Retro Charlotte

Great Falls Mill in Rockingham

1961. Special Collections Research Center at NCSU Libraries

I was amazed when I passed this spot in Rockingham, NC -- am I the last to learn about it? If you listen carefully you can hear the falls in the background of this video I shot this week.

The mill burned (again) in the 1970s when it was being used for storage.

The owner has sold the property.


Some history

Originally built in 1837 as a grist mill and named The Richmond Mfg. Co, “the Yankees” burned it down during Sherman’s famous raid. It was rebuilt in 1869 and featured in the Observer on January 3, 1919. Here are some details from the account:

The Great Falls Mfg. Co. today is capitalized at $200,000. It has an equipment of 10,080 spindles and 281 looms. ... The output of the mill is sheetings, drills, duck and rope. ... This mill is in Rockingham and the children of the mill families attend the Rockingham schools and churches. There are fifty cottages in the village, running from two to eight rooms each. Six of these houses were built in 1837, and have been remodeled since then, but the majority are of later construction. All are comfortable and attractive homes, with good gardens. Rentals charged are one dollar per room per month. These houses all have lights and water.

Fully 25 percent of the operatives employed today have been with the company steadily since (the vice-president of the company) took charge 16 years ago ... fully 30 percent of the employees own their own homes. The mill loaned money to some of the home builders and others built their homes outright out of money saved from their wages. There has been a tremendous improvement in educational work during the past 16 years and the mill people of today are not only highly efficient, but are educated and intelligent.

This aerial footage shows the ruins covered in kudzu.