The Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill is among Lincolnton and Lincoln County’s earliest and best preserved textile mills. Though it has remained vacant for a number of years, used only as storage space for Lincoln Bonded Warehouse and other businesses, the mill maintains many of its original historical and architectural features. Except for a one-story, 10,000 square foot addition made to the mill during the ownership of A.L. Tait in the 1950s, and for the removal of two one-story projections that served as a picker room and storage, the brick and timber building remains much as it was when built in 1907-1911. The site also retains an earlier brick structure, located to the east of the mill on the same block, that maintained a variety of industrial enterprises including a machine shop and foundry (1850s-1906), headquarters for the Eureka Manufacturing Company, and later the dye works for the Eureka Manufacturing Company. Currently, this two-story brick structure is the home of the cotton brokerage firm of Lineberger Brothers, Inc.
The historical, architectural, and industrial significance and integrity of the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill can be understood in the broader context of the textile industry in Lincolnton and Lincoln County, and the economic growth of downtown Lincolnton during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill is part of the collective unit that comprises Lincoln County’s second large industry and contains the essential architectural and economic elements that mark the textile industry’s impact on Lincolnton Township and more particularly downtown.
The textile industry in Lincoln County was born with the building of a cotton-spinning mill on McDaniel’s Spring, one mile east of Lincolnton, by Michael Schenck about 1813. Schenck, a local merchant, imported machinery from Providence, Rhode Island, and sold and bartered his cotton yarns over a relatively large territory. He gained notoriety from this endeavor and is credited with successfully building and operating the first textile mill south of the Potomac River. After a large flood in 1816 that almost completely destroyed the mill and dam, Schenck and Absalom Warlick hired Michael Beam in April of 1816, at a cost of $1,300, to build a larger machine on a portion of Warlick’s property below the mill’s original location. Schenck and Warlick held the responsibility of supplying the house and running the mill’s gears.
Between 1818 and 1819 Michael Schenck formed a partnership with Dr. James Bivens and Lincolnton merchant, Col. John Hoke, and erected an even larger mill on the South Fork of the Catawba River, two miles south of Lincolnton. The Lincoln Cotton Mills produced cotton yarn and also operated an axe factory. On August 19, 1831, the mill operated twelve looms and 1,280 spindles, and by 1840 represented an investment of $18,000, employed 84 persons, and manufactured products with a value of $21,373. Col. Hoke purchased the interests of both Schenck and Bivens at some point during the 1830s and operated the mill until his death in 1844. After Col. Hoke’s death, his son-in-law, Col. L.D. Childs, purchased and operated the mill until it was destroyed by fire in 1863.
Around 1850, Andrew Motz and E.S. Barrett built the Laurel Hill Cotton Factory near the confluence of the South Fork River and Clark’s Creek, one mile west of Lincolnton. About 1858, Col. John Fulenwider Phifer and Col. R.W. Allison, cousins from Concord, North Carolina, purchased the property and operated it as the Ivy Shoals Cotton Mill. Col. John F. Phifer married Elizabeth Caroline Ramsour, daughter of David Ramsour, a Lincolnton merchant, on June 5, 1839, and established his home in Lincolnton in 1842 after working as a planter in Lowndes County, Georgia. Phifer’s wealth was well known throughout the county, as he was one of the largest slave owners in Lincoln County during the 1860s. During this period, when citizens referred to other wealthy persons in the county, they used the expression, “He is almost as wealthy as Col. Phifer.” Upon the death of Col. Phifer in 1884, his son, George L. Phifer, and son-in-law, Stephen Smith, of Livingston, Alabama, operated the mill until Robert S. Reinhardt became a partner in 1890 and changed the name to Elm Grove Cotton Mill.
