The Pacolet Mills Manufacturing Company




Pacolet Manufacturing Company Trademark

The rushing water at Trough Shoals was first used for the operation of a mill to grind corn meal. This was built in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s and was known as Hancock’s Mill. Part of the foundations of this mill still exist below the dam. This mill shows up on the Mills Atlas Map of 1825. Later on, water powered mills to produce flour, saw lumber and to gin cotton were also built on the Pacolet River at Trough Shoals.  The site was used for commercial purposes for well over a half century before the textile industry came. A small community existed at the present site of Pacolet Mills before the coming of the textile industry.

The first Pacolet Manufacturing Company mill at Trough Shoals was known as Pacolet Mill No. 1 or Pacolet No. 1. It was completed in 1883 by John H. Montgomery, John B. Cleveland, Joseph Walker, and Dr. Charles Edwards Fleming, with the financial aid of Seth M. Milliken of New York. The first dam over the river at this site was built just before that date.

Mill No. 1 was three stories high and was right beside the river at the south end of the dam. The mill flourished and by 1884, it had 250 workers and about 500 people lived in the village. The success of the mill led to the construction of the four story Mill No. 2 as an addition and enlargement of Mill No. 1.  This construction work was started in 1888 and this mill was also very successful. Mills No. 1 and 2 stretched for 600 feet along the river.



Old Photograph of Mills No. 1 and 2 taken before 1903

Based on the success of Mills No. 1 and No. 2, a third mill, No. 3, was built a half mile down river on the same side. Another dam was built across the river and this five story mill was completed in 1891. Pacolet Manufacturing Company had great success with the first three mills.



Photo of Mill No. 3, "the old mill"
(Courtesy of Lindie Wells)




The dam for Mill No. 3, "the old mill", as it appears today.



An aerial photograph taken of the village from above Mill No. 3, probably in the late 1950's.
(Courtesy of Lindie Wells)

The clothmaking process was complex and required careful control of the material and machinery. Click on the following link to see some photographs of how this was done at the Glendale Mill.

A textile mill was an incredibly complicated operation and people often took it for granted. For a fresh look at building and operating a mill read "It was So Complicated".

The mills at Pacolet were so successful that the Company decided to expand into Georgia. They bought a tract of land near Gainesville in north Georgia. This became known as the town of New Holland and a mill was built here in 1902. It was known as Mill No. 4. Since it was built by the Pacolet Manufacturing Company, it was also known as Pacolet Mills No. 4 even though it was not in the town of Pacolet Mills, SC.  This name has often caused confusion over the years.

However, a great disaster awaited the mill company, the community and all the residents of the Pacolet River valley. On June 6, 1903, the Pacolet Mills community and many others were struck by the Great Pacolet River Flood. Click on the link, Pacolet River Flood, to read the full story about this tragic event.

In just a few hours of an incredible rush of water, the Pacolet Mills Company operation was almost destroyed. Both Mills No. 1 and No. 2 were completely demolished. Downriver, Mill No. 3 was badly damaged. The covered bridge was washed away along with a church, a cotton warehouse and its contents, a meat market, a barber shop and the post office. A hotel that stood where the Cloth Room does today was also destroyed. In spite of all this devastation, only one person lost their life at Trough Shoals. This unfortunate person was a black man named Quay Worthy.  He was a mill employee and was trying to retrieve floating cotton bales from the water when he drowned.

The community lost much of its population temporarily as the people had to go to other communities to find work. Officials of the Pacolet Mills Company asked other textile mills in the Spartanburg area to find jobs for their workers while they rebuilt. Most of them responded favorably and gave many folks employment.

Efforts to rebuild began right away. Mill No. 3 was repaired first and was back in operation in 1904. However, what people of my generation knew as the “New Mill” was not completed until 1907. This was named Mill No. 5 since Mill No. 4 had been built in New Holland. The "New Mill" was built where Mills No. 1 and No. 2 had stood before the flood. Click on the link to see more photographs of Mill No. 5.



The "New Mill" or Mill No. 5


In a very strange coincidence, tragedy also struck  the Pacolet Mills Company Mill No. 4 at New Holland , Georgia. Within the same week, a deadly tornado stuck the community of New Holland. The mill itself was not seriously damaged. However, most of the towns new houses were destroyed and approximately 100 people were killed.

Eventually life and business at Pacolet Mills got back to normal. Another different type of disaster struck the Company and the workers in the late 1920's and 1930's with the coming of the Great Depression. The Mills had to "curtail" or cut down to only operating a few days each week. Many workers lost their jobs. The difficulties of the depression years are beyond the coverage of this website.

The economy of the area and even of the entire US did not recover until World War II. World War II brought a tremendous amount of business to Pacolet Mills and the other textile plants of the Upstate. It aslo disrupted the lives of many thousands of people in South Carolina and throughout the world. Click on the link  World War II to see what was going on in Pacolet during the War and how some people were affected.

Over the years, there were many news articles that gave a very favorable description of the mill company and its people. One example of this is an Article from 1940 that was printed in the Spartanburg Herald Journal. (Furnished by Peter Metzke.)

In the 1950's the Mill Company wanted to demonstrate the impact of their payroll on the community. They decided to pay off the employees with silver dollars to make their point. The photograph below is from Nov. 30, 1950 when the Company paid off with 5,000 pounds of silver dollars worth $85,000.



A period of prosperity ocurred after the War for many years. The Mills ran three shifts and almost anyone that wanted it could find a job. Much of the information on this website ocurred in the 10 year period from 1945 to 1955. 

However, there was a cloud on the horizon that most people could not have even imagined, It was to be worse for the Pacolet Mills community than both the Great Flood and the Great Depression.

The textile industry, all over the South, found itself in trouble. Competition from countries with cheap labor seemed to be the main problem.

It seemed that a bitter lesson in history was going to repeat itself. In the late 1800’s, many towns in New England were devastated as their textile mills closed and left to go South. There were many reasons for the move but the main one was that new workers in the South could be hired for less than the experienced New England workers.

Now, it was our turn to be cut by the same sword. Workers in places like Korea, India and China would work for just a fraction of what an American Southern worker earned. Cheap textile products flooded the world’s markets. American textile companies could not compete. They responded, generally, in one of two ways. They either went out of business or moved their operations overseas to where there was cheap labor. Textile workers in Massachusetts in 1890 would have immediately recognized this as a replay of what had happened to them.

There was a third response by some textile companies but these were in a minority. They modernized their plants and stressed the use of automation to reduce the number of workers. They expanded their research to develop new and specialized textile products. There is still a textile industry in Spartanburg County and South Carolina but it is a shadow of what it was in 1950.

The bad news hit Pacolet Mills first in 1957 when the Old Mill (Mill No. 3) was closed. It was torn down a few years later. In 1983 the New Mill (Mill No. 5) was closed. It was torn down around 1995.

The textile era at Trough Shoals had come to an end It had lasted about 100 years. Read about the different generations and their connections to the mill.

 
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This web site has been started as a public service to share the story of Pacolet. The web master and person to contact about putting information on the web site is me, Gerald Teaster.  Contact me at:
gteaster@pacoletmemories.com or by telephone at (843) 873-8117.  My regular mail adress is:
1311 Jahnz Ave.
Summerville, SC 29485

See more information about my Pacolet connection at Gerald Teaster.