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The Pelham Mills: History

Pelham Mills operated from 1820 to 1935 along the Enoree River in Pelham, South Carolina. The mill was founded by Reverend Thomas Hutchings in 1820 in the town of Buena Vista, now Pelham. It was initially named Buena Vista factory and is one of the first cotton mills in Greenville District. The first building housed 144 spindles, and a second building was soon added. The mill burned sometime in the 1820s, but Hutchings rebuilt the mill on the same site. He sold the mill in 1827 to Philip C. Lester and Josiah Kilgore.

In 1850, five men and twenty women were employed by the mill and produced $12, 000 worth of cotton yarn. The Buena Vista factory burned for a second time in 1853, and, unfortunately, the partners were uninsured. Lester bought out Kilgore for his half of the mill and hired on his sons, W.F., Archibald, and George. They rebuilt the mill, and it then housed 500 spindles and was powered by the Enoree River. Mill construction and expansion continued between 1850 and 1860, and the new additions were brick.

The Civil War and its end brought an increased demand for cotton. The mill had 30 employees that operated 840 spindles by 1867. The following year, there were 57 employees working 1,500 spindles. The mill continued to be prosperous through the 1870s, but improvements in mill machinery changed the industry quickly between 1880 and 1885. Philip Lester had died many years before, and his sons had failed to invest in updated machinery. The mill was bought at a public auction by the Pelham Manufacturing Company in 1880, and by 1882, the mill was known as Pelham Mills. The Pelham Manufacturing Company employed 60 people and operated 2,032 spindles in 1882.

The company continued to expand the mill, and in 1895, there were 250 employees and 10,000 spindles. In 1919, steam was added to the existing water power system to operate the machinery, as well as a dyeing operation. The mill operated 11,112 spindles in 1935, the year the mill was closed. A fire in 1940 destroyed the buildings, but the ruins of the mill complex can still be seen today. Pelham Mills was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 19, 1987.

This information was found on National Register of Historic Places Registration Form that was filed on October 5, 1987.

This collection also houses several documents from Furman A. Ross. Ross purchased the Pelham Mill Co. store and post office in 1943. The store was originally the mill office at Pelham Mills, and though the mill was closed at the time of purchase, it still carried the name. Ross retired in 1968, and Christine, Ross's daughter, and her husband Pete Matsko continued to run the store.