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Friday, July 17, 2009

Monarch Mills in Union, Union County, SC

During and immediately following Reconstruction, the southern states suffered a dramatic economic depression. The Civil War had disrupted transportation and supply networks, while the abolition of slavery destroyed the plantation economy of the South. Without any major industrial centers, the economy of the south continued to rely almost solely upon the agricultural products produced there through a system of sharecropping and farm tenancy. As a result, those citizens who owned no land were left with few better options than to work the land of another, barely scraping by economically.

In an effort to cut costs and boost profits, northern investors opened textile mills throughout the south. Locating the mills in areas in which the cotton was grown allowed investors savings in many ways. First, with the south’s mild temperatures, cotton could be grown virtually year-round and mills could engage in continual production of textiles. Second, by locating the mill close to where the crop was grown, the cost of transportation was drastically reduced. Finally, locating a textile mill in the South allowed an investor to employ a much cheaper labor force. Most citizens of the south were struggling to survive on the income that was generated through their family farm or by sharecropping on the land of another farmer. Many southerners were relieved to be employed in a mill

History of South Carolina Edited By YATES SNOWDEN, LL. D. in collaboration with H. G. CUTLER, General Historian, THE LEWIS PUBLISHING COMPANY, CHICAGO AND NEW YORK, copywrite, 1920, Pg 52

"J. Roy Fant (John Ray or Roy Fant)

The late John A. Fant (John Alexander Fant) established the Monarch Mills at Union in 1900, and was president and treasurer of that important industry for the manufacture of wide print cloths and sheetings until 1907. Thus the name Fant has been associated with the textile industry of Union County through two decades, and the initiative and enterprise of the elder Fant are projected into the present by his capable son J. Roy, who is now managing the Lock- hart plant of the Monarch Mills.

John A. Fant was born in Union Qounty and for many years was a prominent merchant at Union, in partnership with his brother under the firm name of Fant Brothers until 1900, after which date he gave all his time and energy to the development of the business of the Monarch Mills and made it one of the largest and most successful textile mills in the South. He was frequently honored with public responsibilities, being mayor of Union, three terms, resigning that office voluntarily. For several years he was chairman of the Board of Trustees of Union, and was a trustee of Furman University at Greenville. He made an endowment to Furman University of $1,000 for the benefit of one student from Union County. Mr. Fant was in every sense a highly useful and gifted citizen. His death in 1907 came when he was in the prime of his activity. The mother was a Mcjunkin, of a historic family of Union County. John A. Fant married Ora Wilkes (Ora Ann Bowker Wilkes), who was born at Wilkesburg in Chester County, daughter of the late Major John W. Wilkes, and she is still living.

T. Roy Fant was born at Union in 1885, and secured a liberal education, at Furman University one year, graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1906, and also attended the Eastman Business College at Poughkeepsie, New York. In January, 1907, he became an associate with his father in the cotton mill business in the Monarch Mill at Union. Later he became an active associate of Mr. Emslie Nicholson, who succeeded his father as president of the Monarch Mills. In 1913 Mr. Fant was made vice president of the Nicholson Bank & Trust Company at Union and held that office two years. In August, 1914, he came to the Lockhart Mills at Lockhart as assistant treasurer, and in the latter part of 1917 this mill was merged with the Monarch Mills at Union, being now known as the Lockhart plant of the Monarch Mills. Mr. Fant has active charge of the Lockhart plant, which has 57,184 spindles and manufactures sheetings and prints. The development of Lockhart as a manufacturing village has taken place largely under the eye and direction of Mr. Fant. His sound judgment and ability had contributed not only to the success of the plant but he has been equally enthusiastic in the making of Lockhart a beautiful and modern village where contentment and prosperity are in evidence on every hand. Mr. Fant is president of the Lockhart Bank and vice president and a director of the Nicholson Bank & Trust Company at Union.

Mr. Fant married Miss Nathalie Hunter (Caroline Natalie Hunter), who is a native of Union County but was reared at Columbia in the home of her grandmother, Mrs. Robert W. Gibbes, and is therefore a member of the historic Gibbes family of South Carolina. Mr. and Mrs. Fant have two sons, J. Roy, Jr., and Murray Gibbes."

Fibre Fabric: A record of American textile industries in the cotton and woolen trade, v. 35
Publisher: Fibre Fabric, 1902
Original From: the New York Public Library, digitized in 2006



Joint Stock Companies, Charters Granted...
Pg 105 "Monarch Cotton Mills. Union ; business, manufacturing cotton ; capital stock, $200,000 ; chartered, April 24, 1900 ; president, John A. Fant ; secretary, J. A. Fant."

