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New Greenville mill tours tell stories of area’s textile roots

The textile industry is the most significant element of Greenville’s past. In the 1930s, there were 18 mills within three miles of downtown Greenville. By 1960, with one-third of area residents employed in the industry, Greenville became known as the Textile Center of the World.

Now, newcomers and visitors can learn more about Greenville’s textile empire and the entrepreneurs who built it during new mill tours offered by Greenville History & Culinary Tours.

“I’ve been doing Greenville tours for 13 years, but I’ve primarily focused on downtown,” says historian and tour guide John Nolan. “I’ve long wanted to sink my teeth into the history of the Textile Crescent but could never find the time to put a tour together. I’ve spent the past three months with businesses largely shut down due to Covid-19 to research and organize the tour.”

Nolan’s new driving tours include the Complete Textile Crescent Tour, the Textile Mill & Village Tour: Early Years and the Textile Mill & Village Tour: Second Wave.

Guests on the complete tour will get an in-depth look at the mill leaders, workers, buildings, what village life was like, what the mills produced, why they closed, and what is going on there now. Mills featured on three-hour, complete tour include those that formed the Textile Crescent: Sampson & Hall Mill, Camperdown No2, Huguenot Mill, American Spinning, Poe Mill, Monaghan Mill, Woodside Mill, Brandon Mill, Judson Mill, Dunean Mill, Southern Franklin Process Mill, Piedmont Plush Mill and Carolina Mill. This tour also includes information on the E.W. Montgomery Cotton Warehouse, Parker High School and Textile Heritage Park.

For those wanting a shorter tour, Nolan offers the Early Years and Second Wave tours. Both are two hours in length.

The Early Years tour covers eight of the textile mills built between 1874 and 1902, including those in downtown Greenville and into the Textile Crescent at the city limits: Sampson & Hall, Camperdown No. 2, Huguenot, American Spinning, Poe, Monaghan, Woodside and Brandon.

The Second Wave tour covers mills built between 1910 and 1930, including construction and expansions that set the stage for the area’s textile empire. Mills included on the Second Wave tour are Mills Manufacturing, Judson, Dunean, Southern Franklin Process, Piedmont Plush and Carolina.

During the driving tour, Nolan displays old photos, and artifacts such as weaving machine shuttles, 100-year-old letterhead from Monaghan Mill, and mill money from Poe and Woodside used to buy goods in the company stores.

“We cover all aspects of mill village life from schools and churches to the golf courses and the textile baseball leagues,” Nolan said.

Early Years and Second Wave Tours are held Monday through Friday. The cost is $25 per person. The Complete Textile Crescent Tour is held on Saturday and Sunday at a per person cost of $40.

For more information and to book a tour online, visit greenvillehistorytours.com.

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