Union Bleachery

Milling Around Greenville, South Carolina

Union Bleachery

Greenville, South Carolina 29617, United States

Created By: Brandon Inabinet


This is one of the most robust and successful mills in the upstate. Constructed in 1902, this mill has a history that is downright cheery, especially compared with some of the area’s other mills. John Arrington, the mill’s owner for many years, worked his hardest to make Union Bleachery a community. Although the bleachery was one of the smallest mills, Arrington ensured that it was complete with schools, churches, a community building with meeting rooms, a playground, plenty of water fountains, and even a duck pond and a nine hole golf course. Employees and their families engaged in sports, school plays, Christmas parties, barbeques, and more.

Lois Rogers, one of the little girls who grew up here, says Mr. Arrington knew all of his employees’ names. And when they got sick or needed help, he helped them. One time, when an employee's wife got appendicitus, Mr. Arrington called the doctor to lower the fee by $50--a very big savings back then!

And while other mills struggled, Mr. Arrington’s wits kept Union Bleachery very much alive. For instance, when World War I came, many mills were forced to lay off workers and slow production. But Mr. Arrington, foreseeing the difficulties ahead, ordered large amounts of European supplies ahead of time. The mill then proceeded to have its best year yet in 1915, while others in the area were fighting just to stay open.

On two separate occasions, Union Bleachery workers voted firmly against unionization.

Not only this, but interracial relations were also surprisingly strong in such a discriminatory time. The "colored village," although separate from the "white village," contained a school, church, a field for sports, and several nice, four-room homes. White children played with the Black children, and as it recorded in The Greenville News from 1942, children from the colored school met with Red Cross officials and began a project to make toys for white children.

This is the Greenville we know and love!

Contemporary Note: Sold from Union Bleachery to Aspinook Corp, and then becoming Cone Mills in 1952, and then American Fast Print in 1994, owners sacrificed environmental protection for fast cash and poor protections. Soon after, the mill burnt down, and environmental issues started coming to light. Like several of the mills on this tour, years of chemical usage have left the site dangerously contaminated. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency added it to a list of “national priority sites” in 2011, and they have since been working to clear it of asbestos, chromium, and more. Please use caution and do not trespass over this fence especially!

Sources/Suggested Readings

"US Finishing/Cone Mills." EPA Superfund Citation.

Lois Rodgers, Between the Mill Whistle and the Church Bell, 1998.

"Union Bleachery." Judith Bainbridge, article in Parker Sewage District Repository, 1995

Greenville News, May 23, 1942 and September 23, 1966.

"Union Bleachery." Upstate Business Journal, 2016

This point of interest is part of the tour: Milling Around Greenville, South Carolina


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