The prosperity of these mills did not succeed in rescuing Lincolnton from a declining economy and lack of investments in new manufacturing ventures during the period from the 1850s to the 1870s. Lincoln County fell behind Gaston County, who during the 1840s and 1850s emerged as a major textile center, and Charlotte’s emergence as a major railroad center. Though the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad reached Lincolnton in 1881, linking Chester, South Carolina, and Lenoir, North Carolina, Lincoln County remained an overwhelmingly agricultural area deplete with interest in economic investment and development.
The emergence and prosperity of textile mills in Lincolnton during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth century can be attributed to the New South industrialism of Daniel Efird Rhyne (1852-1933). William Sherrill, author of Annals of Lincoln County, commented on D.E. Rhyne’s impact on Lincoln County’s economy, stating that he “accomplished as much for the material advancement of the County as any other one citizen.” In 1887 D.E. Rhyne and J.A. Abernethy moved from Mt. Holly (Gaston County), North Carolina, where Rhyne had assisted his brother Abel Rhyne in the construction and operation of Mt. Holly Cotton Mill (1875) and Tuckaseegee Mill (1883), and built a mill two miles south of Lincolnton. This mill encompassed the facility used by the Confederate government during the Civil War as a laboratory for the production of medicines for the Southern war effort. Aptly named the Laboratory Cotton Mills, this operation boasted 2,000 spindles and manufactured long staple cotton into yarn. By 1890 Laboratory Cotton Mills increased the size of their plant to include 5,000 spindles, 125 employees, and a small mill village of tenements to house the mills expanding labor force.
D.E. Rhyne’s economic influence and opportunism expanded as he continued to recognize the potential for further growth in textile mill construction and business ventures that included banking and manufacturing. In 1895 Rhyne built the Lincoln Cotton Mill, known in Lincoln County as Southside Mill, with 7,000 spindles and 125 employees. Similar to his plant at Laboratory, the Lincoln Cotton Mill utilized the South Fork River to power the mill and manufacture long staple cotton into yarns. Three or four years later, Rhyne, with his nephews, Ed Love and Robert Love, and A.M. Price increased his textile interests by building a third plant about one mile from the courthouse in Lincolnton. The partners built the Daniel Manufacturing Company to spin fine numbers of yarn from combed sea-island cotton. They used water from city water mains to supply power to this facility. Endeavoring to spin fine yarn drew the attention of Holland Thompson, author of From the Cotton Field to the Cotton Mill (1906), who commented that very few mills had experienced and skilled workers to produce fine goods.
After Rhyne sold his interest in the Daniel Manufacturing Company, and assisted the owners of the Avon Mill in Gastonia in increasing profits, he partnered with James Alonzo Abernethy and started the Wampum and Indian Creek Mills in Lincolnton. He also became associated with the Rhodes Manufacturing Company, started by Mr. Will Rhodes of Lincolnton, by purchasing interest in the company and changing the name to Rhodes-Rhyne Weaving Company. This plant was located about one mile from Laboratory and manufactured bedspreads. His manufacturing interests expanded to include four mills in Cherryville, eight mills in Belmont, and one mill in Henry River (Catawba County), North Carolina.
While engaged in the textile industry, D.E. Rhyne also took an active role in local banking interests as the president of First National Bank of Lincolnton (1903), the National Bank of Cherryville, and served on the Board of Directors for Commercial National Bank and Merchants and Farmers National Bank of Charlotte. In 1916 he became the owner of Piedmont Wagon Company in Hickory (Catawba County), North Carolina and supplied wood wheels to many canons used during World War I. Realizing that prosperity was not confined to a few business endeavors, Rhyne further increased his interests and influence by investing in other business ventures. By the 1930s he owned about 15,000 acres of land in Lincoln, Gaston, Catawba, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties. His property holdings made him one of the largest landowners in western North Carolina. Rhyne’s other investments and property holdings included the Lithia Springs property in Lincolnton, Consolidated Tin Mines in Lincolnton, Long Creek Gold Mine in Spruce Pine, Anderson Motor Company in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Wizard Automobile Company in Charlotte, and Lincoln Insurance and Realty Company.
