SPOOL BOY TO OWNER
"The great Success of a Poor Cumberland County Youth"
Richmond, Ida, & Springfield are the mills that sing his praises with nearly 10,000 spindles.
Mark Morgan*, a cotton mill genius among the whispering pines. His three successful mills at Laurel
Hill and the great good they have done. His valuable aids, M. L. Morgan and W. H. Morrison
Away back in 1843 a little barefooted boy went into the old Rockfish cotton factory for employment.
The old Rockfish factory was situated on little Rockfish creek, at the point where now is located
the Hope Mills No. 1. This boy was seven years old and was very small, but what there was of him
was made of the kind of material out of which they make great men. He was too small to manage a
knitting frame or to do almost any other work in the mills, but he could carry spools, bring water,
run errands. The wages connected with a position of this kind was but a pittance a week, but it
carried with it the opportunity to learn and some chances for promotion; so our little hero was
duly installed into the position of spool carrier.
He had love for mechanism and determination in his make-up, so it was but a few years before he
could manage a machine. A few more years and he could not only manage, but mend or make a machine.
Before he was twelve years old he was a spinner, and when Sherman came along and burned down the
factory, the spool carrier had arisen to the position of superintendent of the spinning department,
and for the first time in his life was out of a job. But not for a great while, in less than three
years he was superintendent of the Granite Mills at Haw River** where he remained until 1872 when
his health failed, and he was forced to take a little rest, a short while. After this he went and
buried himself (so some people would call it) in the pine forest of Richmond County in a little
cotton factory near Laurel Hill, having less than one thousand spindles and even these were old
and worn out.
Today that boy is a man, a man full of years, years crowded with incessant work, with honors and
with success. He is now the principal owner and official head of three important cotton factories,
and owns stock in others and is recognized authority in the business of cotton spinning and weaving
in the South.
Many North Carolinians will see in this short sketch the sturdy figure of Mark Morgan, of Laurel Hill,
Richmond County, one of the most valuable men and one of the best men in this or any State, and when
I say "best" I mean more than the tern is generally intended to convey. I mean best in its highest
and truest sense. Mark Morgan is a model man and there are few like him. He is one of the kindest,
and most even tempered men I ever met, a charming specimen of the true-hearted gentleman, a man whose
fortune, (and he has a comfortable fortune) is the legitimate result of a busy life time of toil.
When Mr. Mark Morgan went first to Richmond County he took with him but little money and he undertook
a work from which most men would shrink. The old Laurel Hill Mills had been struggling, running unpopular
yarns on machinery, a part of which had been sunk at the Port of Wilmington to keep it out of the hands
of the confiscators, and after the war closed was fished out and placed in the mill. The property in the
main (building) belonged to Col. W. H. Malloy of Wilmington. Mr. Morgan took charge as superintendent in
1872. In two years he had the mill equipped with new machinery, the name was changed to "The Richmond Mills"
and a season of prosperity began. Mr. Morgan bought an interest in the enterprise. He bought other interests
until he owned a majority of it. The mill was shut down when he went there in 1872. He started it up then
and it has been running ever since. During fair weather and foul, whether it rains or whether its dry, the
little sand hill tributary to the Great Pee Dee, on which the Richmond Mills are located, has at all times
water sufficient to turn the machinery.
Mr. Morgan started up at the Richmond Mills just prior to the panic of 1873, but the enterprise he planted
so firmly, braved that, and has braved all others that has overtaken it, even to the one just ended and
through them all the spindles have whirled on and the operators have been as regularly paid as though
times were flush. Of the Richmond Cotton Mills Mr. Mark Morgan is the President. Mr. Marcus Lauder Morgan,
his clever son, is Secretary and Treasurer, and Mr. R. A. Morgan is Superintendent.
Mr. M. L. Morgan is the only son of Mr. Mark Morgan and is a chip of the old block in the highest and noblest
sense of that phrase. His character seems mottled after that of his venerable sire, and he is a prudent, careful,
industrious mill manager and has been a valuable aid to his busy father in the conduct and management of his
In 1888 father and son went down the creek a couple of miles from the old Richmond Mills and developed there
a new water power, and built thereon the Ida Yarn Mills, named in honor of a deceased daughter and sister.
This mill was filled with new machinery and immediately followed along in the successful wake of its thirsty
parent, the Richmond Mills. Of this enterprise Mr. Mark Morgan is President, Mr. M. L. Morgan Secretary and
Treasurer and Mr. Ralph Morrison*** Superintendent.
From these two mills has come still another, the newest and biggest of the trio. A mile farther down the same
stream is another waster power, and in 1892 the Messrs. Morgan and Mr. W. H. Morrison, son-in-law of Mr. Mark
Morgan, began the erection of the Springfield Cotton Mills at this point, and in a few months the mill was
completed, the machinery placed on the water turned on, and not-with-standing the business and financial horizon
was beginning to blacken with the pall of a serious panic. The Springfield mills started up and the men and women
who went into the mill to work never knew, so far as any perceptible effect on the enterprise or their work was
concerned, that the panic was a reality. Mr. Mark Morgan is also President of this mill, Mr. W. H. Morrison
Secretary and Treasurer and Mr. C. A. Hodge Superintendent.
