north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The Schenck-Warlick Mill, founded in 1813 and opened in 1814, is often heralded as the first successful cotton mill south of the Potomac River. Although this claim remains unverified, the Schenck-Warlick Mill was indeed the first cotton mill chartered and established in North Carolina. The mill was initially located near McDaniels’s spring on the Catawba River, about one mile east of the present-day county seat of Lincolnton.

     The mill’s founder, German immigrant Michael Schenck traveled from Pennsylvania to North Carolina along the Great Wagon Road around 1790. Schenck soon established himself as a merchant in the area and began investing in land along the south fork of the Catawba River. In 1813 Schenck began constructing a small cotton mill near his existing gristmill and sawmill on his lands on the Catawba. Much of the machinery for the new cotton mill was produced in Rhode Island and shipped to Lincoln County, arriving in 1814. Schenck contracted with his brother-in-law Absalom Warlick, a local skilled ironworker, to craft machinery to supplement the pieces he purchased from Rhode Island.

     By 1814 the machinery from Rhode Island and that made by Warlick were combined and the small Schenck-Warlick Mill opened. The mill operated profitably early in its tenure, but was ruined by floods in 1816. After its destruction, Schenck and Warlick quickly rebuilt the mill, expanding on its original capacity on Warlick’s land below the initial site. The new factory was working within twelve months, and quickly gained a reputation in Lincoln County.

     The second Schenck-Warlick mill was profitable, leading Schenck to expand upon it again. In 1819 Schenck invested in another cotton mill alongside Lincoln County residents James Bivens and James Hoke. That mill, located on what in time became known at the Confederate Laboratory site, two miles south of Lincolnton along the South Fork River, became lucrative for the investors. It housed 3,000 spindles, and was a destination for cotton exchange and yarn purchase in Lincoln County and beyond. The factory eventually burned in 1863, long after the death of Schenck in 1849.

William Sherrill, Annals of Lincoln County, North Carolina (1932)
Brent D. Glass, Textile Industry in North Carolina: A History (1992)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Marvin A. Brown, Our Enduring Past: Lincoln County (1986)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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