The wealth that D.E. Rhyne accumulated throughout his life, particularly during the first two decades of the twentieth century, spread to area churches and Lenoir College in Hickory, North Carolina. A devout Lutheran, Rhyne made substantial contributions to churches of this denomination in Lincolnton, Gastonia, Statesville, Conover, Newton, Charlotte, Hardin, and Belmont. Though Rhyne enjoyed donating money to these religious institutions, he made these contributions in the form of challenge grants. Many of these donations aided the congregations in starting building fund campaigns. He made his most substantial contribution to the church of his parents and relatives in Gastonia, Lutheran Chapel Church. His $20,000 donation assisted the congregation in erecting a new sanctuary that they dedicated in June of 1924. In addition, he donated $5,000 in memory of his parents, Moses H. and Margaret Hoffman Rhyne, to purchase a new pipe organ. Rhyne was also a large contributor to Emanuel Lutheran Church in Lincolnton, where he became a devout member after moving to Lincolnton in 1887. His donation of $20,000 to Emanuel helped build the congregation’s new church in 1920. Upon his death, Reverend Voight R. Comer conducted the funeral service at Emanuel and the interment at the Rhyne family plot at Lutheran Chapel Church in Gastonia.
Lenoir College in Hickory, North Carolina became one of D.E. Rhyne’s benefactors before 1919, as he offered the college a $100,000 challenge grant in war saving stamps to assist in absorbing certain deficits. The challenge grant required the college to raise an additional $200,000. In 1922 Rhyne offered another generous gift of $300,000 with the stipulation that the North Carolina Lutheran Synod match his contribution. After much discussion circulated among the college’s benefactors about renaming the college to Daniel Rhyne College, the Board of Trustees changed the name to Lenoir-Rhyne in 1923. The college suffered a disastrous setback in 1927 when a fire destroyed the college’s main building and a majority of the library. With Rhyne’s assistance, the college built a new Administration building as the nucleus of the campus.
Daniel Efird Rhyne passed away on February 8, 1933. His contributions to the economic, social, educational, and religious development and growth of various counties in the Piedmont region of North Carolina cannot be understated. To commemorate his philanthropy and industrious nature, North Carolina erected a historical marker at Lutheran Church Chapel in 1973. The development of the textile industry in Lincolnton during the first three decades of the twentieth century happened in response to D.E. Rhyne’s ambition, lucrative investments, and vision of New South Industrialism, and a renewed local interest in industrial and commercial ventures by enterprising businessmen.
The Eureka Manufacturing Company grew out of an economic movement that developed between 1900 and 1930 that added mining operations, brick dealerships, furniture stores, and casket companies to Lincolnton’s economic infrastructure. In addition, this movement affected the demographics and geographic layout of Lincolnton’s central business district. The population in the county seat increased from 828 in 1900 to 2,413 in 1910. During this decade, a proliferation of large two-story brick buildings took the place of older one- and two-story frame homes around Lincolnton’s courtsquare, stretching down East and West Main Streets. In 1909, Robert S. Reinhardt built Lincolnton’s only Beaux-Arts style building on the west side of the Courtsquare. This three-story building housed the post office, law office of L.D. Wetmore, and other offices.
The Eureka Manufacturing Company began their operations between 1902 and 1906 in a two-story brick building located at the corner of East Water Street and South Laurel Street on lot 34 in the Southeast square of Lincolnton. Situated on the southernmost portion of this lot, behind the company’s building, were two buildings that incorporated a machine shop, office, storage room, and foundry. These two structures were part of three earlier enterprises operated as Seth Stubbs Machine Shop, Ambrose Costner’s Foundry and Machine Shop, Turner’s Foundry and Machine Shop, and Lincolnton Machine Shop.
