The villages of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are contiguous, the
western boundary of Chapel Hill being Carrboro's eastern
boundary. Chapel Hill is a much older town, being laid out in
1793. Carrboro's history begins with the extension of a 10 miles
spur of the railroad in 1882 from what was thereafter called
University Station to a point about a mile west of the University.
In the Chapel Hill Weekly, March 21, 1947, Louis Graves has told
how Carrboro began and how it grew, and we quote from this
My memory extends to the early 1890's when there were no
buildings on the site of the present Carrboro but the railway
station---which everybody called "the depot"---a cotton gin, a
flour mill, a blacksmith shop, and one or two dwellings. Hacks
with Negro drivers met every train and brought the passengers
into Chapel Hill. Sometimes the drivers would race with each
other down the main street, raising clouds of dust in dry weather
or sprays of mud in wet weather.
Automobiles finally put this branch railway line out of business
for passenger service. When the last train ran, a dozen or so
years ago, Bruce Strowd issued an invitation to the children of
Chapel Hill to make the trip over to the junction and back. Many
of them found it an exciting adventure because they had never
been on a railway train before.....Captain Fred Smith was
conductor on the train from 1889 for about fifty years......
Tom Lloyd's red brick house, up on West Cameron Avenue, is
one of the few pre-Civil War houses still standing in Chapel Hill.
It was bought by the Leon Wileys several years ago and is now
their home. They have made interior alterations, but the house is
practically unchanged on the outside.
The little settlement clustered around the depot and the cotton
mill grew steadily. It was named Venable, for Francis P. Venable,
President of the University, for several years. When the Carrs
bought the Lloyd cotton mill the name was changed to Carrboro.
The mill became part of the Durham Hosiery Mills, being known
as No. 4. Another mill, which had been built by Lueco Lloyd,
Isaac Pritchard and others, was bought by the Durham concern
and became No. 7. The business of the Durham Hosiery Mills
began to contract even before the depression. No. 4 closed in
1930 and No. 7 later.
Carrboro was in the grip of hard times in the 1930's, but its
distress was alleviated to a great extent by the successful effort
of the University administration to provide jobs for its citizens in
building operations and other University activities. The town had
a come-back in 1942 when the former No. 7 mill was converted
into a munitions plant. The plant stayed in operation 3 years and
paid out several thousand dollars a week in wages. The was a
real boom time for Carrboro.....
About two years ago came the cheering news that the Pacific
Mills, one of the country's greatest wool-manufacturing
companies, had bought the former No. 4 mill and would open a
branch factory in Carrboro. Later the company bought the
munitions plant building which had been stripped of its contents
and left idle after the end of the war.
The Pacific Mills' Carrboro branch, which is named the Carrboro
Woolen Mills, began operations in April, 1945 after the first unit
had been thoroughly modernized with air-conditioning,
fluorescent lighting, and the latest spinning and weaving
equipment. Not only was the interior of the building renovated
and modernized but the grounds were attractively landscaped.
After the second building was purchased, it was similarly
modernized. The first bolt of woolen military cloth, made on
contract for the government, came from the looms April 27,
1945. Within a few months, however, Pacific Mills was
manufacturing its pre-war type of products---high grade
worsteds for men's and ladies' suits, dress material, auto fabrics,
and the like. The mills regularly employ about 525 persons, and
have an annual payroll of $1,100,000. Except for a few key men,
all are local people who had to learn the processes after they
were employed. The resident manager is David E. Arthur, who
came to Carrboro from Lawrence, Massachusetts.
The industry is a great asset to the county, giving it a vastly
improved agricultural-industrial balance. Of course, it has given
a tremendous boost to the village of Carrboro. This is reflected
in new houses, new stores, paved streets, and a general
evidence of prosperity. The Bank of Chapel Hill reopened a
Although the woolen mills are the town's largest industry, there
are several small but important concerns. The oldest is the Fitch
Lumber Company. When R. B. Fitch bought the business of
Andrews and Lloyd in 1923 he acquired one employee and a
handful of lumber. Now the company employs 20 men to
operate a planing mill, a coal yard, and five trucks. It owns and
cuts much of its own timber which it converts into all kinds of
Another business, established only in 1947, but now employing
20 persons, is the Colonial Press, Inc. With seven modern
presses, it does all kinds of commercial printing including a great
amount of work for the University of North Carolina and other
institutions and departments of the state government. Its
proprietor, Orville Campbell, has won distinction as the
composer of the popular football song, "All the Way Choo-Choo."
|From the book, "Orange County, 1752-1952,"
edited by Hugh Lefler and Paul Wager.