Created By: Seeking Abraham Project
American Spinning, formally known as Sampson Mill, was the first mill of the "mill crescent" that makes up the remainder of this tour. As you stand in front of Sampson Mill, you will notice that it is still fully intact, constructed of brick, many windows, one tall smokestack, with a water tower next to it. Imagine the many workers coming in and out of the mill each day. Sampson Mill is an example of big dreams that fell short in Greenville.
Oscar Sampson opened up Sampson Mill in 1865 just after the end of the Civil War using just 35-year-old equipment, a Steam engine from Newberry, and $60,000, according to The Greenville News. Sampson partnered with James Morgan and Jacob Cagle who both worked to construct the mill and the surrounding village.
Imagine being a farmer back during this time. Your crops aren’t doing well and you have little money to support your family. You hear of the promise of a job that gives steady pay, and housing is included within a city. You decide to move your family to Sampson Mill in hopes of a better life, and arrive to a small town with churches, schools, libraries and parks located within walking distance of the mill. There is promise of having a yard with a room for a garden.
However, as great as things sound, they don’t end up delivering on their promise. Many women and children are taken advantage of, and you and your family are forced to work many long hours. Many widows in particular who worked in the mills were labeled specifically, treated harsher than most, according to a case study of the mill village performed by the Chicora Foundation in Columbia, SC. Because you and your family are working such long hours and you are given little pay, you are unable to have time to properly grow your garden and afford food so you become malnourished. This so called “better life” you moved to doesn’t prove to be all that great.
In the case study recorded by Chicora, it finds that operations were temporarily stopped due to a strike call of workers, but it was said to be relatively calm in comparison to some. In 1926, the president of the mills was forced out of power. You and your family are not happy with the conditions and you soon find out in 1936, that the mill has been sold to Florence Mills in North Carolina and became a subsidy of Cone Mills. Cone Mills dissolved later and Florence mills took over, demolished most of the village, which caused the closing of the mill in 1990, as told in the Greenville Online.
Sampson Mill was supposed to have been developed into loft apartments in 2016 according to an article by The Greenville News. There was much talk about revitalizing the Poinsett District, helping to rebirth the area and bring more people and nicer living spaces. The project was funded in part to the federal government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which allows foreign entrepreneurs to apply for a green card in exchange investing in a commercial enterprise. However, just as Sampson Mill in the late 1800s was short of delivering high expectations, today is has done the same. With an empty promise and big dreams of creating apartments, to promise of a better life, Sampson Mill continues to deliver false hope to Greenville.
"American Spinning Company Mill no. 2." National Regiser of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2016
“Sampson Mill Operated for 95 Years in Greenville.” The Greenville News. July 05, 2017
Bob Duke. “American Spinning Company.” Greenville Textile Heritage Society
Michael Trinkley. “Life Weaving Golden Thread: Archaeological Investigations at the Sampson Mill Village, Greenville County, South Carolina.” March 1993. Chicora Foundation Research, Series 36.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Milling Around Greenville, South Carolina