The Eureka Manufacturing Company was incorporated on February 10, 1906. The company was organized and operated for the following purposes:To conduct, operate, maintain, and carry on a general machine and foundry business and to become workers in all kinds of metals, woods and wares, to become constructors, builders, and workers in all kinds of machinery, engines, boilers, saw mills, pulleys, shaftings and all machinery made from iron, steel, or molten matter, as well or workers and makers of all kinds of castings and moulders of all molten matter and the act, process and works for casting same, and to become workers in and makers of all kinds of castings and workers and makers of all machinery for which iron, steel, and casting are utilized. In fact, to become workers in and manufacturers of a general machine and foundry business, which said term implies and to do all woodworking necessary proper and useful for conducting and carrying on said business in connection therewith, and to become workers and manufacturers of all electrical supplies, plumbing and furnishers and dealers in same - to manufacture sell and deal in all cotton mill supplies and to make and manufacture wood into furniture and manufacture wood into furniture and the manufacture of house furnishings and upholstering and household supplies, and deal in oils, gasoline and mill supplies, and to act and become agents for any and all kinds and makers of machinery. The records of the company show the following individuals as shareholders (value of $6,000 each): W.A. Biggs, 20 shares; J.L. Lineberger, 20 shares; and L.J. Dellinger, 20 shares. L.J. (Luzerna Jerome “Rome”) Dellinger (1865-1931) was a native of Mt. Holly (Gaston County), North Carolina who came to Lincolnton in 1904 with his wife and children. In addition to serving as co-owner of the cotton mill, “Rome” Dellinger ran a department store in downtown Lincolnton with partner T.H. Thompson. Dellinger and Thompson purchased the store and its stock from Blair Jenkins, and operated the store under the firm L. J. Dellinger & Company. Dellinger left Lincolnton in 1912 and moved back to Mt. Holly where he operated a dairy farm. L.J. Dellinger died on 17 March 1931, and is buried at old Mount Holly Cemetery in Mount Holly, North Carolina. Less than a month after their incorporation, the Eureka Manufacturing Company purchased from Ambrose Costner lots thirty-two and thirty-three in the Southeast square of Lincolnton for $4,000. On May 30 1907, one year after the company’s initial incorporation, Eureka Manufacturing Company issued an amendment to their incorporation increasing their capital stock to $100,000, and included J.C. Rankin, and S.M. Robinson to their list of stockholders. In addition, the company increased the paid capital stock in the amount of $40,000 to their shareholders: J.C. Rankin, $1,000; J.L. Lineberger, $12,000; L.J. Dellinger, $5,500; W.A. Biggs, $2,500; and S.M. Robinson, $1,000. In this amendment, the company authorized “the manufacture of cotton and waster cotton and all fibrous material into yarn, cloth, twine, rope and all other merchantable products and forms, and the dyeing, bleaching, printing and finishing of cotton.” Also, the amendment allowed the company to buy and sell lint cotton in all forms, engage in ginning cotton, selling and holding real estate upon which to erect its cotton mill and tenement houses for the operation.
The stockholders of Eureka Manufacturing Company formally announced the construction of their cotton mill on Friday May 24, 1907. The article, appearing in the Lincoln County News, carried the headline “ANOTHER COTTON MILL,” and specified the company’s issuance of a construction contract to W.W. Motz, and the mill’s location, product, and process of production. The company used mule spinning frames to manufacture course yarns with an initial output of 2,000 pounds per day. According to the article, “this method of spinning is new to the South, only one or two southern mills using the Mule frame at present.” Purchasing lot 31 from F.M. Sharp, the company owned the entire block, with the exception of the lot 30, which was owned by Judge W.A. Hoke. Since the surrounding area had already been built up with mill houses, stores and other amenities associated with the Wampum Mill, this accounts for the fact that no mill houses were built for the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill.
