Archiver > KILLEBREW > 2003-07 > 1059338029

Subject: Re: [Killebrew] Newspaper Articles
Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2003 16:33:49 EDT

In a message dated 7/27/03 4:27:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time,

> Yes, I would like a copy of the Newspaper articles.

Jim I sent both articles on the Killebrew list but just in case you didn't
get them here they are.

The story of a Unique Factory near Newton
By Will T. Sheen

Newton Feb, 12, 1905 - Special correspondence.

The section boss and the wandering newspaper man were marooned by the weather
at the lonesome little railroad station of Elba junction. The trains were
four hours apart and there was nothing but to lean against the windward side of
the station and watch the freezing rain fall monotonously hour after hour upon
dead and decaying cotton fields.
Out of their common misfortune the two became quite friendly. They both had a
distinct grievance against the weather and by the exchange of similar
opinions on the very disagreeable brand of climate that they were forced to encounter
with no other artificial aid than the windward side of a country depot. A
bound of amity was formed and conversation advanced quite satisfactorily.
The newspaper man wanted to know what enterprise the big brick building
under the hill a mile over Pea River represented, the building just below the
Newton depot. The section boss was carving off a large hunk of plug cut. He
poised the heavy load in the air as he gave answer.
"Why, them buildings," he responded, "are the Killebrew Woolen Mills,
Never heard of the Killebrew Woolen Mills? See them Pants." He asked throwing
back his brown overcoat and slapping the projecting leg. Went right down there
and the old man took my measures, spun the wool right before me, made the cloth
and sewed up the pants inside of twenty minutes. What do you think of that?
The Unique Manufactory

The newspaper man had heard of the Killebrew Woolen Mill but the memory had
been a vague one until the section boss had recalled it to life. The section
boss had brought to his notice perhaps the most unique manufacturing enterprise
in the State of Alabama. In all the south there is probably no other factory
just like it. In spite of the drizzly winter rain the wandering one knew that
the three hours remaining until train time could not be better spent than in a
visit to the famous - for all the surrounding section at least -- Killebrew
Mills a mile away.
They have a picturesque setting, just in the rear of a wide dam that stops
and imprisons the water of a broad country branch. A huge overshot waterwheel
turning slowly with the weight of the water from the pond gave the scene a
touch of the romantic. There was something incongruous in the scene too, the old
fashioned mill pond, the long wooden flume and the big overshot wheel
contrasted strongly with a wide spreading brick structure that must have cost at
least $25,000 to put there in the woods. In spite of the contrast, notwithstanding
the incongruity of the brick building in the spring, with the alders and the
oaks brave in their green finery, the mill pond, the flume, the old wheel, the
new brick building without doubt forms a beautiful picture to one who loves a
romantic of unusual landscape
The brick structure is a thing of recent years. T. J. Killebrew the
present proprietor of the mills came with his father as far back as 1872 to the
wooded dell along the country branch and built a woolen mill. The primary purpose
of the mill was to manufacture into jeans the wool that then grew on the
backs of the sheep which were so numerous and so profuse in these woods of Dale,
Coffee, Henry and Geneva counties. The big overshot wheel was then the
principal thing about the enterprise. It was no ambitious undertaking, but it made
money from its very inauguration, The business increased so as the years went by.
The wooden mill had to give way to the big brick structure and the old style
machinery gave way to the latest and most modern in the way of machinery for
spinning, weaving, cutting and sewing. It grew so large that the output has
been sold in most of the Southern States and to such a fame the demands made upon
the mill in this month of January of 1905 can not be supplied. At this time
when Mr. Killebrew has so many orders that he can not meet he looks closely
after his regular customers and hangs new orders on the hook in the hope that at
some future time he may possibly get to them.
Only One In State.

This singular enterprise is unique in more ways than one. It is the only
woolen mill in the State and it is the only mill, Mr. Killebrew says, in the whole
country which makes goods that are 100 per cent pure wool. This is his boast
about his Daly County mill. It turns out pants that are 100 per cent wool and
he asserts that nowhere else in the United States is that done.
The head of this strange enterprise, T.J. Killebrew, is honored and
esteemed in this county, where he has spent the years of his life. He is in his way
as interestingly strange as his strange enterprise, considered as a
manufacturer. He has a round cut beard almost white, above which he wears a pair of
steel rimmed specks, the old style. You remember how your grandfather looked in
them? A big broad-brimmed hat covers his gray hair and his strong alert eyes
shinning kindly through the steel rimmed glasses. In defense against the cold and
rain he wore that afternoon and a brown overcoat closely buttoned up to the
Being Saturday afternoon the mill had closed down early and the proprietor
was at his combined office and store across the road from the mill. The store
was of modest dimensions. Its like can been seen in any country beat in the
state of Alabama. Wooden shutters, two wooden blocks for steps and some
thousand and odd nail heads crossing and recrossing each other on the door front, the
whole unpainted and dark.

