Fact Friday 378 - Hoskins Mill

Fact Friday 378 - Hoskins Mill

Happy Friday!

This week's Fact Friday comes to you from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.


The Hoskins Mill, 1907

The Hoskins Mill was built in 1903-1904 as the second mill in the community that was known as Chadwick, now Hoskins, which is located about three and a half miles northwest of the Square. The first one in that previously rural area was the Chadwick, built two years earlier. Together they represented a thirty percent increase in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's mill capacity, and should be seen in the context of the rapidly expanding mill production and supply based in the city and county in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The key figure in sparking Charlotte-Mecklenburg's transition from being a cotton trading center to one of cotton manufacturing as part of New South industrialization was Daniel Augustus Tompkins (1852-1914). A South Carolina native who was educated and trained in manufacturing in the North, Tompkins first came to Charlotte in 1882 as a machinery sales representative for Westinghouse, but quickly saw the potential for growth in the still small community, and set up his own factory design, contracting and machine shop business in 1884, the D. A. Tompkins Co. In the following thirty-two years, Tompkins built over one hundred cotton mills, fertilizer works, electric light plants and ginneries, and changed the region's cotton oil from a waste product to a major industry by building about two hundred processing plants.

The first cotton mill in Charlotte was the Charlotte Cotton Mills, which started up in 1881. Tompkins built the city's second, third, and fourth mills, the Alpha, Ada and Victor in 1889, and built and headed the sixth, the Atherton, in 1893. He also saw the need for a local company to supply machinery and equipment for the new mills, and so, with E. A. Smith and R. M. Miller, Jr., he organized the Charlotte Supply Company. In 1889. R. M. Miller, Jr. (1856-1925) was secretary-treasurer of the D. A. Tompkins company, and headed the city's tenth mill, the Elizabeth, in 1901. E. A. Smith ( 1862-1933) was a Baltimore native who, like Tompkins, came to Charlotte as a representative of Thomas K. Carey and Son, an industrial supply firm in Baltimore. In 1901, Smith, Tompkins and Miller sold their interest in the Charlotte Supply Company, and Smith set about building and operating his own mills.

His first mill was the Chadwick, located about three miles northwest of town on Rozelle's Ferry Road and the Seaboard Air Line Railway tracks. Named after Col. H. S. Chadwick, who headed the Louise Mill (the city's seventh, started up in 1897), the new three-story plant was built by the J. A. Jones Construction Company, and a mill village of 40 houses was put in place just north of the factory. The Chadwick was built and started operations in 1901. In April, 1903, E. A. Smith, J. P. Wilson and Jeremiah Goff organized Hoskins Mills, Inc. with authorized stock of 5,000 shares with par value one hundred dollars, but they began with each of the three owning 125 shares, which gave them a working capital of $37,500. (Goff was the new vice-president of time Charlotte Supply Company, and its new president, H. C. Clark, was a principal in the Chadwick Mills with Smith; Goff and Clark were natives of Warren, Rhode Island, where they got their textile experience). The following month the corporation bought two tracts of land totaling about 140 acres adjacent to the Chadwick Mills and set about to build the mill and a typical mill village for the workers. Smith chose Hoskins for the mill because it was his mother's family name. By November, 1903, the mill and most of its village, which was also built by J. A. Jones, were nearly complete, as reported in the Charlotte Daily Observer:

"The new Hoskins Mills, at Chadwick, a western suburb of the city, is nearing completion, and when completed will be one of the best and handsomest manufacturing plants in the South. The work of putting the roof on the building was finished Saturday and the carpenters will now be engaged in laying the floors. The floors mill have three layers of timber, with a total thickness of about five inches. The top layer of the floors will be of maple timber. The machinery for the new mill will begin coming in within a few weeks and will be placed as it arrives. The equipment of the plant will be of the best. It will begin operation about the first of March. Twenty of the 80 tenement houses for the operatives of the mill have been completed and work has begun on others. The houses are neat, comfortable structures of four and five rooms and make an attractive looking little town. When the new plant is in operation, the Chadwick settlement will have a population of about 1,600 people, including people who have other trades and do not work in the mills."

