The Mills of Carrboro – 32 Years Apart

Cropped 1915 Sanborn map featuring Carrboro

Cropped fire insurance map of Pacific Mills facilities in Carrboro
Today’s assignment is to compare and contrast. The images above are portions of fire insurance maps depicting Carrboro. The top one is a 1915 map produced by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. The other is a 1947 map produced by Associated Factory Mutual Fire Insurance Companies. The full maps are included on North Carolina Maps. As you might image, Carrboro changed a little between 1915 and 1947. What’s the same? And what’s different?

Here are a few facts we already know. The 1915 map depicts the facilities of Durham Hosiery Mills, a textile manufacturing company started by Julian Carr in the early days of the 20th century. Those same factories were owned in 1947 by Pacific Mills, a Lawrence, Massachusetts-based textile manufacturer. Pacific Mills bought the buildings and property in 1945, by which point textile manufacturing in Carrboro had ceased. The re-opened mills provided jobs for about 550 people and they produced worsted wool. But the revival of textile manufacturing in Carrboro was short-lived. By 1955 Pacific Mills had closed its plants there.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance map is among many in our collection. The map produced by Associated Factory Mutual hangs in the Carrboro town offices. The folks there allowed us to scan it and share it with the wider world. We’re honored to do so. And we hope that you can tell us how the Paris of the Piedmont changed between 1915 and 1947. And, while you’re at it, feel free to tell us how the depictions compare with what you see today.

Black soldiers went on high-stakes strike in Pisgah Forest

“When blacks disobeyed orders, in contrast [to whites], they were punished severely. In July 1918, B company of the 328th Labor Battalion downed tools after cutting wood for several days without rations in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina. Two white officers, with one gun and 18 bullets, faced 300 disgruntled draftees.

“Excuses were later made for the officers’ incompetence, and the Camp Jackson, S.C., intelligence officer claimed that the trouble had been brewing for weeks and that the black NCOs were ineffectual. At the subsequent court-martial, the testimony of the black men was dismissed as ‘a mass of lies’ and three soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny, later commuted to 10 years in prison.”

— From “Race, War and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States government during World War I” by Mark Ellis (2001)

Stu Lillard, a former UNC Charlotte and Queens librarian who now volunteers at the National Archives, is researching the dramatic but little-remembered Pisgah Forest Mutiny. Apparently the alleged ringleaders avoided death by firing squad only because the armistice had just ended hostilities in World War I.

To obtain more details — or to contribute your own — email Stu at