Chapter 13 "Growing Pains"

Chapter 13


WITH the strife and unrest of the war years behind them, the people of Alamance looked forward to a new era of prosperity and expansion. The county had escaped the physical ravages of war, and had suffered little from the tumultuous days of reconstruction. No longer did the rumble of many hooves bring exclamations of "Soldiers!" or "The Ku Klux!" it usually meant that a group of lads were having a horse race. Racing and other sports became extremely popular during the latter quarter of the nineteenth century, and the social and cultural interests of the county assumed much greater importance.

The Editor of the Alamance Gleaner, in the first edition of his paper in 1875, took note of the changing times:

"In our county we have no town of considerable size. Company Shops . . . being the largest. And even this has not, so far, applied for a charter reciting wards and bestowing city privileges and dignities . . . Graham is regularly laid off and beautifully located, with some of the handsomest residences of any village of its size in the State. It is pleasant and healthful; and, but for the employees at Company Shops, would exceed that place in population. Both places do considerable in the way of selling goods and buying country produce . . . Mebanesville near the Orange line is a pleasant village where are several stores. Near this place is located the Bingham School. These we believe are all the incorp orated towns in the county, though a stranger coming to one of our factories would unhesitatingly conclude that he was in the midst of a considerable country village . . . At all of these are to be found stores . . . "*

The village of Company Shops continued to grow during the

* Alamance Gleaner, v. 1, no. 1, 1775.



war years. The completion of several new buildings was announced in 1864 to the stockholders of the North Carolina Railroad.

"During the year (1864) we have erected seven dwellings for our employees at this place and four good log-houses for negroes . . .

"We still need . . . school-houses and churches. Much complaint exists among those who are compelled to live here, that their children are growing up in ignorance and sin . . .

"Here is a population of three hundred persons who . . . never hear a prayer nor a sermon, and that not from any fault of theirs . . . "*

Two years later, in 1866, it was reported:

"At the Shops five new buildings have been finished for the accomodation of employees of the company . . A fire engine has been purchased with 500 feet of hose which will be a great assistance in case of fire.. "1

Company Shops was incorporated in February, 1866. The corporate limits of the town were specified to be a mile and one-half square, "having for the centre of the same, the Hotel of the North Carolina Railroad."2

The first commissioners of the incorporated village were J. G. Moore, B. E. Seigent, E. Wilkes, Dr. W. C. Tarpley, and Jacob Trollinger.

In 1886 the North Carolina Railroad Company decided to transfer its operations to Manchester, Virginia, and the railroad offices and shops at Company Shops were closed.

With the removal of the business which had given the village its name, Company Shops threatened to become a ghost town. There were a few stores along Main Street, but most of the present business district consisted of vacant lots. Three cotton mills and the two-year-old Burlington Coffin Factory were the only sizeable industries in the village.

Nevertheless, the Railroad Hotel still attracted salesmen and visitors, and, depending heavily on their infant industries and busi-

* Fifteenth Annual Report of the President of N. C. Railroad, 1864.

1. Seventeenth Annual Report of the President of N. C. Railroad, 1866.

2. Documents of N. C. Legislature, 1866.



nesses to see them through to better times, the 1,000 to 1,500 inhabitants of Company Shops worked to keep the village alive.


Since the railroad shops no longer operated here, the citizens of Company Shops began to discuss the need for a more suitable, a more distinguished name for their town. Just how the name Burlington was selected is a story with several variations.

In February, 1887, several of the town's leading citizens held a meeting for the purpose of selecting the name. The meeting was dominated by an influential civic organization of the day known as the "Knights of Labor," and there was considerable debate between the members of this group and others on the names suggested. Among those most prominent mentioned were "Holtsville" and the polysyllabic "Carolinadelphia."

Soon realizing that they were making no progress, the citizens present decided to appoint a committee of seven men to whom they would intrust the selection of a name for the town.

Dr. B. A. Sellers, Dr. R. A. Freeman, Captain James A. Turrentine, Joseph A. Holt, J. A. McCauley, W. A. Fogleman, and W. A. Erwin were elected to this committee, which retired to a small room above the Freeman and Zachary Drug Store (today Main Street Drug Store), and, after some deliberation, chose the name, "Burlington."