Hoskins Mill Village (source: CMStory.org)

Since the city of Charlotte only had a population of 18,000 at the time, and the county's industrial capacity was boosted by thirty percent from the Chadwick and Hoskins mills, this was a substantial undertaking that reflected the great confidence these entrepreneurs had in the future of the cotton mill business in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the surrounding area.

By 1907, Smith headed the Chadwick, Hoskins, Calvine (formerly Alpha), Dover (in Pineapple) and Louise mills, and later built mills in Rhodhiss and King's
Mountain. The following year, 1908, he began to consolidate his holdings under one corporate umbrella by forming the Chadwick-Hoskins Company, with principals William F. Draper, Arthur. J. Draper and E. C. Dwelle.10 William F. Draper lived in Hopedale, MA, was U. S. Congressman from that state 1892-7, and U. S. Ambassador to Italy, 1897-1900; his father George had invented the Draper power loom, which was found in most textile mills throughout the nation. His son, Arthur J. Draper, moved to Charlotte, served a term as president of Chadwick-Hoskins, and subsequently became an officer of the American Trust Company (merged into American Commercial Bank, 1958, and NCNB, 1960) and a principal in the Stephens Company, which developed Myers Park. Under this new structure, the Chadwick Hill became Chadwick-Hoskins Mill #1, the Hoskins, Mill #2, Calvine, Mill #3, Louise, Mill #4, and Dover, Mill #5, and the Chadwick-Hoskins Company was then the largest textile mill business in North Carolina. The Chadwick and Hoskins communities got a further boost in 1911, when the Piedmont and Northern Electric Commuter Railway from Charlotte to Gastonia was routed on the west side of the mill villages with a stop at "Hoskins Station." In 1917, the Charlotte Evening Chronicle ran a picture of the interior of the spinning room of the Hoskins mill, which carried this caption:

"There is one of the nicest and cleanest mills in this section. Notice the excellent lighting and the cleanliness and order in which everything is kept. When a girl gets on a long apron, and "The Chronicle Protection Cap," which many of them wear, she is well fixed for a job that is not bad by any means. If she keeps the machinery in good condition it does not require her to be right over the frames all the time; still the best spinners are always near at hand. All the floors in the mill, which are of maple, are kept white and clean and no one would ever dare expectorate upon the floor or sides of the walls. A mill that is kept in such condition will always get the better class of help because the best of spinners will not be satisfied in a mill where there are filthy floors and walls and bundles of lint and strings always under their feet. There is some one sweeping or scouring at the Hoskins mill all the time in order that everything may be kept in perfect condition."

The villages themselves, with streets named after the mill officers, were known to be a pleasant place to live, particularly after the development of an amusement park, Lakewood Park, nearby. The companies, of course, supplied land and buildings for churches, schools, and recreational facilities.

In 1920 and 1921, a company owned by the Gossett family bought controlling interest in the Chadwick-Hoskins Company, and thereby became a subsidiary of Gossett Mills (known as the "Gossett chain"). By 1939 the chain was comprised of twelve mills in Virginia, North and South Carolina. Benjamin B. Garrett became president of Chadwick-Hoskins (his father, James P. Gossett, had built up a mill and banking business in Greenville, SC, starting in 1901). In 1946, local control and ownership of Chadwick-Hoskins ended by a merger with Textron-Southern, Inc. of Providence, RI; but two years later (1948) Textron-Southern sold the Hoskins plant to a local company, the Spatex Corporation (The Chadwick had been sold off a year earlier). Since that time the factory has gone through several owners, who used it for industrial purposes: P. B. Shikiarides, et al, 1958-60; Westbury Knitwear, 1960-63; Universal Automated Industries, 1963-69; Hydro Prints, 1969-86.

In August, 1985, a fire caused damage to a small portion of the interior, and Hydro Prints ceased operations at the mill. 


The Hoskins Mill, 1988

The office building at the Hoskins Mill, undated.


Until next week!


The Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, "Hoskins Mill," by Dr. William Huffman, February 1, 1988.


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