Mr. Morrison is a native Richmond County boy and up to four years ago was engaged in and railroading, being
for years the Seaboard Air Line's trusted and efficient agent at Gibson Station. Mr. Morrison is one of the
rising young mill men of the State. He is the kind of young man-prudent and industrious and not afraid to
work--that successful cotton factory men naturally look for when in need of a manager for a new enterprise.
These three cotton mills located in the long leaf Pine Forest of Richmond County, on the banks of a little
stream whose waters formerly went winding towards the Pee Dee River, singing, but not singing as they are
now, the new song of industrial progress. These are links in that continuously lengthening chain of golden
wealth that is being forged as the years pass along by native Carolinians and their associates in the great
business of cotton manufacturing. They had been built upon the industry, the honor, and the integrity of Mark
Morgan, a native of Cumberland County, that good old Cape Fear county. He has spun his name ineradicably into
the industrial fabric of the State, and has built with the aid of his enterprising son, Mr. M. L. Morgan and
his son-in-law, Mr. Morrison, little industrial villages in hitherto rural wastes and peopled them with cheerful,
prosperous workers, built for their benefit churches and schools and inspired them with the hope that comes to
hones and profitable labor.
The product of these three enterprises is confined to standard warps, skeins, and yarns 16s to 30s cone and
tube, two and three ply, and they never lack for purchasers. The eight thousand spindles that turn off these
yarns and warps have succeeded in supplying an ever increasing demand that comes from the best weaving mills
in the country.
With the building of these mills the Morgans have not only provided work for nearly two hundred people, who
find steady employment in the mills, but they have provided a market for the cotton and other agricultural
products of this section.
The three thousand bales of cotton used in these mills per annum is grown in the cotton fields that are
tributary to them and hauled to the mills by the cotton growers themselves. In this way the building of
these mills at Laurel Hill has been of untold benefit to the community at large.
Ms Myrtle Bridges:
Your story "SPOOL BOY TO OWNER". Is an interesting and well written story. In my opinion you ended it too soon and
it didn't go deep enough. I found your story while I was making comments on Facebook concerning my families employment at Morgan
Mills. I am adding those comments for your perusal and reaction. Joseph A. Williams, Jr..
In the 1930's Morgan Mills built a baseball ball field at Ida Mills. that seated a few hundred people. Ida Mills was centrally
located with Springfield Mill on one side and Richmond Mill the other. Back in those days most people walked or rode a horse and
buggy as transportation.. The field was located in the triangle where Rt 74 was one leg with home plate located about fifty fee
from the first home at Ida Mill Village and the Laurel Hill to Springfield Road was the bottom leg of the triangle with right
field being nearest where the LH Road and Rt 74 intersect. Morgan had its own semi-professional baseball team (my father Big Joe
William played and managed the team) and that is where they played during that period of time. I can't remember when it was torn
down but it was around the same time Morgan Mills stopped sponsoring the team and they moved the 4th of July Celebration and Cookout
to Richmond Mills. It also was when they began bringing Arthur " Guitar Boogie" Smith and his Band to Richmond Mills to play to the
crowd of Mill Workers. One of the highlights at Ida Mills was the cooking or Bar-B-Queing of the hogs from scratch for the 4th of
July. I remember that's when I acquired a taste for North Carolina Style Bar-B-Que. Right there in Ida Mill, NC. Then everyone walked
over to the ball park to watch the Morgan Mills All-stars play the Black All-stars. Could the Black All-stars put on a show and hit
the ball a mile. I wonder if anyone is left that remembers those days. I was so young to me its like a dream. A time site and event
that is long gone. If only the dirt could talk because that's all that's left.
The original cotton mill was built parallel to front street (nearest to Laurinburg) and it burnt to the ground in 1917. It began
close to where the Power Plant building stands and went towards the Bayfield. They regulated the flow of water thru the Water Wheel
Power Plant with the Dam located on the Ida Mill side of the main waterway just east of the Power Plant. In 1947 the new mill was hit
by a tornado (a spin off of a Tropical Storm). The tornado came in at an angle to Rt 79. It began its dip between where the Power Plant
stands and the first three houses on front street (that's all assuming the Power Plant is still standing. Last time I was there in 2014
it was still standing) No damage was done to the homes but it messed up what then was the spinning room. Another thing: although the
Power Plant was shut down years (About 1917) before the hurricane, the Dam was still functioning but with the vast amount of water from
all the rain associated with the storm system the Dam burst causing significant flooding downstream. In addition the pond behind the
dam was reduced to the original stream. One positive for local inhabitants, " The Fishing Was The Best Ever," Your wildest fishing dream
would never match the reality of those days. The fish would literally "Jump Into The Boat"
Morgan took advantage of the tornado strike and built a new spinning room, an entirely new weave room (didn't have one before) plus
various other facilities. . We lived on middle street (from about 1928 to 1938) where I was born along with three sisters before me. We
then moved to back street in 1938 (the 3rd house from the end (nearest the Bayfield). I have a list (about 300) of all the families and
family members living on the mill village in 1940.
