Manufacturing Comes to Davidson
Many Davidson residents know that the building that houses the Rumor Mill Market used to be a shingle plant – a plant that has been leaking toxic asbestos into the surrounding neighborhood for decades. Before that, however, the building housed the first manufacturing facility in Davidson, the Linden Cotton Factory.
During the late 1880s and through the 1890s, industrialization swept across the South, and numerous new textile mills were established. News of the new Davidson factory first appeared in the Charlotte Democrat on February 28, 1890, when the Clerk of the Superior Court announced the incorporation of the Linden Manufacturing Company. The name came from the name of one of neighboring streets: Linden Street, which we now know as Depot Street. Those responsible for incorporating the new company were J.G. Hood, R.W. Shelton, J. Lee Sloan, Jno. J. Dupuy, W.S. Graves, J. W. Summers, and Henry Louis Smith. According to the announcement, the mill’s business would be “spinning Cotton, Wool and other textile productions and the manufacturing of the same into cloth and other fabrics and the sale of the same.” On April 1, Raleigh’s Daily State Chronicle noted that “The industrial fever seems to have struck our quiet, classic college town [Davidson]…A beautiful site has been selected near the depot, embracing ten acres, and a building committee appointed and work will soon begin on a new cotton factory.”
By December 18, the foundations had been laid, and by April 1891 the company had ordered equipment. By October of that year, the mill was in operation, with 2,200 spindles, and according to the Charlotte News, it was “first class.” The Linden Cotton Mill continued to operate until 1921, when, according to the January 20 High Point Review, the combined stockholders of Linden Manufacturing and the Delburg cotton mill voted to combine the two mills under one management. According to the Review, “the two mills are for the most part owned by the same persons”; the January 3 Charlotte Observer confirmed this, noting that J. Lee Sloan had been secretary-treasurer of the Delburg Mill for the last six years, and of the Linden Mill for the past three. The new plan would result in a new company, the Delburg-Linden Company. By 1923, that company was up for sale and was ultimately purchased by Martin Cannon of Cannon Mills. The Linden Mill was then turned into a warehouse.
The Carolina Asbestos Company acquired the facility sometime during the 1930s and began to produce shingles there. It, in turn, closed during the 1960s, after which the building was once again used as a warehouse until retail establishments like the Rumor Mill and Sofas and Cheers occupied part of the structure.
Nancy Griffith lived in Davidson from 1979 until 1989. After a career as an archives and special collections librarian, she retired to Davidson in 2015. She has published a number of books and articles on local history, and has just completed a history of the Ada Jenkins Center.