The Cotton Mills of SC by August Kohn, Columbia, SC, Issued by SC Dept of Agriculture, Commerce and Immigration, E. J. Watson Commissioner, Copyright 1907
Pg 88, Cotton Mills, Number of Employees 1907, Mill Population 1907

Pg 93, Cotton Mills, Spindles, Looms

Page 181 Cotton Mills, Number of Bales Consumed by SC Mills in 1907 Value of Manufactured Product in 1907

Pg 196 What they make in 1907

Pg 209 Cotton Mill, Capitalization Stock Only

Pg 216 Cotton Mills in SC, location and president

Men of Mark in South Carolina, Ideals of American Life, A Collection of Biographies of Leading Men of the State VOLUME II
by J. G. HEMPHILL, Editor of "The News and Courier", Editor-in-Chief


FANT, JOHN ALEXANDER, merchant and mill president, was born in Union, Union county, South Carolina, April 22, 1857. His parents were David J. and Nancy A. (McJunkin) Fant. His father, a planter, was noted for his honesty, sobriety and industry. His mother was descended from Joseph McJunkin, a major in the War of 1812.

In his boyhood and youth John Fant was well and strong. His home was in the village in which he was born, and he had no tasks to perform which involved manual labor. He attended the common schools in Union until he was fifteen years of age, when he became a clerk in a country store. He retained this position for ten years, and then became a merchant. In this business, which he followed for twenty-five years, and in which he is still engaged, he has been quite successful. During the last five years he has been president and treasurer of the Monarch mills at Union. His good judgment and executive ability have made the mills a great success and won for Mr. Fant a prominent position among the cotton manufacturers of this state.

He has never sought public office, but for six terms he served as mayor of the town of Union, and for some years was chairman of its board of school trustees. He is also a trustee of Furman university. He is a Mason, a Knight of Pythias, and a member of the Commercial club of Charleston. His religious affiliation is with the Baptist church.

In the choice of an occupation Mr. Fant was governed by the wishes of his parents. The first strong impulse to strive for the prizes of life seems to have come from a desire which manifested itself in his early years to make a name for himself and accomplish something for the good of mankind. Among the various influences which have greatly aided him in his efforts to succeed, he names that of home as the most important. In response to a request that he would offer suggestions which he thinks would help ambitious young people in their efforts to become known and useful in the world, he advises them to choose "honesty, punctuality, truthfulness, sobriety and industry," as the guiding principles of their lives.


Mr. Fant was married to Ora Wilkes, April 27, 1881. Of their four children, all are now (1907) living.

Since the above sketch was prepared for the printer Mr. Fant died suddenly at his home in Union on September 24, 1907."

Acts and Joint Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. Regular Session 1899, Bryan Printing Co State Printers
"AN ACT To Charter The Union And Augusta Railway Company.

[A Concurrent Resolution allowing the introduction of this bill having been passed by a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate.]

Section i. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the union and State of South Carolina, That James T. Douglass, A. H. Foster, F. M. Farr, William Munro, Emslie Nicholson, P. M. Cohen, John A. Fant, G. C. Perrin, and R. P. Harry, and their associates and successors, be, and are hereby, constituted a body politic and corporate, by the name and style of the "Union and Augusta Railway Company."

2. That the said company be, and is hereby, authorized construct maintain and operate a railroad extending from the town of Union, S. C., to a point on the line of the Georgia, Carolina and Northern Railroad Company, between the town of Carlisle and the town of Clinton, S. C.. and empowered to construct, maintain and operate a railroad

3. That the capital stock of said company shall be fifty thousand dollars, with the privilege of increasing the capital stock to such an amount as may be found necessary to carry out the intention and purposes of this Act, and the shares may be transferable in such manner as the by-laws may direct: Provided, That when the sum of five thousand dollars shall have been subscribed to the capital stock of said company, as hereinafter directed, and twenty per cent, thereof having been paid in cash, the said corporation, or a majority of them, shall appoint a meeting of said stockholders, of which thirty days notice shall be given in such newspaper of the State as they may deem necessary, at which time and place said stockholders may proceed to the organization of said company by the election of a President and nine Directors, who shall hold their offices for one year, and until their successors are elected, which shall be the first Board of Directors; and which Board may, in their bylaws, prescribe the time and manner of holding their subsequent annual elections for President and Directors, subject to the approval of the stockholders at their ensuing annual meeting.

