Mayodan – a mill town born in the wilderness

In the 1890s, the town of Mayodan developed almost overnight on the Mayo River in western Rockingham County, NC. A map dating from the founding of this town was recently brought to my attention by Michael Buehler, proprietor of Boston Rare Maps.

Two essential features for siting a mill are a source of power and readily available transportation. The falls on the Mayo River were a source of power. Transportation to the falls arrived when the Roanoke and Southern Railroad was completed from Winston, NC, to Roanoke, VA, in March 1892. This railroad was a joint venture comprising leading businessmen in the towns of Roanoke, Winston, and Salem. Reynolds and Hanes, names that should be familiar to everyone, were participants in this venture. These railroad investors also created the Virginia-North Carolina Construction Company to build the railroad, and the Piedmont Land and Manufacturing Company to purchase land, water power, and mineral rights.

Col. Francis H. Fries, industrialist from Salem, and President of the Virginia-North Carolina Construction Company, had determined that the Mayo Falls would be an excellent location for a mill. Through his efforts, the Piedmont Land and Manufacturing Company, in 1891,

…purchased over seventeen hundred acres of land, and a large portion of this water power, at a cost of about $60,000. This property… runs up the Mayo river for a distance of two miles. They mean business; you can depend upon it, and, notwithstanding this, there is room… for live men of capital to invest and come in for a portion of the profits that, in our opinion, must eventually come.1

Corporate papers for the Mayo Falls Cotton Mill, with Col. Fries as President, were drawn up at the Wachovia Loan and Trust Company (founded by Fries in 1893) in July 1895.2 Construction of the mill promptly ensued and the mill opened in April 1896.3

The mill obviously needed workers, and the workers needed homes. To this end, the Piedmont Land & Manufacturing Company apparently hired Jacob Lott Ludlow, a civil engineer/surveyor in Winston, to lay out a new town next to the mill.4​ A few miles south of the town site, the Mayo River flows into the Dan River. Combining these names, Fries gave the town its name: Mayodan.

Surviving land records make reference to the Piedmont Land & Manufacturing Company’s map of Mayodan as early as September 1895. However, the records are insufficient to determine if the map referenced was a manuscript map or a published map. The map was also described in a newspaper article that month:

Mayodan seems to be on a boom at present. I have just seen a map of the town laid off in blocks and streets, giving the size of lots and prices… There are as yet no parks or street car lines laid down.5

Again, there is insufficient evidence to determine if the author was referencing a manuscript map or a printed map upon which lot prices were annotated. (The published map, as can be seen below, includes lot sizes but does not include lot prices.)

circa 1895 map of the town of Mayodan, North Carolina.

Circa 1895 map of Mayodan; image courtesy of Boston Rare Maps: https://bostonraremaps.com/inventory/mayodan-north-carolina/

Unfortunately, the printed map is undated and various features on the map create confusion when attempting to assign a date of publication.  The railroad is labeled “Roanoke and Southern”, favoring a map publication date prior to the sale of this track to the Norfolk & Western Railroad in 1896. The labeling of the depot as the Norfolk & Western Depot is not problematic, since the track owner (Roanoke & Southern) leased the track to the Norfolk & Western almost immediately after track construction was completed in 1892. What is problematic, however, is that the site of the depot was not determined until early May 1897, and construction of the depot did not commence until late May 1897.6​ Despite these incongruencies, this blogger suspects the printed map was published in late 1895, showing anticipated (mill and depot) rather than completed structures.

The town of Mayodan flourished in the late 1890s. The Mayodan Moravian Church had been meeting since the earliest days of town development. Construction of their church building was completed in late 1896 on lots donated by Col. Fries. Apparently, only the mill and hotel preceded completion of this church building. The Town of Mayodan was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly on 16 February 1899.7 By the time of the 1900 U. S. Census, Mayodan boasted a population of 904.8

Do you have comments or corrections to share? Do you have any information about the publication of this map, or do you know of any additional surviving copies of the map? If so, please use the “What’s on your mind?” comment box below.​​

Acknowledgement: The author thanks Michael Buehler, proprietor of Boston Rare Maps, and Heather Slane, principal and lead investigator of hmwPreservation, for contributing information incorporated into this post. Any errors were introduced solely by the blogger.

References

  1. See The State Chronicle (Raleigh, North Carolina) · 17 July 1891, Friday · Page 4
  2. See http://www.avalonmills.com/story4.php
  3. See http://www.westernrockinghamchamber.com/id22.htm
  4. See https://files.nc.gov/ncdcr/nr/RK1646.pdf​
  5. The Reidsville Review (Reidsville, North Carolina) · 20 September 1895, Friday · Page 2​
  6. See The Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) · 6 May 1897, Thursday · Page 3; see ​The Union Republican (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) · 6 May 1897, Thursday · Page 3​; see The Union Republican (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) · 27 May 1897, Thursday · Page 3​
  7. ​See https://www.google.com/books/edition/Private_Laws_of_the_State_of_North_Carol/TqQ4AAAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=mayodan​
  8. ​See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayodan,_North_Carolina​

2 thoughts on “Mayodan – a mill town born in the wilderness

    • A quick search of the Rockingham ROD website suggests that this plat is not recorded in their office, although there are many deeds from the Piedmont Land & Manf Co which reference this very map.

What's on your mind?