THE COTTON MILL 1849-1954 by Michael Rutherford


CANNELTON REPORTER, Saturday,  24 June 1854


8 April 1854


It is now three years since this extensive manufacturing establishment went into operation. During the time the building was in the course of erection, there were people living in the Ohio Valley that predicted it would never be completed -- that the noise of the loom would never echo within the walls that were then rising higher and higher, and that the massive pile of sandstone would stand in the future as a monument of speculative folly. Some even, that were to be benefited in the largest measure, prophesied that the space of country whose hill-sides are now beginning to be dotted with cottage-houses and whose valley is covered by a town of 3,000 people engaged in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, would relapse into an uncultivated range, relieved only from its barren and thriftless aspect by the usual mining operations which were, by a kind of law of necessity bound to be carried on. Such were the opinions entertained by some people belonging to that class who are ever backward in new enterprises, and who never dream that "some things can be done as well as others," and who ever stand in the way of hopeful and energetic men, till the car of progress comes rushing along, compelling them to "clear the track" or move along in the train. The projectors of the town of Catirielton, confident of the success which must overtake any project pushed with a vigorous determination, and impressed with the fact that upon every hand existed the very means out of which to create a great manufacturing centre in the West, moved forward in a commendable spirit and with a zeal that has produced the results we see around us at the present moment.

It may be all true enough that our huge Cotton Mill is the main prop of the town; even if it is, the prop is a very substantial one, and as the Mill is making money for its present owners, it is not visionary to suppose that others will ere long be erected. Supported by several such concerns as the one now in the full tide of successful operation, there will be no doubt of the future greatness of Cannelton.

The factory; fronts the river, and is situated upon a beautiful eight-acres lot some 500 yards from the river bank. To the passing traveler on the Ohio it presents a fine appearance, and is frequently taken for a Government building so imposing are the features of its general outline and finish. It is built of variegated sandstone. The towers are 106 feet in height, and the chimney 135 feet. In one of the towers are wide and easy stairways that secure entire safety to the operators in the mill in case of fire. In the other are water closets opening into each room, and between are large doors through which machinery, furniture, &c., can be received into each story. Perfect ventilation is obtained by a draught from each room downward through the water closets and vault and by a tunnel from the vault to the bottom of the chimney. This connection is opened at the close of work morning and evenings, and the draught is sufficiently powerful to draw the floating particles of cotton in the attic downward arid then upwards through the chimney. The mill is heated by steam pipes, and will, by next fall, be lighted with gas. The fire department is most effective, each room being supplied with 150 feet of hose. A fire engine of much power and of superior finish is kept constantly near the building. In the rear of the mill are two cisterns, one of which is capable of holding 70,000 gallons of water, and the other 30,000. The fire apparatus can be set to work in a few minutes. The roofs are covered with tin, the cornices and guttering are of stone, the main building and wings are as near fire-proof as practicable. A large fire-proof warehouse for storing away cotton stands in the rear of the mill.

In the Picker Room, where cotton is opened and mixed and blown up in the Lapper Room, there are 8 hands employed.

In the Carding Room there are in use 108 cards, 12 drawing frames, 5 Taunton Speeders, and 6 fly frames. In this room there are 65 hands. Mr. John Wall, First Overseer. The Picker and Lapper Rooms are also in charge of Mr. Wall.

The next department is the Spinning Room, under Mr. C. A. Sweet, First Overseer. There are 85 spinning frames, 10,800 spindles, and 16 drop wire warpers. This room employs 123 hands.

The Dressing and Drawing Room, employing 21 hands, is in charge of Mr. Daniel Aiken.

The Weaving Room is the noisiest and, perhaps, the most interesting department of the mill. There are 372 looms kept going in this room, and employing 115 operatives. Mr. George C.Beebe, First Overseer.

In the Cloth Room there are 5 or 6 men kept constantly employed in trimming, folding, and baleing goods. Mr. Osborrie is Foreman of this room.

The Batting Factory, which is connected with the mill, employs some half dozen hands, and in a very short time will be capable of turning off 7,200 pounds of batting per week.

The Machine Shop is in the basement of the building, and is very perfect in its arrangements, employing the requisite number of hands to keep up repairs, &C. Mr. Wm. Knights is Foreman of the wood work and Mr. Jas. Lees of the iron work department.

There are two Section Overseers in the Spinning Room, Mr. S. T. Platt and N. Caspar; one in the Card Room, Mr. Fulton; five in the Weaving Room, Messrs. Fitzpatrick, Gordon, Scott, Waddington, and Howarth.

The engine is a double horizontal high pressure, 20 [?] horsepower, with two 24 inch cylinders. Its speed is regulated by Pitcher's Hydraulic Regulator, which works to a charm. There are two sets of boilers, five double flued, 42 inches in diameter, and 30 ft. long, and 8 cylinder boilers, 30 inches in diameter, and 40 ft. long. Mr. Jesse A. Bullock, First Engineer. This gentleman has a thorough knowledge of his business, and since the engine has been under his charge, the speed of the mill has attained a regularity which gives satisfaction to all concerned.

The product of the Mill at this time is 85,000 yards per week of 36 inch heavy sheetings, from no. 14 yarn, 48 warp and 50 picks of filling [shuttle] per inch, 280 yards [!] per lb. of cotton. The average product per loom per day is 38 yards, consuming annually 3494 bales, or 1,747,200 pounds of cotton [500 pounds per bale).

Altogether, on an average, there are about 400 operatives employed in the mill. All of these operatives are doing well, and many of them are accumulating property. Taken collectively, they form within themselves, a community of moral, intelligent, and industrious people. As no healthier place than Cannelton exists in the Western country, but little sickness ever occurs among the factory people. In fact, we do not know much more comfortable or happily fixed any large body of working people could be, than are those of the Cotton Mill at this place.

The Company own a square of houses convenient to the mill which are occupied mostly by the operatives. Many have built and live in their own houses, and some have already become landlords.

The number of females employed in the mill is very large. They make good wages and, in the aggregate, are hard to excel for beauty of person or propriety of conduct.

The Overseers in the Mill are gentlemen of worth, and are indefatigable in their attention to their respective departments of business.

The Superintendency of the Mill devolves upon Mr. E. Wilber, a gentleman peculiarly qualified for the post, on account of his extended practical knowledge of manufactures and machinery, as well as his familiarly with the general economy of manufacturing establishments of this kind. Since the Mill has been under his direction, it has run with marked system and great success. His assiduity, and the interest he manifests in the welfare of the Cotton Mill, deserves much praise.

Capt. D. Newcomb, presides in his office, and has an eye upon business in general. His polite attention to visitors is frequently manifested, and reciprocated on the part of many, whenever they have occasion to visit this busy Temple of Industry.