Friday, February 22, 2008


C.E. Mallory purchased two one-acre lots on the north side of Woolen Mills Road (East Market Street) in 1890 (ACDB 94 233). Tax records show that this house was built the next year. It faces east, toward the river and the Woolen Mills. Mallory lived on the other side of Woolen Mills Road, and this house was occupied by his father W.F. Mallory, who made coffins. After his father's death, Mallory sold the property to the Charlottesville Woolen Mills, Inc., in 1897 (ACDB 109-327). The house was enlarged and for fifty years was rented to Howard Tilman, a foreman at the Woolen Hills.-- City of Charlottesville

As the year progressed, the board frequently felt the pulse-beat of the ailing factory and found no sign of improvement. It was clear that some sort of nutrition had to be injected quickly, but what form should it take? Capital stock had already been expanded to $102,000, a mortgage of $48,500 hung like the sword of Damocles over the worried directors, and the company was straining under the burden of loans totaling $50,000. It was estimated that another $50,000 would permit operating at half capacity while $100,000 would place the plant in a condition to compete with other mills and at the same time take advantage of potential markets. In view of "the depressed state of the woolen business which, along with circumstances peculiar to this company, has diminished the market value of its stock," the board saw only one feasible solution: a new stock issue offering inducements and guarantees. --Harry Poindexter

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

38 52.351 N 77 04.133 W

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

7396 miles 63 years

Battle for Iwo Jima- Between February 19 and March 26, 1945, four thousand, five hundred and fifty four Marines were killed in action. Both of James and Bannie Branham's sons served their country during World War II.
James Leake Branham Jr., USN, died July 7, 1991.
Thomas Eugene Branham, USMC, died February 19, 1945 on Iwo Jima.

James and Bannie Branham visit Arlington National cemetery with their daughter Mildred and grand-daughter Jane

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Monday, February 18, 2008

new ballast

Thomas Jefferson Baltimore (9/13/1911-12/27/1971) on the south-side of his grand-parents house, 1604 Woolen Mills Road. Baltimore's grandfather, James Starkes, began working at the mill in the 1860's. Baltimore's son-in-law, William A. Strauss Jr., died February 13, 2008, in Richmond, Virginia.

Steps were quickly taken to adjust capitalization to the new needs. The board was granted sweeping powers to revise expenditures and the duties of officers and employees to meet the needs of increased size. A new mortgage of $50,000 was floated at six percent to replace the old and to add new ballast to the company. When this proved insufficient, Marchant in June turned again to the Northern stockholders, this time for loans. It appears that Coates sent some $13,500 and Furbush as least $10,000. Another $11,000 came from Brennan and Company, a local private bank. John L. Cochran also advanced $16,000 to rescue the company from its distresses.

These loans were obviously only temporary expedients. Plans had been made on the assumption that shortly after production started a large percentage of the proceeds would quickly flow back to the company. This hope was based on a new arrangement to sell through Northern commission houses which would immediately make advances on consignments. For some reason, the experiment failed and the mill found itself thrown back on loans to obtain capital. As a result, Marchant was able to run less than half the expensive machinery, yet production costs mounted so high that full capacity might be secured at an extra cost of only twenty-five percent.--Harry Poindexter

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

So much for conjectural estimates

Union Chapel Sunday School Minutes, February 1899-Courtesy of Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society

Viewed as a whole, the next thirty years were indeed an era of prosperity and expansion for the Charlottesville company, but for a time it seemed as if the storms of the seventies had suddenly returned to lash at its moorings. Strangely enough, the directors fell into the same financial trap which had ensnared the mill in 1868. Once more its capital was so locked up in buildings, machinery, and improvements that little remained for daily expenses. This condition began to grip the mill while the new building was going up. Additions, improvements, and remodeling amounting to $6,500 ran the early estimates of cost to some $73,000, and on this basis expenditures were planned. The directors were astounded in 1883 when the bill came to $97,000. "So much for conjectural estimates!!" one director commented dryly.--Harry Poindexter

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

fifty-inch turbine wheel

In January, 1883, the final touches were added, machinery was tested, and supplies were laid in for resuming production about February 1st. A brief examination of the new machinery provides a clue to the extent to which Northern equipment manufacturers secured an interest in the Charlottesville Woolen Mills. There were twenty-five Knowles looms, five sets of Furbush cards, and five Furbush mules. If it is assumed that these were paid for in stock, Furbush had invested about $25,000, Knowles about $12,500 and Harwood at least $1,500. To a large extent, the rest of the machinery was also paid for in stock. All of these firms were represented on the new directory, as were other Northerners whose investment was in the form of cash.