Sec. 4. That for the purpose of raising the capital stock of said company it shall be lawful to open the books for private subscription at such times and places, and under the direction of such persons as the said corporators may appoint; and that the said subscriptions to the capital stock may be made in money, bonds, lands, materials and work, at such rates as may be agreed upon with said company; and the said railroad company shall have the power to mortgage its property and franchises, and issue bonds on such terms and conditions, and for such purposes and uses of said corporation, as the said company may deem necessary.

Sec. 5. The said railway company shall have every right, privilege and power necessary for the purpose of acquiring such lands or rights of way as they may require for the location or construction of said railroad, or for the erection or location of depots, warehouses, stations and other necessary establishments, or for extending or altering same; and said railway company shall have full power and authority to connect with, or cross over, all other railroads on its proposed line, and also to unite or consolidate with other railroads, either in or out of this State, in such manner and upon such terms as may be agreed upon between the companies so consolidating: Provided, The same be not inconsistent with the laws of this State; and the said company shall have the benefit of every process or proceeding, and shall be subject to all the restrictions provided or imposed in and by the laws of this State.

Sec. 6. That this Act shall be a public Act, and take effect on and after its passage: Provided, That this charter shall cease and determine unless the construction of said railroad is commenced within three years from the approval of this Act and completed within five years thereafter.
Approved the 27th day of February, A. D. 1899."

Union Carnegie Library History by Jennie Holton Fant
"Local mill magnates John A. Fant and Thomas C. Duncan, with a handful of interested town leaders began to foster the concept of an up-to-date public library in town."..."The library was built in 1905 at it's present location, first called the Carnegie Free Library."

Approved the 21st day of February, 1906

Textile World Record, Volume XXXIV, 10/1907-3/1908
"John A. Fant, president and treasurer of the Monarch Cotton Mills, Union, S. C., died suddenly at his home in that city September 24th. Up to the time of his death, he was apparently in good health. He was one of the best mill men in the State and was largely interested in mercantile, educational and religious affairs. He was 49 years of age, and leaves a wife and four children. "

Thanks to George Seals for sending me this photo of Monarch Mill from the east side, taken in 2004.

This is about all I could glean from the Internet about Monarch Mill in Union, SC. If you have additional information and/or photos, please contact me.

10/21/09 I was contacted by J. B. who said he grew up in the Monarch Mill Village and his parents still live there. He said both Monarch and Lockhart were acquired by Roger Milliken in mid-century. The Lockhart mill is gone now and he thinks Monarch is going to close soon.

He says, "Lockhart Mill was started in either 1892 or 1894. Somewhere in there. There was a canal that had been dug on Broad River to transport cotton to Columbia. They built the mill on this canal called the 'race'. They used the river to bring in supplies and later to deliver their product. Lockhart took 10 years to build. There were over a million bricks in the mill, all made on the banks of the Broad River on site. Sometime in the mid 1900’s Roger Milliken or his dad , Seth, acquired Lockhart mill and turned it into a knitting mill largely to supply the auto industry. Then in the 1970’s when the knit boom hit, it moved into apparel. Mr. Milliken closed it in 1997 I believe and sold the mill for its brick and heart pine. Two men lived in a single wide trailer on the property for two years tearing down the mill. The only thing left is the smoke stack.

"When I graduated from high school in the early 1970's Mr. Milliken owned the following in Union County:

Lockhart Power Co.
Lockhart Mill
Monarch Mill
Excelsior Mill
Cedar Hill
Ottoray Mill

"There were mill villages associated with Lockhart, Monarch, Excelsior, and Ottoray.

"Ottoray was also torn down.

"Only Cedar Hill, Lockhart Power and EMMD (now the Gillespie plant) are now in operation.

"Monarch was as prolific in its day as Lockhart I think but transportation for its wares were with trains instead of river. Monarch wasn’t just a mill it was a community with gymnasium, elementary school (which I went to) company store with elaborate barber shop underneath which offered showers until it was finally torn down. It had a community house where they had town meetings, parties, boy scouts, etc. Boss’ row was there on the main drag (now highway 49) closest to the mill. Some of them were two story duplexes. The further you got away from the mill was where the new hands lived. In the early days there was a privy behind each house and ever so often the “sugar wagon” would come around and clean them out. In Monarch there was Old Hill, the first village built on either side of the Santuc highway. Later it was expanded and New Hill was where 49 now is.

"In the 1940’s and 50’s and even into the 60’s Monarch boasted 3 full service grocery stores, 3 or 4 hair salons, 3 barber shops, 3 café’s, movie theater, skating rink, auto garages, 4 or 5 small general stores, BBQ house, 1 gas station (Morris’ service station which is still operated by the family). There was a gym, baseball field and a pay by the hour fish pond. Workers living in the villages were given free sewer and garbage pick up. You paid Milliken for your power which was at a discount. In the beginning you used the company store for foodstuffs but that was stopped in the early 40’s. In the late 40’s running water was offered and they enclosed the back porches and installed bathroom fixtures. It was cold in the winter but it was better than before I’m sure.

