Rockingham, North Carolina
Rockingham developed in the 1800s around several water powered textile mills that were built along Hitchcock Creek and Falling Creek. One of the earliest of those mills was the Richmond Manufacturing mill built in 1833 on the site of the Great Falls Mills ruins (pictured). The Richmond mill was destroyed by general Sherman's troops near the end of the civil war. In 1869 a new textile mill, named the Great Falls Mill was built on the site of the former Richmond Mill. It operated until the 1930s and burned in 1972. Today the ruins of the Great Falls Mill are easily accessible off the side of Broad Ave. just North of 220. The ruins had been completely covered with kudzu vines until recently. I wonder if the removal of the kudzu was part of some preservation effort or simply nuisance mitigation. In either case the vines would have weakened the structure and would have made it more difficult to walk around, so I'm glad they've been removed. As it is, it's very easy to walk around the ruins. There is a place to pull off and park on the opposite side of the road a hundred or so feet south of the ruins. The five story free standing back wall of the mill is unique, incredible and precarious. I would recommend going to see it soon before it falls down. There are many more pictures of the mill ruins on the bottom of this page and on the second page of Rockingham photos.
Rockingham and the adjacent towns of East Rockingham and Cordova were the home of at least 9 other medium to large sized mills and factories. Many of them were initially water powered and built in the late 19th century. All of them had stoped producing textiles by the 1990s. Two have been converted to other industrial uses and the rest have been mostly or entirely demolished or are currently empty. There are a few interesting remnants of the Pee Dee Mill #1 (pictured below) but the other mills/sites I visited weren't very interesting. Two mills in East Rockingham had been recently leveled and nothing was left standing when I was there in 2013.
Despite recently loosing nearly all of its industrial employers, Rockingham seems to be doing fairly well. It's population is stable and it's downtown was surprisingly vital. Rockingham is developing an interesting canoe/foot path along Hitchcock creak. The Hitchcock Creak "Blue Trail" Paddleway has several developed access points with parking and improved trails. The access point near the site of the Pee Dee Mill #1 was especially interesting. Trails leading from the parking area off Steele Street lead to a bridge that crosses Hitchcock creak and through the ruins of a damn built in 1875 to power the mill. Most of the mill was demolished in 2013 but one structure (power house?) is still standing and there are sections of walls and the old dam scattered around the forest.
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