The Montgomery Advertiser
February 13, 1905

The head of the Killebrew Woolen Mills was inside doing clerical duty when I
came up. He had just sold a dime's worth of cheese to a woman in a calico
dress, a sunbonnet and a red shawl. The lady was judiciously weighing the
question as to whether to make the additional purchase of a can of salmon. Throughout
my interview with Mr. Killebrew he was busily engaged in attending to the
Saturday afternoon rush at the store, selling now a can of potash, now a package
of chewing gum and now giving out a premium to a red faced country urchin for
a handful of tobacco tags. In watching him and in noting his marked kindness
to the small customers I quite forgot hat this man was the head of a
considerable enterprise and the only one in the South.
I was reminded of his manufacturing interest, however when a tall and lean
young fellow rode up on a mule and announced that wanted to buy a pair of pants.
Bill and his Pants
I don't think I've got your size ________? The manufacture said looking at
pants on the long slender legs, much _________? _______? Knees, "In fact I
don't think that ever was a pair of pants that would exactly fit the long legs
of yours.
They disappeared in the storeroom of the factory and when Bill came
out some minutes later he emerged quite satisfied. The very next Sunday when
Bill rode over the hills to a meeting, he wore a pair of all wool pants which, if
they did not fit him they came quite as near filling as anything could mold
itself to his strange style of architecture.
"You see." Said Mr. Killebrew. We only make pants at our mill. The mill
has a capacity of between 100 and 135 pairs a day, when it is running at its
full capacity.
All our wool is gotten from South Georgia and South Alabama. In Alabama
we get wool from Elba, Geneva, Dothan and as far west a Monroe County. Wool
right now is bringing from 26 to 33 cents a pound. This includes wool in the
rough with all the bard, dirt and impurities that the sheep can manage to
accumulate during a year. There are not many sheep about here, not as many in fact.
As there used to be. Much of the woods used in the old days for grazing has
been turned into farms.
The average sort of sheep, the sort we have in this country will produce
about three pounds of wool each year. Out west they are raising imported
sheep which are said to grow six and seven pounds of wood annually. Sheep are
usually sheared in May. They are frequently sheared twice a year, the second time
in August. We have but little trouble in getting wool enough to run the mill.
It is bought, as I have said, for us agents in the States of Alabama, Georgia
and Florida. Our mill demands about 1,000 pounds of wool a week.
Now as to the machinery of the mill. The mill was erected on the present
site in 1872. It was pout up by my father and myself. And since then it has
been owned and controlled by us.
Now to the machinery of the mill. The mill was erected on the present site in
1872. It was put up by my father and myself, and since then it has been owned
and controlled by us. It was formerly operated by water power exclusively,
but since so many settlers and farmers have come in and cut down the woods and
forests, we can not depend entirely upon the branch to furnish sufficient
water. I have, therefore, had steam power put in the mill, and it is used during
dry weather. At all other times the power is furnished by the big 18 foot
overshot wheel. The brick mill was put up in 1888. It represents an investment of at
least $25,000.
Making Woolen Goods
How is the wool worked into cloth? I will tell you. The wool comes in
here in a raw state full of impurities. It is then first thoroughly cleansed and
scoured and the impurities are gotten out of it. To do this it is boiled and
then rinsed. Having cleaned the wool from impurities it is placed in the dye
pots and dyed the color we need at that time. Next the wool carded. Then it is
run through the spinning and weaving machines to be turned out the finished
product. We have in the mill the finest sort of modern machinery.
Some years ago we only made cloth, wool jeans principally, but we found
it advisable to put in machinery for cutting out and making pants finished and
ready for the market. This work, the sewing and finishing of the output of the
factory is done by the women of the factory.
Mr. Killebrew employs about 35 hands in his mill. Half of them are women.
The workers in the mill come from the surrounding country. The parents of
sons of them were employed years ago in the mill.
The best, the most cordial relations, exist between the unusual
manufacturer and his help. The conditions might be described as a sort of democratic
feudalism in view of the paternal relation the mill owner maintains with his
employees, a relation that is characteristic by confidence and esteem on both
sides. The buying of the mill hands is done principally in the plain little store
across the road from the mill. Here the mill owner waits in person upon his
operatives and gives them valued advice as to their purchases. He is paid in
cash as the mill hands are paid. He has never had any sort of trouble with his
Mr. Killebrew finds a ready market for the output of his factory. The
embarrassment of the business is that he can not fill the orders that come into
the mill. He supplies his regular customers or he supplies them as nearly as he
can. The other orders he hangs on a hook and figures out that he will get them
and fill them someday. In the meanwhile, the bunch on the hook grows larger
and larger. Sometimes one of them is pulled down, looked over and the goods
shipped out, but this does not happen often.
Business of the Mill.
The hook is a rather interesting object. It contains the orders from the
merchants of this unusual manufacture does not know. Sometimes the visitor to
the mill is questioned about the merchants who want to buy the products of the
mill, for information as to their standing and antecedents. These orders are
unsolicited even as the repeated orders which come from his regular customers.
If there is one thing that Mr. Killebrew is devoted to more than to his
business it is the interest of education. He is recognized as a friends and ally
of the common schools of the State. He is proud too, of the fact that every
child of his has been given a thorough collage course to graduation in some
Southern Collage.
Mr. Killebrew belongs to a class of numerous Alabamians, men of integrity and
respect in their communities and who daily read both the The Montgomery
Advertiser and the Bible, and who are admirers of both. He has for the past thirty
years been a subscriber to the Advertiser and during all that time his
business has prospered.

Will T.

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