One side story: There was a house in the big open field across the Laurel Hill to Springfield road from the Frank Gibson homestead. When
the tornado continued its path (sort of north west) after hitting the cotton mill, the home renter/owner was in his outhouse taking care
of business and as luck would have it the tornado went directly overhead, not at ground level but just enough to take the OH and leave him
sitting on the throne, so to speak. I think he had to dig a new hole because of the amount of waste material blasted out (either from fright
or the tornados suction). Afterwards the person had one heck of a stutter when he tried to talk. It was funny (at his expense) to say the
least. Today they would call it PTSD.
Another story: We dug up many hundreds of pounds of medal during World War II to help satisfy our countries need for medal during the
war. Most of what we dug up had come from the original mill. To us youngsters it was like a treasure hunt. In turn it was how we discovered
there had been another mill Most people don't realize that the same waterway provided the electrical power needs at Richmond, Ida and
Springfield Cotton Mills and associated villages. It then flowed on to X-Way and south to become part of the Great Pee Dee River .
The original Springfield Cotton Mill was built in 1892 by Mark Morgan. It burned to the ground in 1917. There is a marker showing the
general location of the mill. The original mill was powered entirely by the electricity generated by a waterwheel inside the Power Plant
building. Springfield was the third mill built by Mark Morgan and his son M L Morgan.
*Mark Morgan,(b. Oct 22, 1837 Harnett Co., NC - Died Jan 19, 1916 Scotland Co., Williamson Dist, NC)
cotton manufacturer. S/o Reese Morgan b. NC & Mary Matthews b. NC. Cause of death, uremia,
senile degeneration. Dr. J. W. Wilcox. Informant, Lena M. Williford (dau), Laurel Hill, NC.
Bur. The Morgan House Family Burying Ground, Laurel Hill. Mark Morgan m. Margaret Lauder,
(Oct 10, 1834 Cumb. Co. - Sep. 28, 1916 Scotland Co., d/o Angus Cameron b. NC & Kattie Cameron,
b. NC, Informant, J. B. Maxwell, Laurel Hill, NC, Bur Ida Mills by M. A. McDougald, Laurinburg, NC
(Research of M. Bridges)
The 1860 Census of Cumberland County shows Mary Morgan 35; Benj. Morgan 27, teacher;
Mark Morgan 23, cotton mill; Cleopatra Cameron Morgan 17 (Feb 3, 1842 - Jan 19, 1920).
Next door was John Morgan 28, machinist; Martha A. Morgan 27; John A. Morgan 4; Francis
Morgan (female 7 mos.)
The 1870 Census of Alamance Co., Melville shows Mark Morgan 33, supt. of cotton mill;
Margaret 34; Marcus 5; Lena 1 yr.
The 1880 Census of Richmond County, Williamson Township shows Mark Morgan 43, working
in cotton mill; Margaret L. 45; Marcus L. 15; Lena 11; Maggie J. 1 yr.
The 1900 Census of Scotland County, (org.1899 from Richmond) Williamson District shows
Mark Morgan, b. Oct 1837, 62; Margaret b. Oct 1837 62, married 36 yrs., mother of 5 ch.,
2 living; Bennie Morgan, g-dau, Jan 1887, 12; Morris Morgan, g-son, April 1889, 10;
Edwin, g-son, March 1893, 7; Willie, g-son, Feb 1895, 5; Eugenic, g-son, May 1897, 3 yrs.
**Benjamin Trollinger built the first part of the Granite Mill in 1844, marking
the beginning of the textile industry in the village of Haw River. Yellow Fever takes the
life of Gen. Benj. Trollinger: We regret to learn that this disease is on the increase in
Wilmington. It is said there were thirteen deaths on Friday, fifteen on Saturday, and thirty
on Sunday last, The fever is said to be of the most malignant form. Among the deaths we regret
to hear of those of Dr. Dickson and W. C. Bettencourt, Esq., and Gen. Benj. Trollinger.
Dr. W. G. Thomas is sick with the fever. We learn that Gen. Beauregard has sent several
physicians from Charleston, and that the Mayor of the latter place has sent nurses to attend
to the sick. Business in the place is almost entirely suspended. The disease will no doubt
abate and disappear after the first hard frost. Wilmington was visited in 1822 by the yellow
fever, at which time it was very malignant and fatal.
October 1, 1862 Issue of the 'Weekly Standard', Raleigh, NC - Richmond Co. Estate Records - Bridges
***The 1910 Census of Scotland County, Upper Williamson shows Ralph Morrison, 24, head,
supt. cotton mill; Catharine, wife, 27, married 5 yrs., mother of 2 ch., both living;
Murdoc A. Morrison 4 yrs; William H. Morrison, 1 yr.; Sarah E. mother 72, wd.
Source: The News and Observer, (Raleigh, NC) Thursday, Nov 28, 1895; pg. 3; Issue 100; Col A
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