Randolph Heritage was founded in 1994 to preserve the unique built environment of Franklinville, a cotton mill village founded in 1838 on Deep River in Randolph County, North Carolina. The site of grist mills dating back to the 1770s, the Franklinville factory was a unique effort by local Quakers and anti-slavery activists to create a form of financial investment that did not involve human slavery.
Though the factory was ultimately taken over by slave-owning investors, that heritage caused Franklinville to become a center of manumission, abolition and Underground Railroad activities up to the time of the Civil War. Even then, the community was home to the Red String, the anti-Confederate or Peace Party faction in local politics.
After the war Franklinville hosted one of the three Freedmen Schools in the county, and became a bastion of the Republican party. Before 1900 the community not only had two cotton mills, but an ironworks, chair factory, and barrel-making factory.
More than 200 acres of the community were included in the creation of the Franklinville National Historic District in 1985.
The community still boasts more than two dozen structures built before 1860, the largest collection in the county. While the 1913 Roller Mill and 1856 Upper Cotton Mill were damaged or destroyed by arsonists in 1991 and 2010, there are still major examples of the fabric of the antebellum cotton mill village.
The natural resources of Deep River have recently been recognized in its designation as a North Carolina Blueway trail, and the Town is commited to developing the adjoining Deep River Rail Trail on the right-of-way of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway.
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Textile manufacturing has been called the “catalyst of the Industrial Revolution,” and it definitely was the force that transformed the American economy from agriculture to industry. Textile technology represents ingenious efforts of countless inventors to replicate the motions of human fingers, hands and feet methods through machinery. The collection of tools and machinery curated by the American Textile History Museum was the most extensive and unique assemblage of textile craft and industrial mechanisms ever brought together in the United States.
Caroline Stevens Rogers (1894-1985), great-granddaughter of the founder of J.P. Stevens & Co., donated her family’s extensive collection of textile tools as the foundation of the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum in North Andover, Massachusetts. From 1960 to 2016, the Museum, later renamed the American Textile History Museum, documented the woolen, cotton, flax and silk industries in New England and beyond through its collections of pre-industrial and powered industrial-era machinery, flat textiles and the rich collections of its library and archive.
In 2017 financial considerations forced the museum to close and disperse its collections, sending the archive and library to Cornell University, the craft tools to the Marshfield School of Weaving in Vermont, and the bulk of the industrial machinery collection to the Randolph Heritage Conservancy in North Carolina. That collection, named a landmark of American Mechanical Engineering in 2000 by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, is now warehoused in Franklinville, North Carolina. Among the highlights are: a spinning jenny from 1792; a slubbing billy from ca. 1810; a four-part wool card line built in Bridesburg, Penn. circa 1870; an M.A. Furbush & Son power loom built in Philadelphia about 1870; the only known frame of an Empire loom built in New York about 1860; the only known Danforth Cap Spindle spinning frame; French stocking knitting frames, ca. 1820, and three 19th century horsehair looms. The collection of Draper and Crompton & Knowles power looms are especially comprehensive.
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The American Textile Hall of Fame, established in 2001, honors leaders past and present who have contributed to advancing the art, science or history of textiles in America. Begun by the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, individuals, companies or historical figures were inducted into the Hall of Fame until 2010.
When American Textile History Museum closed the Hall of Fame was transferred to Randolph Heritage, and is now displayed in a special gallery space at Revolution Mill Lofts in Greensboro, NC.
New honorees will be inducted in the near future.
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