Mill Engineers

There were a number of individuals and companies, often called “Mill Doctors”  who were active in the design and rehabilitation of cotton mills in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


W.B. Smith Whaley & Company

The Smith Whaley company began in South Carolina with offices in Columbia and diversified to the north with an office in Boston, MA.  William Burroughs Smith Whaley was born in 1866 in Charleston, SC and was educated at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ and graduated from Cornell University (1888) with a degree in Civil Engineering.  The first mill attributed to Whaley was built in 1893 in Union, SC for Thomas C. Duncan. The Union Cotton Mill was completed with 10,000 spindles and later expanded The documentation can be read at the link below:

1901 ad for Olympia, the largest all-electric mill

From a 1902 advertisement in the American Textile Directory
Courtesy: PeterMetzke

The second mill designed and built by Whaley was the Courtenay Cotton Mill, Newry, Oconee County, SC.  It was constructed in a typical New England textile factory design. Most of the buildings in Newry were built during the period 1893-1910 and are examples of the turn-of-the century genre of mill village design in South Carolina. These include the principal buildings of brick construction located adjacent to the town square, i.e., company store and post office located on the north side, and mill office on the south side.

The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has done an outstanding job in featuring a number of the mills and supporting villages around these mills designed by Smith Whaley.  The Granby Mill was the second mill to be built in Columbia.

Here is the Kendall Mill in Camden.  This mill was designed in 1899 and constructed soon thereafter.

The Buffalo Mill Historic District is significant as an excellent collection of historic resources associated with the textile industry in South Carolina from the early-to-mid-twentieth century. The mill complex, including such resources as the main mill, mill office, power house, ice factory, mill warehouse, company store, and company bank/drug store, is a particularly intact collection of early-twentieth century mill and mill-associated buildings. It is also significant for its association with W. B. Smith Whaley, a prominent engineer whose firm designed numerous textile mills in the state, including mills in Camden, Columbia, Lancaster, Orangeburg, and Union.



  1. Buffalo Cotton Mill, Buffalo, Union County, SC
              The mill complex and village, together with their setting, represent perhaps the best extant example of a South Carolina mill town.
  2. Courtenay Cotton Mill, Newry, Oconee County, SC
              Courtenay Mill was constructed in a typical New England textile factory design.
  3. Mills Mill, Greenville, SC
              It was built by Captain Otis P. Mills after the formation of the Mills Manufacturing Company in 1894.


Other Engineering firms which designed mills:

Robert and Company, Atlanta, GA

Founded in 1917, by Lawrence Wood “Chip” Robert, Jr., Robert and Company designed many tire cord and tire fabric mills, especially in Georgia.

Posselt’s Journal 1895

American Textile Journal 1913

Arthur F. Gray, Boston, MA

Lockwood, Greene and Company, Spartanburg, SC  Founded in 1832 in Providence, RI.  It is the nation’s oldest industrial engineering and construction company.  In 2003, it was acquired by CH2M Hill, Denver, CO, a global leader in construction projects. Trevor Anderson, Spartanburg, SC Herald-Journal, January 8, 2007.

Monaghan Mill, Greenville, SC

The main mill building, designed by Lockwood, Greene and Company, has a rectangular plan with four stories over a basement. The mill is constructed of brick perimeter walls laid in common bond and heavy timber framework. Cast iron columns support interior floors and are designed to carry the weight of heavy textile machinery.

Monaghan Mill
Greenville, SC

Fred S. Hines, Boston, MA

American Textile Journal 1907

Charles T. Main, Boston, MA

American Textile Journal 1922

J.E. Sirrine and Co., Greenville, SC

Joseph E. Sirrine founded an engineering design firm in 1902.  Graduate of Furman.  Died August 7, 1947 at age 74. New York Times, August 8, 1947.  An excellent biography may be found at the web page North Carolina Architects and Builders.

The engineering firm was acquired in 1983 by CRSS, a large diversified engineering firm based in Houston, TX.

Woodside Mill, Greenville, SC

Woodside Mill
Greenville, SC

Rosemary Mill No. 3 near Roanoke Rapids, NC

According to reports in the New York Times, also designer of the Rosemary Manufacturing Co., Roanoke Rapids, NC.  

The J.E. Sirrine Textile Foundation endowment was set up in 1944 to honor J.E. Sirrine, whose firm designed many of the cotton mills built in South Carolina in the early 20th century.  The Foundation was dissolved in 2005 with the monies ($6.1 million) divided by Clemson University and Tri-County Technical College, according to Ellison S. “Smythe” McKissick III, former president of the foundation and chief executive officer of Alice Manufacturing, Easley, SC. Jim Duplessis, The State, November 11, 2005.

OA Robbins operated a design and sales office in Charlotte.  He represented Kilburn, Lincoln & Co. of Fall River, MA, manufacturers of looms.  He sold equipment to Glencoe Cotton Mills, Glencoe, NC.

Charlotte City Directory 1907

Posselt’s Journal 1895
Courtesy of Peter Metzke

Benjamin A. Smith, Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Ad from 1900

Ads Courtesy Peter Metzke
Postcards Courtesy Bill Wornall