THE COTTON MILL 1849-1954 by Michael Rutherford


THE COTTON MILL
COTTON MILL- BEGINNING OF PRODUCTION- 1850

EBENEZER WILBUR
OPERATING PROBLEMS
PROPOSED EXPANSION
SURVEY OF INDIANA COTTON MILLS
COTTON MILL OPERATIONS
COTTON MILL SOLD
BIBLIOGRAPHY
NOTES ON CHILD LABOR IN THE COTTON
CANNELTON REPORTER 8 April 1854
CANNELTON REPORTER, Saturday,  24 June 1854

EBENEZER WILBUR

The INDIANA WEEKLY EXPRESS on January 22, 1853 stated "The Cotton Mill Company has erected a suitable building in the rear of the water engine building, for a batting factory."

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September 1851 marked the beginning of the end for the Cannelton Cotton Mill. The accumulation of unforeseen and expensive problems outlined above-- machinery, weather, water quality, cotton quality, poor marketing conditions-- stretched expenses beyond the ability/ willingness of the stockholders to meet; the net loss amounted to around $30,000. Horatio D. Newcomb, a stockholder of Louisville, shared Hamilton Smiths assessment of the worth of the Mill and in September 1851 leased the operation at $10,000 per year. He had already assumed the duty of supplying better quality cotton to the mill during the preceding month. His younger brother, Dwight Newcomb, came to Cannelton, temporarily, he thought, to oversee the management and operation of their investment.

Two fundamental moves by the Newcombs coupled with improvements in the cotton quality, weather and marketing conditions, set the mill on a more profitable course: the investment of $30,000 in machinery improvement and the replacement of Superintendent Ziba Cook. Goodspeed recorded that the Newcombs showed a net profit of $20,000 after the first year of operation.

The new superintendent, Ebenezer Wilber, came to Cannelton in October 1851 and served as superintendent for more than 40 years. DeLaHunt wrote in his History of Perry County: "Ebenezer Wilber was born, 1814, the year of Perry Countys organization, but far away from its confines-- in Rensselear County, New York, and was one of the five children of Samuel and Amy (Cook) Wilber." On December 22, 1853 he married Margaret Jackson (Born July 31, 1831, Ripley County, Ind.- Died November 19, 1910), daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John Jackson from Ireland. They resided in the mills residence and were parents of five children. Two of them-- Mary A. (1855) and Charles J. (1859) died in childhood. Margaret J. (1857) married H.D. Scribner, had a daughter, Ann (September 1879), and died a short while later. Son, Henry H. Wilber (1862) married Anna Zimmerman; they were parents of two sons. 1. Henry H. Jr. (January 16, 1896) married Eva May (September 26, 1898), daughter of George R. and Rachel Smith May of the local firm of Casper, May & Co. They were the parents of two children: Alfred and Dorothy Jean Wilber. 2. John Wilber (January 25, 1903). The youngest son of Margaret and Ebenezer Wilber, George "Jack" (June 1864) married in 1890 Florence Combs (December 6, 1863- April 29, 1909), daughter of James M. and Mary Briner Combs.

DeLaHunt stated " The directors of the mill in 1858, after five years appreciation of his valuable services, presented him a costly silver tea and coffee service with massive silver, suitably inscribed." This silver set is currently in the possession of great- grandson, Alfred Wilber. Ebenezer Wilber died July 31, 1892. Margaret continued residence in the Mills house until 1906. The two sisters of Margaret Jackson Wilber also lived as widows in Cannelton: Mary J. (Mrs Paul) Gest and Ruhama (Mrs Henry) Wales.

At a directors meeting on May 21, 1852 it was decided to place the Mill "in trust" in the hands of H.D. Newcomb, possibly as security for an investment by Newcomb of $30,000 in machinery. On July 7, 1852 Hamilton Smith signed the agreement, one of his last acts as President of the Cannelton Cotton Mill. Newcombs responsibility was not to exceed $183,000. The indebtedness of the Mill was distributed as follows: $100.000 to John K. Mills & Co. (including Edmund Dwight) and Hamilton Willis of Boston, assuming that of Charles T. James; $20,000 to James C. Ford; $30,000 to American Cannel Coal Company; $10,000 to New Haven Bank of Connecticut (mortgage of Hamilton Smith); $15,000 to H.D. Newcomb & Bro. (Warren Newcomb); $4,000 to various debtors in Louisville; $7,500 to Marshall Key "Messrs, Newcomb relieve Cannelton Cotton Mill Company of all embarrassment" was quoted from INDIANA WEEKLY EXPRESS May 22, 1852.