Gaston County Public Library

Textile Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina

Gaston County History

Gaston County was a center of textile manufacturing for many decades. This began with the opening of three mills in the 1850s. By 1901, local mills produced fine "combed yarn." Within the next twenty-five years, Gastonia proudly claimed to be the "Combed Yarn Capital" of the world.

As the mill industry grew, more people moved into Gaston County for work at the mills or at other industries that grew around them. Many of these industries provided machinery or supplies to the mills. Mills and mill towns became a way of life for many generations.

This guide is intended as a starting point for research on the textile industry in Gaston County and the surrounding area.

If you are interested in this topic, there is a permanent exhibit called The Ties That Bind: Carolinas Textile Exhibit on display at the Gaston County Museum in Dallas, NC.
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Search our Catalog by Subject for:

Cotton Machinery Cotton Trade Textile Mills
Cotton Manufacture Strikes and Lockouts Textile Workers
Cotton Textile Industry Textile Industry Women Textile Workers

Also search for the names of towns, i.e. McAdenville, or of specific companies.

Local Mills

  • 920 RAG NC OVER 2001. The Textile Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina, 1848-2000: One Hundred Mills and the Men Who Built Them by Robert A. Ragan.
  • Digital Loray: Building Community History: Digital Loray shares the long and complex history of Gastonia's iconic Loray/Firestone Mill and the mill village community.
  • Local History Articles by Robert Ragan lists newspaper articles with summaries that Ragan wrote for the Gaston Gazette that focus on the history of Gaston County. Old issues of the Gaston Gazette are available on microfilm at the Gastonia Main Library.
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  • Finding Gaston County Ancestors includes Gaston County histories that discuss the textile industry.
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  • City Directories lists available city directories and serves as a quick guide to mill villages in Gastonia.
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  • Gaston & Lincoln Biography Index includes references to historical figures associated with Gaston and Lincoln County.
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Strike! Gastonia 1929

The 1929 strike at the Loray Mill is the best known event in Gaston County's history – one which drew worldwide attention.

  • 331.76 WIL NC. The Thirteenth Juror: The Story of the 1929 Loray Strike by Robert L. Williams and Elizabeth W. Williams.
    A revised edition of the original 1983 publication, written by local historians.
  • 331.892 H NCC. The Loray Mill Strike by Robin Hood. A 1932 thesis done at the University of North Carolina.
  • 331.892877 SAL NC. Gastonia, 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike by John A. Salmond.
    This 1995 publication is the most detailed study available and should be the first thing read by anyone interested in the topic. Consult the very detailed bibliography for further references.
  • Ella May Wiggins Memorial Committee website provides a biography of Ella May Wiggins as well as the lyrics to several of her ballads.
  • Gastonia, 1929: Strike at the Loray Mill is a detailed history of the strike.
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  • Loray Mill Strike, 1929 -- Magazines at the Time is a guide to magazine articles in the Library's collection.
  • Trail of History: The Loray Mill (YouTube) is a video of the history and renovation of the Loray Mill, produced by CPCCTV.
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Basic Industry Information and Background

The Workers and Mill Town Life

  • 261 P NC. Millhands & Preachers by Liston Pope.
    This study, published in 1942, examined the relationship of the churches in Gaston County to the mill owners and millhands, especially in regard to the 1929 strike.
  • 261.8 E NC. Spindles and Spires: A Re-study of Religion and Social Change in Gastonia by John R. Earle, et. al.
    A re-examination of the relationship of labor and the churches published 30 years after Pope's book.
  • 305.9677 AND NC. Social Consequences of Economic Restructuring in the Textile Industry: Change in a Southern Mill Village by Cynthia D. Anderson.
    A sociological study, published in 2000, of how life is changing in the mill towns today, focusing on Kannapolis in Cabarrus County.
  • 305.9677 L NC. Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, et. al.
    Go to the accompanying web site here:
  • 331.7677 R NCC. Some Southern Cotton Mill Workers and Their Villages by Jennings J. Rhyne.
    This description of Gaston County was published in 1930, but the research had been completed before the 1929 strike.
  • 920 B NC. Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls: Personal Histories of Womanhood and Poverty in the South by Victoria Byerly.
    Interviews with women, both white and black, about the grim realities of life as a textile worker. Most worked in Kannapolis, Thomasville or Greensboro.
  • Child Labor in the Cotton Mills by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill includes oral history, photographs and writing about child labor in the mills.
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  • National Child Labor Committee Collection by the Library of Congress includes child labor photographs taken from 1908 to 1924.
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  • Child Labor in America 1908 – 1912 is a collection of Lewis Hine's photos of child workers.
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Bibliographies and Aids to Further Research

  • R016.8108 RAN. Women and Children of the Mills: An Annotated Guide to Nineteenth-Century American Textile Factory Literature by Judith A. Ranta.
    Covers the mill industry before it came to the South.
  • The Cotton Industry in North Carolina includes several bibliographies on the North Carolina cotton industry done by staff of the Joyner Library's North Carolina Collection at East Carolina University.
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  • The Southern Textile Association is a nonprofit organization for individuals in the textile and related industries. It is located in Gastonia, NC.
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Ask for these magazines relating to the textile industry at the Reference desk at the Gastonia Main Library.

  • America's Textile Reporter (Jan. 1959 - Dec. 1972)
  • America's Textiles (Dec. 1972 - Mar. 1986)
  • America's Textiles International (Apr. 1986 - Nov. 1986)
  • ATI (Dec. 1986 - Mar. 2001)
  • Textile Industries (1959 - 1984)
    • In 2002 Textile Industries merged with Textile World
  • Textile World (1959 - 2003)
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    • Click on the "Past Issues" link for several years' back files of Textile World and Textile Industries.
  • Textiles Review (1946 - 1978)
  • Ti-Caro Views (1979 - 1987)


Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: Textile Heritage of Gaston County, NC
Revised: 30 August 2016