City Directories and History: The Herald June 1931 in a Looking Back Column to 1906 reported – “Mr.
Alexander Long of Spartanburg, the projector of the $400,000. cotton mill in Rock Hill has moved his family here. They are temporarily occupying the residence of W.B. Wilson, Sr. in Oakland.”
The Herald reported on March 18, 1896 – “Mr. H. C. Chadwick, architect of the Manchester Mill was in the city yesterday.”
The Manchester Mill was completed in 1896 on the north side of Rock Hill. The leading figures in its development were John R. Barron and R. T. Fewell. The initial board of directors included these men along with T. L. Johnson, W. L. Roddey, D. P. Leslie, W. Joseph Roddey, Julius Friedheim, and J. B. Johnson. The mill was built by A. D. Holler with bricks made on the site. The large borrow pit behind the mill where the clay was dug for the bricks became a pond which provided water for fighting fires. When the one-hundred foot tall brick chimney was completed, it is reported that John Barron celebrated by standing on his head from its peak.
The Herald reported on April 4, 1900 – Contained a summery of the Rock Hill Cotton Mills:
- Cresent Mill – 7,984 spindles, 192 looms, employees 200
- Manchester Mill – 16,265 spindles, 300 looms, and 525 employees
- Victoria Mill – 7,000 spindles, 275 looms, and 210 employees
- Arcade Mill – 6,032 spindles, 314 looms, and 200 employees
- Highland Park – 6,200 spindles, 800 looms and 325 employees
The Herald reported on Feb. 8, 1896 – “The roof of the mill has been completed. Mr. Barron was so impatient to get it completed, he worked on it himself.” And on Feb. 15th – The roof on the Manchester Mill was composed of paper, tar, and sand.”
The Herald reported on April 1, 1896 – “Mr. W.W. Moore formally Supt. of the Globe Mill and now with the Atherton Mill in Charlotte, has been named Supt. of the new Manchester Mill.”
The Herald reported on June 10, 1896 – “Two brick warehouses are being erected at the mill and the work is progressing rapidly.”
The Herald reported on Feb. 21, 1900 – “The Manchester Mill has completed four new houses for operatives.”
The Herald reported on March 31, 1900 – “A few weeks ago Mr. J.R. Barron withdrew from the proposed cotton mill company in Kershaw. He has now decided to erect a new mill in Rock Hill. He has purchased between 12-15 acres from Major A.H. White adjoining the existing Manchester Mill, and lying west of it, on both sides of the railroad. The new mill will be an addition to the Manchester and will be two stories and will measure 80 ft by 225 ft. It will have 7,000 spinning spindles and 3,5000 twisting spindles. A new power house will house a 300 HP engine and two water boilers. There will also be 35 additional tenement houses west of the mill and employment will increase to a total of 525.”
The Herald stated on April 7, 1900 – “Pres. J.R. Barron has bought a brick machine and will erect it on the Manchester Mill grounds, where he will make brick for the addition to the mill. The machine will have a capacity of 2,500 brick daily. He has decided to make the building three stories rather than two.”
By the early twentieth century, it was reported that the mill had 300 looms and 21,968 spindles. Joining Mr. Barron as President were J. E. Reid as secretary and W. W. Moore as superintendent. Joining the board of Rock Hill members were Dr. R. H. Wylie of New York and James G. Tinsley and W. R. Johnson of Richmond. The Manchester Mill was a business success, paying a solid dividend.
In 1919, the mill was reorganized as the Blue Buckle Cotton Mill. The production was changed to making denim for an overalls company. The Jobbers Overall Company was founded in
Blackstone, Virginia before 1910, later moving to Lynchburg. It marketed overalls under the Blue Buckle name, with advertisements in magazines and newspapers. By 1920, the Blue Buckle brand claimed to be the largest manufacturer of overalls in the world. Alexander Long was President and L. D. Pitts was Treasurer of the Blue Buckle Mill. The Blue Buckle company in Virginia went bankrupt following the 1929 stock market crash, leading to the reorganization of the mill as the Industrial Cotton Mill. This company developed a business relationship with the J. P. Stevens Company in New York, which served as its selling agent. Stevens eventually began buying stock in the mill, and became the sole owner by 1948.
The Manchester/Industrial Mill had a large mill village complex. Residences were over a period of a number years. In 1907, there were 675 residents in the village and 325 operatives at the mill. The mill village was in three sections. Mill Village #1 was to the north, Village #2 was to the west and Village #3 was to the south. Streets included in the village included: Aragon, Barrow, Cauthen, Church, Curtis, Frances, Graham, Howard, Long (later Montford), Mill, Parrish, Parker, Pitts, Quantz, East Roy, West Roy, Bird, and Culp. A section of Poe Street had houses for African American mill workers. Churches developed in the village included Bethel Methodist (1900) and Northside Baptist(1908). The mill owners provided a school in the basement of the Methodist Church. In 1912, Alexander Long donated land to build a school on Church Street. The Northside School was a public school built in 1924 to serve the children of the Blue Buckle and Aragon Mills.
