THE COTTON MILL 1849-1954 by Michael Rutherford


CANNELTON REPORTER, Saturday,  24 June 1854


The CANNELTON ENQUIRER AND REPORTER said May 12, 1881: "Capt. D. Newcomb disposed of his entire interest in the Indiana Cotton Mill to George C. Buchanan, Treasurer of the Mill. He was with the Mill since September 7, 1850. President of the Mill for 6 years prior to December 1880 when he resigned." Goodspeed wrote in 1885 that "George C. Buchanan, an extensive distiller and wealthy citizen of Louisville bought the entire company for from 65 to 85 cents on the dollar. Why it sold so low no effort will be made to state. The property is now valued at $200,000."

A clue to the cause for this discounted price may have been published in CANNELTON ENQUIRER AND REPORTER on March 23, 1882: "Louisville, KY., March 15-- Creditors of the Newcomb- Buchanan Co. met this afternoon and George C. Buchanan said, It is our desire to pay every dollar of indebtedness in full with enough time. "

Another possible contributing factor may have been the advanced age of James C. Ford; he was to die on October 12, 1881 at the age of 83. Dwight Newcomb was 61, wealthy, and ready to enjoy the last 11 years of his life at leisure.

(Goodspeed): In 1881 after Buchanans purchase "the 330 new Lowell looms, 2,080 spindles and fifty-four cards were added, making a total of 450 looms, 12,880 spindles, and 162 cards." This was to be the basic Mill capacity until the Mill was greatly enlarged 38 years later.

(Goodspeed): "There are now (1885) in use eight two- flue boilers of forty- two inches in diameter and twenty- six feet long. Two are kept idle to be used in case of accident." (CANNELTON ENQUIRER July 27, 1889): A new boiler house is being built at the cotton mill. A great deal of new machinery is being added. (CANNELTON TELEPHONE October 13, 1892): "The present (engine) of 800 horsepower just put in was bought of the Providence Steam Engine Co., Providence, R.I. There are at present 5 boilers 52 4 inch flues each in use 5 feet in diameter and 18 feet long. One is kept idle in case of accident."

At the outset the new owners, George and Andrew Buchanan, had even more ambitious plans for the Mill than the extensive updating of the machinery and boiler house just outlined. John E. Damm, publisher of the short- lived CANNELTON JOURNAL, on November 16, 1881, presented a proposed expansion which turned out to be 37 years ahead of the fact:

New Cotton Mill

There is a strong probability that the Cotton Mill of Cannelton will be enlarged to more than double its present capacity. No contracts for a new building or new machinery have been made. The plans have not been completed, and the Company have not yet, positively, determined to extend their work, but will decide what to do next Saturday, at Louisville.

The new work contemplated is a one- story building in front of the present mill, leaving a space 60 feet between; width on Adams St., 240 ft; width on Washington Street, 150 feet. The offset to be in front, near the middle of the building, the space thus left to be enclosed hereafter, if desired, for 200 looms in addition to the 400 to be taken from the present mill, and 400 new ones, making 800 looms in the new building, according to the plans now contemplated. The yarn to be made with additional machinery propelled by the engine now in use in the present mill; and all the weaving to be done in the new one. The looms are to stand on a solid foundation of rock flagging, the avenue to be of concrete. A pair of compound engines of 500 horsepower are to drive the machinery in the new building, the looms in which are to stand on a floor 6 feet below those in the basement of the present mill. Iron columns, 12 1/2 feet in length are to support the driving pulleys, shafting, hangers, beams and roof.

Further particulars will be given in due time.

The Buchanans larger business enterprises failed in 1883 and the Mill was placed in receivership. George W. Morris was assigned the position of receiver and functioned as President of the 23 stockholders board for more than 20 years to 1906; Edward Chamberlain was Treasurer for this period.

As noted earlier the first cloth made at the Mill was 2.82 yards to the pound- "Cannelton Sheetings." In 1855 "Great Western" at 3 yards to the pound replaced it for more than 40 years. (CANNELTON TELEPHONE October 13, 1892): "The Hoosier" brand (four yards to the pound) was added, also the Columbia brand, still lighter. In 1885 the capacity was about 20,000 yards per day, or 500,000 per month, or 6,000,000 per year. Broken machinery greatly reduces this intended capacity... Some months the factory ran only half the time."

In the mid 1880s "the bulk of the cloth is handled by R. McK. Jones & Co. of St. Louis. Large quantities go to Chicago, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Sulzer Bros. of Cannelton handle from 40,000 to 50,000 yards annually." Sulzer Bros. store was located in the northeastern half of the I.O.O.F. Building at Third and Washington Streets.

The discovery in early 1988 of a Survey of Indiana Cotton Mill for insurance purposes dated August 1, 1890, provided many details of the construction, outfitting, and operation of the mill. It was prepared by long- time Superintendent Ebenezer Wilber 2 years before his death on July 31, 1892.