Henrietta, Caroleen and Avondale
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The Second Broad River gently curves its way across Rutherford County in a diagonal course entering at Thermal City and ending in the southeast or lower part of the county where it empties into the larger Broad River at Buck Shoals. Not many miles upstream from this confluence, the Second Broad flows through what had been described as late as the 1880s as a wilderness area of cane, thorns, and heavy vines. But there had been some settlement and human enterprise in the area dating back to the Revolution.
At one place on the river there was a shoal of rock known in the early 1880s and before as “High Shoals.” This shoal was the site of one of the first iron foundries in the Carolinas, the High Shoals Iron Works, established by Peter Fisher. About a half mile downriver was another shoal and another iron works, established by James Inglish. During the Revolution, the state offered land bounties to those who produced iron on their property, so there was great competition between the two foundry owners. Inglish installed three bellows and was first to begin production making plowshares. His reward was five hundred acres of land. Fisher later got his High Shoals Iron Works into production, and he, too, was given a reward, probably less than Inglish’s however. The iron ore around the area was said to be plentiful, and there was a ready market for the iron products. There are stories of foundry activity up until and during the Civil War.
And, the river itself saw activity. To look at the Second Broad today, you would think that boats never floated it, but small, flat-bottomed boats floated the river in times of flood water. It is said that, as late as 1840, small boats loaded with produce were floated downriver, into the Broad, and on to their destination of Columbia, South Carolina. Because of low water and dredging problems, river transportation, especially on the Second Broad, came to an end.
A change was to occur in this near-wilderness area, however, in the early months of 1887 when Raleigh Rutherford Haynes, known simply as R. R. Haynes, and Simpson Bobo Tanner, known as S. B. Tanner, began building a manufacturing establishment on the land where the old High Shoals Iron Works once stood. Haynes owned the land there, and Tanner could get the capital with which to build. J. S. Spencer, a Charlotte banker, and the future father-in-law of Tanner, helped raise the necessary funds.
The southern cotton mill industry was in its prime, and the water power was available, the power for operating the mill’s machinery to be produced by water wheels on the Second Broad. More importantly, this would be the first cotton mill in Rutherford County.
But, problems arose from the beginning. A flash flood threatened to wash the half-finished dam away. Railroads had hot reached the lower part of Rutherford County, and building materials had to be hauled over roads that were little more than muddy trails. The heavy growth of the riverbank had to be cleared. Workers were unskilled, but, in spite of these problems, Haynes and Tanner persisted in their dream.
In addition to the mill, itself, houses for workers and their families were built on the hillsides leading to the river. Later a community hall was added to the mill which provided room for a school and churches until others could be built. Also, a large company store was built, and the building of the mill and houses continued over a period of five years.
Upon its completion, the mill first manufactured a course white cloth known in those days as “factory cloth.” A powerful blue dog’s head was chosen as the trademark for the company.
In those days, cotton mill men usually followed a custom of naming their mills after female members of their family, and it was no different with S. B. Tanner. The mill was named Henrietta after Mrs. Henrietta Spencer, wife of J. S. Spencer and mother-in-law of S. B. Tanner. And, the community surrounding the mill came to be known by the same name.
At the first meeting of the Henrietta Mills stockholders, J. S. Spencer was elected President, and S. B. Tanner became Secretary and Treasurer. The directors were R. R. Haynes, F. B. McDowell, E. B. Springs, D. H. Jenkins, and Joseph McLaughlin.
By 1895, S. B. Tanner and the Henrietta stockholders had begun building another mill a few miles upriver. Houses for mill workers and their families were built there, too, on the hillsides near the mill, and another large company store was built. this Henrietta Mills No. 2, but named the Caroleen Mill after Caroline Tanner, S. B. Tanner’s mother. And, the surrounding community came to be called Caroleen.
At some time during these events, R. R. Haynes began to focus his energies in the planning of a mill and community on the Second Broad a number of miles downriver from Henrietta. In 1899, actual work was begun on what was to become Cliffside Mills and the town of Cliffside. S. B. Tanner was to continue with Henrietta Mills and its two plants.