"In my childhood one of the things I remember is hearing the mill running and the freight cars banging around in the night. On those rare occasions when the mill would be standing I couldn’t sleep. The right sounds weren’t there.

"You mentioned Bethel Baptist Church ……… the pastor there for a number of years was Rev. Senn …… hee hee ….. pronounced 'sin'.

"People in the village would keep the grass killed in their front yards (if they had any yard). They would take a rake and make straight lines in the dirt.

"All of the houses were originally pale yellow

"When you bought groceries you picked out your items and they were delivered to your door step.

"It was hard to get away with any mischief because villages had highly organized neighborhood watches. It wasn’t called that but it was in place nevertheless. If a neighbor saw you doing or saying something you shouldn’t you could rest assured your parents would know …. Maybe before you got home.

"Everybody thought it was something when MacDonalds came out with a $0.19 hamburger. We’d been buying burgers at O’Dells Café for $0.20 for years. Cheeseburgers were $0.25. Hot dogs were $0.15 and you could buy 7 for $1.00.

"If you walked into almost any of the village café’s and ordered a bologna sandwich it would come fried with mustard chili and onions unless you specified otherwise

"I’m sure you’ve heard of how safe it was in those days. Well it’s true. Many times we went to bed with the front door open and only the screen door latched."

"A very big pastime in those was Textile Baseball Leagues. They were the 'professional players' of the day.

"The houses in most villages were well built with rough cut lumber. Many villages called the houses “shotgun” houses because you could open the front and back doors and shoot straight through the house and not hit anything

"The walls and ceilings were made with beaded wood that was painted. Usually pine but I have seen beaded oak boards as well.

"Most of the rooms were lit with a single light bulb in the center of the room. The light was usually turned on with a pull string that hung down into the room. People would tie some object to the end of the string like keys, rings, etc. In bedrooms a long string would be run from the bulb to the headboard so that the light could be turned on from their bed.

"Ceilings were 10’ high

"None of the houses were insulated.

"Most of the homes had one fireplace in the center of the house. Not the large fireplaces for roaring wood fires but small fireplaces designed to burn coal. Most people as they could afford them would blank off the fireplace and install either a wood burning stove or an oil heater. Usually the living room would be heated and the rest of the house shut off.

"Very few of the original houses were underpinned.

"In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s children at the age of 12 or 13 could get jobs in the mill.

"Many of the mill workers were farmers. Most were glad to take jobs in the mill because it was a lot less difficult and not nearly as risky as farming. It meant a steady income in most cases something they weren’t used to. Still most mill workers clung to some of their ways and gardens, chickens, pigs and the like were still a normal and necessary presence. "


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your tale of Monarch. I also grew up just south of the Mill Village on Santuck Highway. We actually had "Mill Water" and our meter was by the last house on the east side of the road and the water piped about a 1/5th a mile to our house. The Hendrick family lived in that last house then. I also recall the "Hum" of the mill running 24 hours a day. Kind of like living by the ocean. I also attended Monarch school. My favorite teacher was Miss Annabelle Pitman. She taught us so much more than ABC's. I was gon from the school and was even in the US Navy when the school burned down. Man, with all those oiled floors it must have been quite a blaze. I remenber seeing the gutted structure. I was saddened by it's departure. One more thing, my Grandfather, William Audry "Aut" Fowler was a pitcher for the Textile Leagues of the day.


Anonymous said...

I am looking for information on a grist mill that operated in Lockhart in Union county during the Civil War. If you'd have any information or know of anyone who would, please contact me at picsbymag@aol.com My great grandfather ran a grist mill in that area and married a Jeter from Santuc in 1858. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

About that grist mill.............My buddy Sonny Dye and I used to walk, explore and play in the big woods slightly south east from Monarch Mills. Deep in these woods was big wetland area (we used to catch crawfish and frogs). Just south of this wet or swampy area was a deep v-cut down a tall hill and sort of near the bottom of this "vee" was a big stone foundation. Next to this foundation were two smaller and narrower stone foundations (simular to the support bases for water wheels I have since seen in some NC and TN mountain areas. I even described it to my Dad back then and he said it may have been a grist mill.


BorderBrewer said...

Thank you for the information on Monarch Mills. My Grandmother and Grandfather met while working at the Monarch Mill. My Grandmother was born in Gaffney.

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