North Carolina's First Incorporated Textile Mill Village
and Oldest Water-Powered Cotton Factory
The Town of Franklinsville, North Carolina was incorporated by the state legislature in 1847, but it had been developed as a residential community surrounding one of the state’s first cotton textile mills starting in 1838. Deep River's first cotton textile factory- and one of the first dozen opened in North Carolina- was built at Cedar Falls in 1836. The small wooden building housed a few hundred spindles which produced cotton "bundle yarn" for use by local hand weavers, of whom Randolph had a great many. Though successful, the Cedar Falls factory was not sophisticated. The second local factory, incorporated by the Legislature in 1838, was designed from the beginning to process cotton from raw bale to finished cloth woven on power looms. This corporation, the Randolph Manufacturing Company, brought the textile industry to what is now called Franklinville. In 1846 another factory, the Island Ford Manufacturing Company, was built a mile downriver. In 1848 the Union Manufacturing Company was built at what is now Randleman, and in 1850 the Columbia Manufacturing Company opened in what is now Ramseur. All of these factories operated successfully for more than a century. While Randolph County's antebellum cotton factories were not the first, the biggest or the best known in North Carolina, they are today among the very few survivors of the state’s pioneer textile mill communities. Franklinville remains the least changed by time: only there can a visitor still see all the important elements of a pre-Civil War mill village: factory company store, flour mill, church, school, lodge, and the homes of mill workers and mill owners. Franklinville is not a restored museum village, it is a community where people live and work and are beginning to appreciate its rich textile heritage.
Franklinville is literally part of the fabric of North Carolina's history.
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