History of the Museum’s Location

The Textile Heritage Museum is located in the Glencoe Mill Village, just north of Burlington, North Carolina. 

History of the Glencoe Cotton Mill and Village:

Located on the Haw River, three miles north of Burlington is the picturesque village of Glencoe. The Glencoe Cotton Mill and associated mill village was built on a 105 acre site between 1880 and 1882. The village was very attractively laid out, located on twin hills, each sloping toward the river. The village houses were built along two streets perpendicular to the river.

The Glencoe Cotton Mill was founded by William E. and James H. Holt, sons of E. M. Holt, the founder of the Alamance Factory–the first successful mill south of the Mason Dixon Line to commercially dye yarn and manufacture plaid fabric.

Beginning In 1832, the Haw River in Alamance County was ideally suited to waterpower technology. It was one of the principal manufacturing streams in North Carolina in the Nineteenth Century.

Glencoe Mills was built along the Haw River where a sawmill and gristmill once stood. In 1890 Alamance County was one of the leading cotton fabric manufacturing centers in North Carolina in terms of looms and spindles. This was at the time when Southern states, particularly the Carolinas and Georgia, were turning to the cotton mill as a means of economic and social salvation.

James Holt managed the mill until his death in 1897. His son, Robert L. Holt, succeeded him. Robert Holt purchased the mill and village for $112,000 in 1899. He managed the mill until his death in 1923.  Walter Green, husband of Robert Holt’s sister Daisy, ran the mill until his son, Holt Green, took over in the 1930s.  When Holt went into the service, there was an interim mill manager. Holt was killed while serving in WWII. When the war ended, Holt’s brother Walter, who was an attorney, closed his Graham law office and ran the mill until it closed in 1954.

The principal building of Glencoe Mills is a three-story structure. In it was located the carding, spinning and weaving departments. The mill began operations with 186 looms and 2120 spindles. Other buildings contained the dying and finishing operations. A two-and-a-half-story machine shop, office and company store were each very important to the operation. The front addition to the mill was added in the mid to late 1940’s.

The mill produced a high quality cotton fabric which was woven in many colors and designs. At its peak, the mill supported up to 500 people, and approximately half of them lived in the mill houses. The houses rented for 50 cents a week and land was provided for farming.

In 1889 the average Glencoe mill hand worked six 11-hour days, or 66 hours per week. Men earned from one to two dollars per day; women earned from 50 cents to a dollar; children earned 40 cents per day. In 1905 the average worker worked six 10.5-hour days, or 63 hours per week. Men earned from 75 cents to $2.75 per day; women earned between 60 cents and one dollar; children still earned 40 cents per day. By 1924 Glencoe employees were working 55-hour weeks, with men earning between $2.10 and $6.60 per day and women between $2.10 and $2.38.

In the 19th century, James Holt required the children of the village to attend school a given number of months each year, before allowing them to work in the mill. Glencoe was the first mill in North Carolina to require children to attend school. There was a small wooden school building at the top of the hill. In 1939, a brick public school, built and operated by the county, was built across the road from the wooden school building.

The oral histories gathered reflect fond memories of the life in the village. The work was hard and the hours long, but the people were healthy, happy and contented. Their life in the mill village was a much better life than many had on the farm.

Methodist Church was built soon after the village and later a Baptist Church at the top of the hill. The Methodist Church was called the Union Church because all denominations were welcome. It was torn down in 1976. The Baptist Church remains.

There was a barbershop in the village and most of the village needs could be purchased at the Company Store. James Waddell managed the store from 1916 to 1940. The Glencoe Company Store was quite important because this village was located several miles away from the newly developing city of Burlington.

Glencoe closed its doors in 1954. It is one of the most undisturbed mill and village complexes in North Carolina, providing a comprehensive picture of the social and commercial organization of late 19th century Southern water-powered cotton mills.

In 1997 the revival of the village was set into motion when Preservation North Carolina purchased the property. The mill buildings have been purchased by a developer for conversion into apartments and small businesses. The remaining houses, vacant lots and buildings have been sold and are being restored.

Historic Landmark Designation Report, 1997 update.
Southern Textile Bulletin, December 1918.
Development of the Textile Industry in Alamance County, Julian Hughes, 1965.