History of the Mill
In the early 1900's, local town banker, Duncan Sloan caught word that a major company with a string of mills was searching for a new location. Mr. Sloan emphasized that the surplus rail and cheap labor in the town, not to mention the access to rail and steady employment, would contribute to the mill's success. Five weeks after this meeting, the ball was rolling and plans were underway. The city and mill company began searching for funding, as the total cost of constructing and outfitting the mill was $100,000. In August, 1905, construction began and the Klotz Mill opened 2 years later, in 1907.
In the first few years, raw silk was imported from Japan and China, then spun into thread at the mill.
The throwing process consisted of twisting and winding silk into yarn. Workers were responsible for removing full spools, replacing them with empty ones, tying "silk knots" in broken thread, steaming, dying and stretching the silk. Once the silk thread was spun on the bobbins, quills or cones, it was shipped from the plant.
Mill operators were mostly women and in the beginning they belonged to the United Mine Workers Union, a direct effect of their spouses belonging to the same Union. Eventually the representation shifted and the laborers became members of the United Textile Workers of America.
Union rules and regulations in the early 1900's were very different than they are today. Monthly dues were fifteen cents and children as young as fourteen and fifteen worked at the mill and received checks.
When the Great Depression began, the mill, as with all other companies in the Unites States, suffered greatly. During the first few months of 1941, employment varied between 70 and 80 people, down from 200 in previous years. By December of that same year, only 5 people were on the mill payroll. A few short months later, in March, employment suddenly increased dramatically; a sign that the nation was at war.
During World War II, the supply of raw silk decreased due to the conflicts with Japan, which caused the mill to change focus and begin producing thread for military parachutes and rayon. Employment was up, production was high and the mill was flourishing. Unfortunately, once the war was over, it was evident production and employment was declining. Competition with larger companies began to take a toll on the small mill. Employment dropped to 100 and a labor dispute was causing uproar within the company.
Mill workers requested a pay raise to compete with nearby textile workers, causing mill superintendent to visit the company's headquarters. The request to raise the price of products, to help increase labor wages, was denied and a vote to strike was passed. When the workers began to strike in June 1957, the mill subsequently closed its doors. Only a very small staff of 4 continued to work at the mill for a number of years after production ceased.
The mill's closing had a big impact on the community. The small thriving town, once home to an Opera House, two newspapers, a glass factory and mine, was seeing the closing of the mill shortly after the mine ceased production, causing an economy collapse and decrease in population.
The Future of the Mill
To date, the mill has remained virtually untouched since it closed in 1957. Labor sheets, original silk labels from Japan, equipment and old documents still remain inside the mill. While its future remains uncertain, various plans are in the works to turn the site into a museum. Unfortunately the same remote location preventing vandals and thieves from destroying the place is also hindering the marketability of a historical site.