The Delburg Cotton Mill
The old Delburg Mill, which now houses offices and the Brickhouse Tavern, was organized by the Delburg Cotton Mill Company in July 1907. The original shareholders were W.R. Grey, J. P. Munroe, and A.B. Young. The company intended to buy and sell cotton and wool, and to produce and sell yarn from these products. Interestingly, Delburg was also authorized to develop water and steam power, and to provide poles for electricity, which it could then sell. Construction was under way by 1908 on land purchased from Davidson College. The company added a large cotton warehouse in 1914, and a further addition in 1917 doubled capacity and increased employment.
By 1919, the officers of the company were J.P. Munroe (president), J. Lee Sloan (secretary-treasurer) and Floyd Potts (assistant secretary and bookkeeper). According to the December 25, 1919 edition of the Southern Textile Bulletin, the company’s “steady growth and improvement is largely due to the untiring efforts and energy of Mr. Sloan, who stays on the job and lets no detail of the business escape him.” The company had just ordered new machinery for the mill, which would increase its size to 10,000 spindles. By this time, they were manufacturing yarns for hosiery and underwear, as well as weaving yarns for automobile tire fabrics.
In 1923 the Delburg Mill merged with nearby Linden Manufacturing Company to form the Delburg-Linden Company. The good prospects reported in 1919 had faded, however, and that same year Munroe began to pursue sale of the company to Martin Cannon of Cannon Mills. Munroe wrote to Cannon: “conditions in the mill business are such with labor conditions uncertain, money commanding high rates of interest, cotton constantly fluctuating in price, yarn buyers comparatively scarce and hard to please…I myself am willing and anxious to sell at some price even though that price be considerably below par.” Cannon bought the mill for $242,500, and changed the name to Davidson Cotton Mill, Inc. The old Linden Mill building was converted into a cotton warehouse.
By 1936, the Davidson Cotton Mill was facing large deficits. World War II, however, led to increased production. In 1945, with the war over, the mill was sold to McCanless Mills of Salisbury. Things did not go well, and after some temporary shutdowns in 1947 and 1948, the mill closed in 1950. Bridgeport Fabrics of Connecticut bought it in 1954, and it continued to produce webbing, fabric for zippers, and backing for the tubing used to seal car doors until 1962. Davidson College bought the empty building during the 1970s to use as a warehouse. In 1996, the college sold it to an investment group, Davidson Cotton Mill LLC, and it was renovated into the offices and restaurant, the Brick House Tavern, that still occupy it today.
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.