Mr. Erwin said later that the name was selected from the U. S. Postal Guide.* Another version of the story claims that the name was suggested by Miss Katherine Scales from those which had been listed on a paper which had been hung in the window of the drug store.1 The third version is that an aged and respected negro who was present listened to the committee's arguments and finally proposed that the town be named for a large Jersey bull, named "Burlington" after the Vermont city from which it came, and which was allowed by its owner to wander through the streets of Company Shops.2

* Hunter, J. A., Burlington Times-News, November 27, 1936.

1. Harden, John. Alamance County, Economic and Social, Chapel Hill, 1928.

2. Long, Will S., Jr.



With a new name, and "I'll tell the world" as its motto, the village of Burlington began its history in 1887. On July 25 of that year the first newspaper, the Burlington News, was launched by W. A. Clapp.

The City of Burlington was incorporated and a charter was issued by the State Legislature on February 14, 1893.

The railroad shops were reopened for a brief period about 1890, but the North Carolina Railroad moved its headquarters to Spencer, N. C., in 1897, and the last of the railroad operations at Burlington came to an end.

A depression descended over Burlington. But gradually the town recovered. About the time of the removal of the shop operations, the Aurora Cotton Mill opened here, and this marked the beginning of the textile industry on which the City of Burlington was built.

The present location of the Burlington City Hall was a corn field at the turn of the century. In 1889, the City Council rented a room for the meeting of the mayor and aldermen at the extravagant sum of $2 per month. The mayor received no salary until 1890, when it was suggested that he be paid $100 a year and fees. A recorder's court was initiated for the city in 1910 with the mayor as the presiding official, and not until recently was the position filled by a judge. The City Hall was erected in 1915. In 1945, the city manager form of government was instituted.

Burlington's expansion in industry and business, education, public utilities, social and cultural fields will be told in chapters which follow.


When the War Between the States came, the county seat at Graham had begun to develop as an educational, legal and business center. The war brought a general depression, and the post-war reconstruction period kept the community in a state of confusion and unrest.

The Trollinger Hotel, a brick building on East Elm Street, was converted into a school following the war. The private school



which had stood in the southwest part of town became a tobacco factory. Instead of two barrooms, the town boasted three.

In 1885, a tobacco factory was erected, and two years later two more tobacco businesses appeared. The Duke family of Durham had an interest is these factories at one time, and it was rumored that they considered the construction of a factory of their own at Graham, but such plans never materialized. By 1890, the tobacco industry was replaced by the onrushing textile business.

Lynn Banks Holt, a son of Edwin M. Holt, founder of the first Alamance Cotton Mill, moved to Graham and built a mansion southwest of the town in 1886. This home which still stands two blocks below the Graham town hall on South Maple Street was the manor-house of Mr. Holt's five-hundred-acre plantation. The mansion was decorated by Ruben Rink, famous artist of the time, and a cupola or tower was constructed, from which Mr. Holt could survey his stock farm and race track.

Banks Holt hired a horse trainer from Kentucky, and through him bought some of the best race horses in the country at that time. In addition to his interest in racing, however, Mr. Holt was an industrialist. He bought the Oneida Cotton Mills and started a wholesale and retail business in Graham.

One of the first telephone exchanges in Alamance was set up in the Simmons Drug Store, today the Rich and Thompson building, at Graham, in 1888. The town post office shared the same building for a time. In 1900, fire destroyed the original building and it was replaced by an opera house, in which many events, including the high school commencement programs, were held for some years.

Before 1888, a plank road had been laid from the business district to the Graham depot, a mile away, and a stage coach was used to carry passengers and mail to and from the depot. In 1892, Graham boasted the first macadam street in Alamance County, and had in 1896 the greatest amount of macadamized roads for any town its size in the state. The town's water supply in the early days came from a well located on the northside of the Court Square, but later two additional wells were dug on the Square; these served, along with private wells, until the town waterworks



and electric plant was constructed in 1904. Kerosene was the principal illuminant used in the homes and for street lights for the first half century, but on December 1, 1905, the electricity was turned on. A bond election of 1920 voted $100,000 for a sewage system.

The National Bank of Alamance was organized in 1899, and the Graham Hose Company, the town's first voluntary fire company, was formed in 1904.

In 1923, the original courthouse was replaced with the present seat of the courts, which was constructed at a cost of $200,000. The courthouse today symbolizes the main activity of Graham, where many of the county, state and federal offices are located.