The Rock Hill Record reported on Nov. 24, 1919 – “that the Blue Buckle Cotton Mills, formally known as the Manchester, has awarded a contract to Gallivan Building of Greenville for a new weave shed extension, dye plant, and about one-hundred cottages. Work is to begin about Jan. 5th.” Joseph Emory Sirrine was the architect for these homes. Information from the SC Architects 1885 – 1935: Wells and Dalton – 1992
The Herald reported on Dec. 30, 1919 – “that the Blue Buckle Cotton Mills is a recently organized corporation which has purchased the Manchester Cotton Mill plant. The corporation is capitalized at $2. million dollars. The Manchester Mill made ticking. The Blue Buckle will continue this but also make blue denim cloth. The present management and operatives will continue working. The purchase is by the Jobber’s Overall Company of Lynchburg, Va., one of the largest manufacturers of overalls in the world. The product will be the famous blue buckle overall. The officers are: Pres. Alexander Long, Trea. – L.D. Pitts, Sec. L.B. Cauthen, General Supt. – A.T. Quantz and Supt. A.C. Fennell, J. Roy Barron and Mrs. Frances Massey will continue in their present positions. There will be six hundred employees and a daily output of 60,000 yards of denim.”
The mill building has been demolished, but the brick chimney remains on the north side of today’s Dave Lyle Boulevard. Also see John R. Barron’s home on Oakland Avenue, Rock Hill, S.C.
The Herald reported on July 13, 1895 that the Manchester Mill had decided not to locate near the Industrial School (Winthrop Normal and Industrial School, now Winthrop University, was under development at that time), because water in that location was not available in sufficient quantity. The mill developers have bought between 40 and 50 acres from Capt. Iredell Jones on both sides of the CC&A Railroad. The mill will be brick, three stories in height, 225 feet by 75 feet with a tower in the center. The developers will also construct 32 cottages. There will be 25 cottages with 4 rooms, 5 with 2 rooms, and 2 with 6 rooms.
The Herald reported on August 7, 1895 that work on the Manchester Mill is to begin soon. Mr. A. D. Holler is manufacturing bricks on the grounds and has made 75,000 of the estimated 1.5 million to be used. L. L. Clyburn has the contract for 30-odd tenement houses. J. R. Barron reported that he has let the contract for the nails, cement, and lime to be used in the building.
The Herald reported on August 21, 1895 that Mr. R. A. Fulp of Fort Mill was in town Monday and closed a contract to make 300,000 brick for the Manchester Mill.
The Herald reported on September 11, 1895 that work had commenced on the new Manchester Mill. “Mr. Barron, like Mr. Fewell of the Arcade Mills, is a hustler…and he will push the work to as speedy a completion as it is possible for it to be done.”
The Herald reported on October 23, 1895 that the Manchester Mill walls were up to the second story and that 25 cottages were being built.
The Herald reported on September 25, 1897 on an accident at the Manchester Mill which illustrates the dangers of the early mill environment and the prevalence of child labor. It reported that Ellen Outlaw, age 14, was working in the spinning department on the third floor with her hair dangling in a braid. Her hair caught in a spinning frame. She was scalped from the middle of her head backward, with her hair and flesh falling on the floor. She was reported in critical condition. The paper’s October 30 edition reported that Ellen was recuperating.
The Herald reported on April 6, 1899 – “In a heavy storm yesterday, lighting struck one of the cotton warehouses at the Manchester Mill. More than 400 bales of cotton were stored there and were set afire. Most of the bales were saved through the work of the factory workers.”
The Rock Hill Journal on Nov. 16, 1901 reported – “Management of the Arcade and Manchester Mills are still in doubt if they will purchase power from Catawba Power Co., upon completion of the dam at India Hook.”
The Herald reported on June 11, 1902 – “That a game of ball was played Saturday afternoon between the Manchester and Highland Park teams at the Highland Park diamond. The result was a score of 24 to 6 in favor of Manchester.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on Feb. 5, 1904 – “John R. Barron, Pres. of the Manchester Mill, went to Columbia to lobby on bills related to bills on the textile industry. One bill would force mills to pay damages for injuries suffered by operative.”
The McElwee Store ledger of Rock Hill of 1915-16, states that John T. Deviney and wife Willie (Manchester Mill employee at #79 Manchester Mills, held an account at the store. The ledger also stated that Alva C. Fennell and wife Willie also held an account at the store and lived at #80 Manchester Mills.
The Herald reported on Jan. 24, 1925 – “That the textile grocery company at the Industrial Mill has been sold to V.L. Rice, who is an old resident of the Aragon Mill village. The store was formerly owned by Dr. David Lyle.”
Contributed and written by Paul M. Gettys
A three story two hundred foot addition was constructed by Rock Hill Architect, Hugh Edward White (1869 – 1939), born in Fort Mill, S.C. he attended Fort Mill Academy and started his practice in about 1894. Remained in Rock Hill until about 1903 and later returned to work. In the 1890’s he worked in an architectural firm in Atlanta. Between 1903-1918 he was a field supervisor of the Supt. Architect Dept. of the Treasury. For about three years 1918-21, he was employed with Charles Coker Wilson in Columbia or Gastonia, N.C.
Sources: The Herald, various issues, Lynn Willoughby, The Good Town Does Well, Rock Hill, S. C., 1852-2002, published 2002 by the Rock Hill Sesquicentennial Committee. Douglas Summers Brown, The City Without Cobwebs, A History of Rock Hill, South Carolina, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.
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