicle, who had lived near the mill site and was killed in the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780.

The mill stock was set at $75,000 with authority to raise it to $125,000. In order to build a mill of 5,000 spindles, the men needed $100,000. Despite falling short, they proceeded. Ragan gives some interesting quotes from R.L. Stowe regarding the costs of bricks ($3.75 per thousand) brick mason labor ($1.75 per thousand) and houses ($100 per room).

Image courtesy of Bill Wornall

 

 

 

 

Machinery began arriving in January 1902 and on February 28, 1902; the first bale of cotton was opened. Production began. In the early days, the mill ran on steam power. In 1908, a contract was signed with Southern Power Company to supply electricity for powering the machinery. Capacity was doubled at that time.

One of the first industrial air­cooling or humidification systems (later called air­conditioning) in the United States was installed in 1906. A young man by the name of Willis H. Carrier of Buffalo, NY, was interested in the problems experienced by New England mills in providing proper temperature and humidity to make conditions for quality textile production. His experiments eventually led him south to Belmont and The Chronicle Mill in 1906. The original installation (1906) of humidifiers in the spinning room was not successful. It was the first experiment for what would be a success over the next ten years. Stuart W. Cramer, who was also working on a humidification system, later coined the term “air­conditioning”. His successful experiments in Cramerton led to the formation of the Parks­Cramer Company in Charlotte.

The mill was a success and later many other mills were built in Belmont.

Source:  Ragan, Robert Allison, The Textile Heritage of Gaston County North Carolina 1848­ – 2000. Charlotte: R.A. Ragan & Co., 2001.