On November 11, 1910, a visitor to mills in Mount Holly, Lincolnton, and Cherryville reported that the Eureka Manufacturing Cotton Mill made course yarns from floor sweeping that required machinery not found in the usual manufacture of cotton yarns. This machinery, similar to that found in woolen mills, was able to handle heavy carding work that was necessary to properly clean cotton fibers. At this time, the mill’s operators included W.H. Truesdale, superintendent; Peter Vehue, overseer of carding; Newman Redmond, spinning; and Ott Bumgardner, twisting and spooling. Detailing the process of manufacturing course yarns, the visitor explained: “From the doffer the webb comes off in 20 strands and after receiving some twist is wound on a drum or spool. These spools are carried to a mule frame and there without further drawing the different ends are fed to the spindle and given the desired twist to make yarns.”
From November 16, 1910 to February 27, 1912, the Eureka Manufacturing Company entered into three contracts with the Smith and Furbush Machine Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to furnish machinery to the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill. In the terms of the contracts, Smith and Furbush furnished one man to assist the cotton mill’s staff with the erection of the machinery. Eureka covered this assembler’s expenses, which included time, travel to and from Philadelphia, board, and “incidental” expenses. The total cost for the machinery purchased from Smith and Furbish Machine Company over this two year period was $7,399, and included main cylinders, finisher cards (Furbush style), doffers, winding frames, Bates Apperly feed, lifts, spindles, creels, and drive pulleys.
By January 3, 1913, the machine shop and foundry, located on the southern portion of lot 34, formerly operated by Eureka Manufacturing Company, became a branch office of the Thermalarm Company. Headquartered at the Realty Building in Charlotte, this company offered “mechanical engineering and drafting in all its branches.” An electrical repair department rewound armatures and adjusted motors and dynamos. On September 10, 1925, the Eureka Manufacturing Company lost to fire one their cotton warehouses located between the office building and Seaboard Airline Railway and the Carolina and Northwestern Railway. In addition to the building lose, the company lost several bales of waste cotton. In 1933 the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill, still under the presidency of J.L. Lineberger, operated 1,306 spindles. Out of sixteen mills located in Lincoln County during this period, the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill operated less than one percent of the county’s total spindles.
Sometime in the late 1940s, Tait Yarn Company, Inc. purchased the former Eureka Manufacturing Cotton Mill. Incorporated on June 11, 1946, the Tait Yarn Company was formed under the leadership of Andrew Love Tate (1901-1967). Tate, a native of Brunswick, Georgia, began his career in business as a grocery broker in Georgia, and moved to Charlotte before arriving in Lincolnton with his wife, Achsah Edwards Tait, in 1936. His interest in the textile industry developed from and was nurtured by his uncle, W.W. Glenn, who owned and operated the Glenn Mills in Lincolnton. Tait rented the Eureka Mill to numerous businesses including Houser Chair Company, and in April of 1950 the Tait Yarn Company moved their operations into the building. According to the Lincoln Times-News in a report on April 17, 1950, “Mr. Tait bought the mill sometime ago and when he gets moved he will pave much more room and will enlarge his present output. He employs about 75 now and will probably employ around 150 within the next year, especially if he can procure all the nylon that his plant uses from Dupont.” On September 17, 1955, Tait Yarn Company, Inc. purchased lot 30 in the Southeast Ward, Ward Two in Lincolnton, from the heirs of W.A. and Julia Withers. On this lot Tait Yarn built a 10,000 square foot addition to their existing textile operations.
In March 1965, Tait Yarn Company began construction on a new 55,400 square foot mill building located on Highway 321 across from Carolina Motel in Lincolnton. The new building consolidated the company’s parent plant on East Water St. and two other plants that the company brought to Lincolnton from Forest City and Kings Mountain. With Beam & Lewis of Gastonia as the project architects, the company’s treasurer, Jim Sigmon reported that their expansion would enable the company to increase their total employment numbers from 140 to 200. At the time the company constructed their new building, Tait’s parent plant (old Eureka Mill) measured 38,000 square feet.
