I’m sure there is quite a bit of information on the textile mills in Columba. I just haven’t found it yet. So far it’s a few snippets here and a bit there and usually the same thing. I will give you what I know.
According to the book The Cotton Mills of South Carolina, 1907: Letters Written to the News And Courier (by August Kohn c1907, a reprint published years later) SC ‘was probably the very first state to undertake the development of cotton manufacturing.’ A mill in Beverley, MA will contend this bit of information, but the author maintains the state of South Carolina was the first and who am I to argue. The first mills built, 1790, used the English mills as models. Power looms weren’t included until circa 1812. The first mill workers were slaves such as Fisher’s Mill Gilles Creek. While what I read makes it sound the building is still standing, I didn’t find it. I can’t imagine it would be what with the 2015 flood. It was located a quarter of a mile off Forest Drive along the creek. There’s a historical marker there for those who want to take a gander.
Around 1800 a Colonel Thomas Taylor build mill that wove cotton goods, items used on the plantation. Later John and Edward Fisher made one of the first spinning mills in the county. Like Taylor they used slave labor to create yarn. The same Fisher brothers may be the ones who built a mill on Sand Brook by the Saluda River. This one didn’t do well.
The Saluda Factory was built in 1828 across the river, in Lexington County. I include it because of the connection to Columbia and because it’s accessible via trails in Riverbanks Zoo and the botanical garden. There are only ruins left because Sherman’s troops burned it down in 1865, but not before taking the wood to build a bridge to cross the river. The mill made something called oznaburg, a heavy cloth. (Tales of Columbia by Nell S. Graydon, published 1964 in Columbia, SC by R.L. Bryan Company)
As far as I can tell there were at least six textile mills in Columbia around the turn of the century. Most of the mills have been repurposed. Granby, Olympia, and Whaley Mills (Richland Cotton Mills) are now apartments as is the Palmetto Compress Warehouse on Devine Street. Columbia Mills Company is today the South Carolina State Museum. That leaves Capital City Mills and the Palmetto Cotton Mills. I think both were smaller than the others in the city. Other signs of the textile industry are the mill villages and the Columbia canal.
Columbia Mills Company opened in 1894 and was the first electric-powered textile mill in the world. It’s located on Gervais Street.
Granby Cotton Mill, built by W.B. Smith Whaley, was the first off-site hydroelectric powered textile mill. It sits between Whaley and Heyward.
Olympia Cotton Mills was also built by Whaley. When it opened in 1899 it was the largest cotton mill under one roof in the world. Across the street is Granby Mill. It’s located on Heyward Street.
Richland Cotton Mill – ala Whaley’s Mill after its architecture W.B. Smith Whaley. completed 1895. It’s on Main Street, south of the Capital building.