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Can you believe a three-story Cotton Factory was located in Bibb County in 1838?

From the Niles’s Weekly Register, Volumes 54-55 June 23, 1838


ALABAMA COTTON FACTORY

The Tuscaloosa Monitor of the 30th ult., gives the following interesting description of this establishment:

As we were travelling some two weeks ago, through rather a sterile and unimproved portion of our state, where the county of Bibb borders on that of Tuscaloosa, we were all at once surprised with an imposing edifice of brick, three stories high, and being, as we afterwards learned, ninety feet by forty-four in extent.

Mill in Scottsville, Alabama, eight miles south of Centreville – (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Note: I found the photo above at the Alabama Department of Archives and History labeled with the words under the photograph. It does not seem to be all brick as described, but I am assuming this is the same building that the author describes in the story.

Three story building

The dashing energies of water power saluted our ears, accompanied with the whirling sound of diversified machinery. What have we here? was our inquiry. We left our seats in the stage, and during the few moments which we had to spare, took a view of the works that were going forward. In the second story we sound the carding and roping operations going forward; and in the third, a multitude of spindles were employed in the finishing work of making cotton yarn.

A few hands, men, women, and children, seemed to be employed, in rather a quiet way, in attending to the machinery, and seeing that it performed its business correctly.

Cotton gin in another apartment

In another apartment, the cotton gin is in operation; so that the factory is prepared to take the cotton, either after it has been picked, or in the seed.

In the spinning department, there have been in operation, heretofore, 500 spindles; but they have recently obtained an additional supply, and will very soon be working between 700 and 800. There is a water power sufficient, we are assured, to work 10,000. The cotton yarn produced is said to be of an excellent quality. A lady of the neighborhood affirms that she wove 30 yards of it without breaking a thread.

The average production per day, with five hundred spindles, has been 430 dozen. About twenty hands are employed—all white— some males, some females—some large, and some small. They are chiefly people of the neighborhood, and are said to be pleased with their employment. A grist mill and saw mill are connected with the works, which are in active and profitable operation. A portion of the machinery is also devoted to wool carding.

Called Scottsville

The place is called Scottsville, in honor, we suppose of D. Scott, one of the principal proprietors. The works belong to, and are conducted by the Tuscaloosa Manufacturing Company. We learn, that the prospects of the company as to profit, are exceedingly flattering. Their sales are brisk. They contemplate adding a weaving factory to the other works.

Thus has this business been successfully carried forward, while very few persons in the state knew that anything of the kind was underway. Indeed we doubt whether the information, that such factory exists, may not be news unheard of before, to more than one-half of the people of Bibb and Tuscaloosa counties.

I conducted a little more research about the Scottsville Cotton Factory and discovered the following:

The water-powered cotton factory was established on Shultz Creek seven miles north of Centreville. The community around it grew and was named for David Scott, the proprietor. The mill was chartered first by the legislature in 1834, then David Scott, with a group of Tuscaloosa men purchased stock in the company. In 1836 a building was built and the next year, the Tuscaloosa Manufacturing Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $36,000, a large amount of money at the time.

Facts About the Scottsville Mill

  • The Company invested the first $2,000 in profits to buy a family of blacks to work in the mill, and they worked alongside the poor whites that were hired. A mixed-race workforce was fairly radical at the time.
  • To recruit a better class of white workers, Scott built houses and a tavern for them near the mill and forbade alcohol.
  • According to Debow’s Review in 1858 1, “The Company owns 3,000 acres of land and all the buildings on the place, which consists of the factory, a large hotel, a store, blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, and boot and shoe shops, a saw mill, grist mill, large flouring mill, a church, and a large number of cottages. No liquor is permitted in the village, and the company will not sell an inch of land to anyone. Its stock has long been over par, and its dividends this year will be at least twelve percent.”
  • Employees were a combination of slave labor and poor whites, three-fourths of whom were women and children.
  • In 1857, the business was sold to J. McConnell, but continued to operate. At the outbreak of the war, the Scottsville Cotton Mill was the largest industry in the county and supplied large quantities of material for citizens of Bibb and the mill and the village were never rebuilt.
  • The factory was a competitor of Daniel Pratt, the New Hampshire native who opened his factory in Autauga County, Alabama with a combination of white and slave labor.
  • The factory and village were destroyed during Wilson’s raid in Alabama at the end of the Civil War. The mill and village were never rebuilt. There is little left of the community but the name of the community on a country road in Bibb County.

1DeBow’s Review, Volume 25 edited by James Dunwoody Brownson De Bow, Edwin Bell, J.D.B. De Bow, 1858

SOURCES

  • Bibb County Alabama The First Hundred Years 1818-1918, Rhoda Coleman Ellison
  • DeBow’s Review, Volume 25 edited by James Dunwoody Brownson De Bow, Edwin Bell, J.D.B. De Bow, 1858
  • Niles’s Weekly Register, Volumes 54-55 June 23, 1838

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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One comment

  1. Roger Brothers

    The mill and community of Scotsville are eight miles NORTH OF CENTREVILLE NOT SOUTH as stated in the photo caption. The old bridge pictured at the beginning of this article is on LITTLE Shultz Creek and within rock throwing distance of Schultz Creek Baptist Church. It is NOWHERE NEAR. Scotsville or the site of the cotton mill.

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