Since World War II, Graham has made considerable growth as a residential community. The former Banks Holt plantation has developed into an extensive community of homes, and other housing projects are underway. The business life of the town has increased slowly but steadily, but Graham's biggest asset is the quiet, comfortable community life which it has offered for the past one hundred years.


Stephen A. White settled in 1854 in the village chat was to become Mebane. Frank Mebane and Thomas B. Thompson built homes near the White place in the following year, and a number of other families began to move into the community from Haw-fields. The coming of the railroad and the business which the railroad bestowed on Mebane brought the town prosperity.

The settlement acquired the name Mebanesville and was incorporated under that name in 1881, when Stephen White became its first mayor.

Mr. White, with his brother D. A. White, and a third partner, who soon withdrew from the business, organized the White Brothers Furniture Company in 1881. Each partner contributed an initial capital investment of $350 which was used in purchasing a second-hand planer and a car-load of lumber. For fifteen years, the White firm manufactured window sashes and doors and contracted for buildings, but in 1896 it turned to the manufacture of



furniture. Today the White Furniture Company is one of the leading furniture manufacturing firms in the South.

Mebane is the home of the Mebane Royall Company which manufacturers a nationally-known line of springs and mattresses. There are also several hosiery mills, lumber plants, two banks, and a weekly newspaper, and a number of stores and other business establishments. Mebane is recognized for its tobacco warehouses and for its importance as a tobacco market during the past quarter-century, as well.

A four-county fair, later to become the Six-County Mebane Fair, was organized in 1919, and became known as an annual event which attracted crowds from miles around. The fair exhibited the agricultural, industrial and educational achievements of Alamance and, since 1926, of five adjoining counties. The fair was discontinued during the recent war, and the fairgrounds are being used by a furniture manufacturing firm.

Mebane's growth has been gradual. It is today a small but busy town which serves as a shopping center for a large surrounding farm area.


Adam Trollinger, a German by birth, came to this section of the country and settled on the Haw River in 1747. His son, Jacob Trollinger, built a grist mill at the site, and for many years the settlement was known as Trollinger's Ford. During the Revolutionary War it served as an important crossing.

Lord Cornwallis passed by the settlement en route to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the last days of the Revolution, and camped over night on the Trollinger farm. Jacob Henry Trollinger, the son of Adam, became very angry when he learned that the British had taken his grain from the mill, and boldly expressed his opinion of this act to the General. Cornwallis ordered Trollinger seized, and had him tied to a tree, with a bridle bit in his mouth, so that he could neither speak nor extricate himself. A neighbor discovered the helpless miller several hours later and released him.

The "Trollinger Tree" is still pointed out as a land mark of Haw River.



Henry Trollinger, Jacob's son, erected a toll bridge across the river, Just above the present railroad crossing. In January 1832, John Trollinger, the eldest son of Henry, commenced work on a cotton factory near the junction of Stoney Creek with the river. It was several years before the factory was completed; it was named "High Falls Manufacturing Company." General Benjamin Trollinger, eldest son of John Trollinger, built the older part of the Granite Mills at Haw River in 1844; and when the North Carolina Railroad came through the county in 1851, General Trollinger supervised the construction of bridges across Haw River, Eno River and Back Creek.

After the railroad was completed, General Trollinger built a hotel at Haw River, with the hope that it would become a stopping place for the trains; but another hotel went up at Company Shops and the Trollinger hotel failed.

The old Granite Mills were expanded, and in 1881 a power dam was constructed across the river. The Granite factory today manufactures corduroy textiles and other goods as the Tabardry Plant of Proximity Manufacturing Company.

Haw River depends on its local textile industry and is largely a residential community. Many prominent leaders of past years, including members of the Trollinger family, are buried in the ancient Haw River cemetery. Artelia Roney Duke, wife of Washington Duke, who founded the Duke Tobacco interests, died at Haw River in 1853 while visiting relatives and is interred in this church cemetery.

While justly proud of its past history, Haw River received a boost toward new prominence with the election of Governor Kerr Scott, whose home is nearby, and who has frequently insisted in interviews that Haw River is his home town.


A group of hunters from Pennsylvania were said to have visited this section about 1748, and to have camped on the spot now known as Snow Camp. They cut trees for shelter and firewood and established a camp in the snow. The next year several of these



Pennsylvanians brought their families and settled at the site of the first camp.