On December 14, 1966, Lincoln Bonded Warehouse Company, Inc. purchased from Tait Yarn Company the property on which rests the cotton mills operations. Incorporated on June 1, 1922 by B.C. Lineberger, A.S. Lineberger, and J.W. Lineberger, Lincoln Bonded Warehouse carried out the following business:To perform the duties and carry on the business of a public warehouseman; to purchase land, buildings, scales, furniture trucks and all necessities for carrying on the business of bonded warehouseman; to purchase, acquire sell and deal in automobiles and automobile accessories, motor trucks and motor truck accessories, gasoline and oils, to erect buildings and equip them with necessary machinery and carry on the business aforesaid. Less than one month after purchasing the mill building, Jake Burgin, executive vice-president of Lincoln Bonded Warehouse reported that the company planned to build a ramp on the westernmost point of the building (Cedar Street side). When Lincoln Bonded Warehouse purchased the property, their total square footage of storage space in Lincolnton equaled 300,000, and made them one of the largest bonded warehouses in North Carolina. The ownership of the property is still maintained by Lincoln Bonded Warehouse.Architectural DescriptionThe Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill, erected in 1907-1911, is situated at the intersection of South Cedar Street and West Water Street in Lincolnton. The structure occupies the easternmost portion of the block in Lincolnton’s Ward Two. The property is bounded on the south by the Seaboard Airline Railway, and by the former Eureka Manufacturing Company headquarters, erected 1903-1906, on the east, Water Street on the north, and Cedar Street on the west. Sometime between 1911 and 1921, this two-story brick building served as the dye works for the Eureka Manufacturing Company. Also located on the easternmost portion of the block, to the south of the headquarters building, was a machine shop and foundry previously owned by Ambrose Costner from 1887 to 1906, and utilized as the Lincolnton Machine Shop (1902), Turner Machine Shop and Foundry (1896), and the Ambrose Costner Machine Shop and Foundry (1890).
The Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill is an American bond brick mill building with segmental arched windows and cement sills on the first and second floors, a flat roof, wooden post and beam construction, one stairway to the second floor, and an elevator shaft, once used to haul freight, on the interior. A gable wood roof is covered with a membrane, and has a small overhang supported by exposed rafters with curved ends. Though the building’s windows have been filled with brick, the original casements held three 4/4 window sashes.
The former main entrance to the building, which faces northward toward East Water Street, is five bays wide and eleven bays deep, two stories tall, with a three-story tower located on the eastern facade (away from Water Street) that held a 12,000 water tank that functioned as an auxiliary to the wet system. The mill’s main office, built after 1911 and located on the building’s eastern facade (facing E. Water St. between the main building and the tower), is a one story, two bay wide by two bay deep extension with two entrances, identical architecturally to that of the main building. Projecting from the eastern end of the Eureka Cotton Mill, where the picker room was located, is a one story, two bay deep by two bay wide brick extension with segmental arched windows with cement sills and three 4/4 window sashes. Another brick extension projecting eastward from the picker room was a one-story storage and opening room that was removed sometime before the 1950s. A two-story brick structure, southeastward from the picker room, stored boilers and tanks for the dye works.
The building maintains a 10,000 square foot addition made by Andrew Tate and Tait Yarn Company after purchasing an additional adjoining lot in 1955. This addition includes a unique scissor truss system designed by Memory Heavner, a local resident in Lincolnton, with resembles the truss system in the earliest sections of the mill. Under the ownership of Lincoln Bonded Warehouse, the Lineberger family added an additional bay to the mill’s original main office and entrance. The interior of the mill’s first floor has concrete floors and wood post-and-beam construction. The mill’s second floor has intact heart pine floors and post-and-beam construction, with a scissor truss system.
The adaptive reuse of the Eureka Manufacturing Company Cotton Mill will preserve important architectural features of the buildings described in this report. The major exterior and interior characteristics, including material, form and setting are being left sufficiently intact so as to maintain the historic integrity of the building while adapting them to a new use that will keep them in service for an indefinite time into the future.
Click Here to View Footnotes