SPOOL BOY TO OWNER
"The great Success of a Poor Cumberland County Youth" October 17, 2008 Myrtle Bridges
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 enterprises.
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.
The News and Observer, (Raleigh, NC) Thursday, Nov 28, 1895; pg. 3; Issue 100; Col A
Transcribed October 10, 2008 by Myrtle Bridges
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