Simon Dixon built his grist mill at Snow Camp in 1753, which during the Revolutionary War became for a time the headquarters of the British Army. The Cane Creek Friends Church, one of the oldest in the country, was established in 1751. Cane Creek derived its name from the heavy growth of cane along its banks.

The plank road from Snow Camp to Fayetteville brought new importance to Snow Camp in the middle 1800s, and a number of famous academies and churches grew up in proximity to the village. In 1835 a cotton mill was erected and continued operations until near the beginning of the present century. Furniture making was carried on, and a foundry and tan yard were established. Machinery was installed in the foundry in 1886 and a woolen mill was begun, later it was transferred to another building, and ceased operations in 1912 when the building burned. In this mill were manufactured all-wool "jeans" and suitings from which the clothing of many families was made, and spun wool yarn for use in knitting socks.

Several other mills were more recently established at Snow Camp or nearby. The village had a Masonic Hall, and later a calf club which aided in the beginning of the dairy interests of the community. The citizens of this section led the temperance movement against whiskey, and one of the earliest temperance societies in the South was formed there in 1833.

Snow Camp lies in the middle of a large farming area and serves the citizens of the southern part of Alamance as a trading place and as a social center.


The quiet little village of Altamahaw, which is today joined with Ossipee, was founded in 1860 by John Q. Gant, a local cotton gin operator. Both of the villages were named for the streams which flow past them, the names of which came from the Sissipahaw or Saxapahaw Indians, who settled here two centuries ago.

The first cotton mill at Altamahaw was built shortly after the village was started, and it manufactured the "Alamance cotton plaids." A coffin and furniture factory was built in 1894 and was



operated for several years; there were also a grist mill and a saw mill in the village. Water power was employed to operate these mills until 1913, when electricity made its advent.

The first school at Altamahaw was held in the building that more recently became the Altamahaw Baptist Church, and the first high school was started in 1921 over the Hub Store. The present high school was completed a year later in 1922.

Ossipee Mill, which helped in the development of the village of Ossipee, was established by James N. Williamson about 1890; it is today a branch of the Burlington Mills Corporation. Altamahaw-Ossipee comprise an area of about sixty-five acres.


The villages of Alamance and Bellemont were both established as a result of the cotton mill business founded by Edwin M. Holt. They developed as mill villages, and many of the homes in both villages were built by the local mill companies.

Standard Hosiery Mills of Alamance employs a number of local textile workers, and other citizens of this village work in nearby Burlington. The schools and churches of these villages, which have been important in the development of their communities, will be discussed in chapters which follow.


The villages of Alamance and Bellemont were both established George W. Swepson, who built the first cotton mill there in 1868. This mill, called Falls Neuse, after a small town below Raleigh, N. C., was in full operation in 1870 with fifteen spinning frames and a hundred and fifty looms on "Alamance Plaids." Cotton from eastern Carolina was shipped by rail to Haw River and then by boat to Swepsonville.

When fire destroyed the mill in 1880, it was rebuilt, and in 1886, the name was changed to Virginia Cotton Mills. A brick factory was constructed in 1893, following a second fire.

Virginia Mills, Inc., employs more than 1,100 workers today in the manufacture of upholstery and drapery materials and rayon



dress goods. The mill owns and rents 134 homes in the village to its employees. Several community and civic projects have been carried out by the mills, including the recent installation of lights at the Swepsonville baseball park.

The White Williamson Manufacturing Company operated at Saxapahaw for a number of years, making cotton ginghams, until the plant was sold in 1927 to the Sellars Manufacturing Company. The Sellars Company began the manufacture of fine combed yarns, and later added a silk mill to make silks for the full-fashioned hosiery mills of the county. The village of Saxapahaw has grown up around this mill.



Saturday afternoon found the streets lined with farmers' wagons a half-century ago.



Chapter 5

Chapter 10

Chapter 16

Chapter 21

Chapter 1

Chapter 6

Chapter 11

Chapter 17


Chapter 2

Chapter 7

Chapter 12

Chapter 18

Book Index

Chapter 3

Chapter 8

Chapter 14

Chapter 19

Chapter 4

Chapter 9

Chapter 15

Chapter 20