Powered by a fifty-inch turbine wheel, the machinery of the mill had a capacity now almost double that of the old plant. The company could produce from 500 to a 1000 yards of cloth daily, depending on its width.

The revival of the company in 1883 was joyfully heralded by the same editor who had mourned its destruction. The new mill, he asserted, "is largely due to the active and energetic efforts of H. C. Marchant, Esq., who has for so long been charged with the practical management of the affairs of the company. He has tided it over many rough places, and we trust that by the aid of his associates in the directory, he will be able to carry it on to a future of unprecedented prosperity." --Harry Poindexter

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Monday, February 11, 2008

George W. Spooner, architect

detail from photo by Holsinger

Construction began as soon as plans were laid. The four-story building which slowly rose under the watchful eye of George W. Spooner, a local architect, was indeed impressive. Nearly 120 feet long and a half again as wide, it sat on a massive base five feet thick. The brick super-structure, dotted liberally with large windows, was unadorned except for a tower that rose over the front wall and gave the building the appearance of a large school house. On the inside, a new type of fire-resistant construction was adopted. For additional safety, an automatic sprinkler system, supplied by a tank on the roof, fascinated visitors. If a fire broke out, heat would melt a sealing compound and release a spray of water. "In other words, the fire, if any should occur, is to put itself-out. Snug arrangement, that," a visitor happily noted.--Harry Poindexter

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Friday, February 8, 2008

A new six-set mill

University of Virginia School of Architecture, ARCH 701, Fall 2007, Rivanna River Museum

Payment for the three additional sets of machinery depended upon the sale of new stock, and Marchant hurried north late in January to see what arrangements he could make. The results of this trip brought a radical departure in the financial structure of the mill. For the first time Northern investors acquired a voice in the management of the company.

In Philadelphia, C. A. Furbush agreed to take $25,000 of the new issue in exchange for carding machinery, and Benjamin Coates, Bros., offered $5,000 cash for one hundred shares. In Worchester, Massachusetts, the Knowles loom manufacturers tentatively agreed to exchange $13,000 worth of machinery for stock, while the firm of Harwood and Quincy was willing to provide their famous Bramwell feeders on similar terms.

To the board of directors, Marchant outlined his success on February 17th. A new six-set mill, he disclosed, would cost about $67,000 but it could be run at double the capacity of the old merely by adding ten workers to the present sixty-odd employees. The board then drew up an elastic program for rebuilding which was approved the next day by the stockholders. Capital stock would be increased not to exceed $125,000. If $35,000 could be raised in this way, a six-set mill could be erected. Otherwise, the old three-set limit would continue but the building was to be constructed to house six. Furthermore, the outstanding $20,000 mortgage was called in and another for $40,000 issued under similar terms at seven percent. --Harry Poindexter

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

plans were laid

W.H. "Lee" Scruggs purchased his lot (current day 1804 Chesapeake Street) February 23, 1888. Albemarle County deed book 92, Page 106. He worked for the Woolen Mill in the spinning department.

Five days after the fire, the stockholders met to plot a course. An inventory with assets valued at minimum figures showed the company to be worth $112,000. With liabilities of only $53,000 each of the 1170 shares of stock would receive about sixty cents more than its par value in the event of liquidation. After a lengthy discussion, the owners gave a resounding vote in favor of launching out on an expanded building program. Plans were laid to construct a plant one-third larger than the old and with six sets of carding machines instead of three. The stock issue would be increased from $60,000 to $85,000, provided subscriptions were obtainable at par. --Harry Poindexter

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

a larger mill

Bitty Drumheller

The stockholders, suddenly jarred from the quiet enjoyment of profits, faced a difficult decision. Should the company use the insurance money to liquidate its debts, then divide remaining assets among the stock owners and disband? A few pessimists seemed to favor this course. They could point to the lean years just past to support their contention that the present prosperity was unnatural. But, perhaps as a second choice, they might merely rebuild and continue as before. Only one other alternative existed. The fire could be viewed as an opportunity rather than a disaster. In short, why not put up a larger mill with the latest machinery? --Harry Poindexter

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