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The Eno Cotton Mill
 
The Eno Cotton Mills, Inc. was chartered by a special act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1896. Founders and principal stockholders were Allen J. Ruffin (first president), George A. Durham (first vice-president), and James Webb, Jr. (first secretary and treasurer).

Construction of the Eno Cotton Mill began in 1896 west of Hillsborough on the Eno River. The river initially provided the power source, and the railroad provided the route of transport for the raw cotton into the mill and the yarn or cloth products away for distribution. Machinery was installed and the mill started operating in late 1897 as a 10,000 spindle yarn mill.
 
The Eno Cotton Mill, view northwest; circa 1898
The Eno Cotton Mill, view northwest; circa 1898
 
A textile mill trade journal from 1904 described the then current state of the Eno mill: "The Eno Cotton Mills are at present manufacturing 20/2 ply yarns for the market, but in June of the present year they will begin to fill up their weave shed with 300 looms, Crompton & Knowles. They will then convert their yarns into ginghams and Southern silks. They will have a well equipped dye house, fitted up with H.W. Butterworth and Son Co.'s machinery. They have placed orders already for their entire equipment. The new addition is a loom shed, of the saw-tooth construction, together with a three story dye and finishing room, and when they get in all machinery they will turn out their goods ready for the market. The entire mill, including spinning, weaving and dye and finishing, will comprise about 120,000 feet of floor space."

In October or December 1904, the mill expansion was completed, and about 350 looms were installed for weaving ginghams and plaid cloth. In 1913, the Eno Cotton Mill began selling its cloth through Cone Export Commission Company and production increased. In 1926, the Cone Export Commission Company purchased sufficient stock in Eno Cotton Mills, Inc., to gain a controlling interest, resulting in the Eno Cotton Mill becoming a subsidiary of Proximity Manufacturing Company (owned by the Cone family headquarters in Greensboro, NC). Previously manufacturing only yarn-dyed fabrics ginghams, chambrays, and denims the Eno mill began weaving combed yarn broadcloths in 1929, when new machinery was installed and the use of combed yarn substituted for coarse carded yarn. After that, the major products of the mill were broadcloth shirting and corduroy, though during World War II a heavier cloth was made for the Army (many mill workers were exempted from the draft, by the way, in order to produce cloth for the war effort).
 
The Eno Cotton Mill, view north; early 20th century
The Eno Cotton Mill, view north; early 20th century

The Eno Cotton Mill and villages, view east; circa 1915
The Eno Cotton Mill and villages, view east; circa 1915
 
On January 1, 1952 the Eno mill became part of Cone Mills, Incorporated, of Greensboro. Sydney Green, who had been with the Eno plant since 1933 and was vice president of the local company, became the resident manager. James Webb, who was president of the local company, became a vice president of the Cone organization.


The Eno Cotton Mill and villages, view west; circa 1940-1950
The Eno Cotton Mill and villages, view west; circa 1940-1950


By 1953 the plant had 30,000 spindles and 676 looms. When operating at capacity, three shifts a day, as it had since 1939, about 600 persons were employed. Approximately half of the employees were women. The company provided 148 houses for its workers; employees not accomodated in the mill villages lived in Hillsborough and the surrounding countryside.
 
<image> 1905 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough
From the 1905 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough
      <image> 1911 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough
From the 1911 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough
 
 
1924 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough, showing mill and villages 1924 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough, showing mill and villages (click on image to enlarge)
 
1943 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough, showing mill and villages 1943 Sanborn Insurance map of Hillsborough, showing mill and villages (click on image to enlarge)
 
 
(Except where otherwise noted, the above was taken for the most part verbatim from The Early Days of Eno Cotton Mill by Carolyn E. Norris, published in Volume 2, Number 1 of the Hillsborough Historical Society Journal, July 1990. p. 48-69; and from Orange County 1752-1952, edited by Hugh Lefler and Paul Wager, published in 1953 by the Orange Printshop, Chapel Hill)
 
The former Eno Cotton Mill, view southeast; circa 1970
The former Eno Cotton Mill, view southeast; circa 1970

The former Eno Cotton Mill, view north; circa 1970
The former Eno Cotton Mill, view north; circa 1970
 
The mill was drastically renovated and expanded in the mid-1950s. In 1956, the mill houses were moved from the mill villages; the houses were sold for $25 per room, with first option of purchase given to mill employees. The houses were mainly moved into West Hillsborough and the close-by unincorporated county area by a company from Tennessee. The Eno plant closed in 1984. In December 1986, approximately 29 acres (which included the mountain village site) on Occoneechee Mountain was given to the town by Cone Mills to develop a park, which is now Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. Today the mill itself is part of the Hillsborough Business Center.
 
 
Click here to view pre-1930s images of the workers and the interior of the mill.

Click here to view recent (2007) photos of some of the older sections of the mill.
 
 
Photo credits: Cone Mills Corporation and/or the Orange County Historical Museum

Also, thanks to Beverly Webb for information on his father, James Webb
 
 
 
[Created 2007; Last updated: 11 April 2010]    

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