Mountains-to-Sea Trail - Staying in Glencoe Mill Village
I'm staying in the Barbershop, a small structure owned by Hank and Lynn Pownell. I met Hank at a Friends of the MST meeting last week. He had donated one night at the Barbershop for the silent auction. Most important his gift included shuttling within a 50-mile radius.
Glencoe was a water powered textile mill, built in 1880, on the Haw River. Besides the actual mill, the village encompassed worker houses, several churches, and an office and company store.
"I own my soul to the company store."
When the mill closed in 1954, people left the village. The whole site was bought from the heirs of the mill owners by Preservation North Carolina.
Hank and Lynn come from Minneapolis but had visited North Carolina many times. One day, she saw a tiny article about the restoration at Glencoe Mill Village.
Over drinks, Lynn explains their story.
"We drove here from the Triangle on one of our visits to North Carolina. I fell in love with the houses. We wanted a two-story house with a south facing porch. At the time, twenty houses in Glencoe St. were for sale. It took a lot longer to sell these houses than Preservation North Carolina anticipated. One house has still never sold."
“I think this is best house but everyone thinks that their house is the best."
Hank and I bought their dream house and started renovating in 1998. People had trashed the area. The house was last occupied in the 1940s. While Lynn still had several years before retirement, Hank lived in the Barbershop while the house was being redesigned and renovated."
Glencoe is one of the few mill villages that was not subdivided. The mill had closed but Sarah Rhyne, a part owner and heir of the mill, understood the historic significance of the place and kept the property intact.
Many textile mills in the South were started by northerners who came down here because of the cheap, nonunionized labor but this mill was started by a southerner, E.M. Holt. Their house was originally a four room house. Mill workers paid 25 cents per room per month as rent. The house was owned by the mill and rented to a mill worker.
Lynn continues. "It's a good place to live. I’m a weaver. The whole idea of using the detached kitchen as a studio was important. History of textile is really exciting. I'm involved in the Alamance Artisan Guild."
After this house was done, it took a period of adjustment. “Honey what do we talk about now?” but Lynn and Hank both agree that their house will never be finished.
The company office and company store is now the museum, filled chock full of pictures, mill equipment and paraphernalia. Jerrie Nall, Director of the Textile Museum Museum, explains the expression:
"How are you doing?"
"Fair to middling". That's a textile grading expression and she shows me the various grades of cotton.
The barbershop is a tiny building with one double bed and a small dining table in its main room. It holds a full kitchen and bathroom. It's small for two people. I brought my sleeping bag and mat and sleep on the floor. But the history, location, and shuttle are worth any inconvenience.
I didn't have time to walk along the Haw River but eventually the MST will swing down from its present route and follow the Haw River, giving it more trail miles.