North Carolina-Richmond County-September 21

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-September 21

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

In 1779 parts of Anson County were carved out to create Richmond County. Map of Richmond County is shown below outlined in red.


The difficulty of having to cross the Pee Dee River to get to Anson’s county seat spurred the Assembly to create Richmond county from Anson in 1779.  It was named in honor of Charles Lennox, the Duke of Richmond and friend of the American colonies.  He petitioned the House of Lords to grant the colonies their independence.

The county seat was first known as Richmond Court House but was changed in 1784 to Rockingham.  In 1899, the county split to form Scotland County.

The Raleigh and Augusta Air Line railroad was completed in the late 1800s, and the first train to enter Richmond County entered the town of Hamlet in 1877. The textile industry along with the introduction of railway travel allowed Richmond to thrive during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

By the turn of the 20th century, Richmond County was one of the most wealthy in the state.  While there was yet much agriculture, the thrust of business leaders was towards textile mills and they provided employment for thousands. One of those mills was Ledbetter Manufacturing Company shown below.



John S. Ledbetter, who lived at 804 Fayetteville Road in Rockingham , along with his uncle, Thomas B. Ledbetter, were responsible for the founding of Ledbetter Mill in 1881.

This golden era of textiles in Richmond County continued until the Great Depression.  The textile mills faced hard times with orders slowing to a trickle.  Most of the workers found places for gardens, pigs and cattle in order to survive.

As with most of the nation, the coming of World War II brought an end to the misery.  Orders for textile products once again rolled in as the nation prepared an army for war.

The county was again prosperous, work available for anyone who wanted it.

At the close of the war, the textile mills which had been built mostly by Rockingham businessmen were sold to national manufacturers.  The county became familiar with the names J. P. Stevens, Lowenstein, Beaunit, Safie, and Burlington.  Of the large plants, only Ledbetter Mfg. Co., built in 1890 by Ledbetter families, remained in local ownership.

Today most of the plants have been abandoned including Great Falls. You can see the skeleton of the  Great Falls Mill on US 74 Business near the intersection of US 220 in Rockingham.


In the mid 1990’s Hootie and the Blowfish starring Darius Rucker made a music video at Great Falls called “The Old Man and Me”. If you watch the video you can see them standing inside the abandoned mill.






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