Lesson Plan: Overview

From Cotton to Baseball: How Greenville Grew

Grade Level: 8th

Students learn about their local communities with this lesson on textile mills.  This image show the old Pelham Mill office building in 2003.
Academic Standards
Standard 8-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.

8-5.3 Summarize the changes that occurred in South Carolina agriculture and industry during the late nineteenth century, including changes in crop production in various regions, and the growth of the textile industry in the Upcountry.

Standard 8-6:The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s development during the early twentieth century.

8-6.3 Summarize the political, social, and economic situation in South Carolina following World War I, including progress in suffrage for women, improvements in daily life in urban and rural areas, and changes in agriculture and industry.

Historical Background Notes

The migration of northern mills into South Carolina created a boom in the upstate economy that created a city that is still thriving today.  As the economy fluctuated, so too did the mills in Greenville, SC.  The creation of the Textile Baseball League changed the history of the mills forever. People were hired for their baseball skills and given minimal task jobs so that they were eligible for the league.  Mills had a new sense of pride and baseball games were highlights of the season. 

Poe Mill
Poe Mill began when friends of F.W. Poe, a local dry goods store owner, encouraged him to open up his own factory.  The site was perfect; the Southern Railroad was nearby, a branch of the Reedy River was close, and Buncombe Road was a busy road at that time.  Lockwood, Greene and Company of Providence, Rhode Island, planned the community.   This company built many New England mill communities and was responsible for designing many of the mill communities here in Greenville.

The mill, knowing it needed to keep its workers happy, provided many amenities to its employees.  Houses were equipped with garden plots, a cow pasture, and hog pens, a local company store kept the workers supplied with all of the necessary items.  The mill was also aware that recreational activities were needed to keep their workers happy. 

Monaghan Mill
The Monaghan Mill was named after County Monaghan in Northern Ireland where its founding fathers had originated.  The Parker brothers, on the advice of F.W. Poe, started the mill in 1900.  From the very beginning, they were the model community.  The mill was always concerned about community issues, and strived to make living conditions better for its employees.  Pete Hollis, the director of the mill’s YMCA, visited northern YMCAs and brought back many new ideas. 

Mills Mill
Otis Prentiss Mills founded Mills Mill and it is located at the intersection of Augusta Road and Pendleton Street. This location was ideal because it was just inside the limits of Greenville and they could avoid taxes.   It was the last mill to open in Greenville and started off as one of the smallest.  This mill also provided many things to its employees-churches and recreational facilities.

This “million dollar mill” was founded in 1910 by a large group of stockholders including J.P. Stevens and James B. Duke (founder of Duke University).  It is located between Mills Mill and Brandon Mill. The mill grew greatly over the next 10 years.  After the baseball park was added in 1924, Dunean went on to win four baseball championships.

Brandon Mill
Brandon Mill’s president J. Irving Westervelt originally named this mill Quentin.  It was then changed to Brandon thanks to the advice of Capt. Smyth, the leading contractor in Greenville.  Brandon was chose to pay homage to the Scots-Irish weavers that came from the town of the same name near Belfast, Ireland.  Its immediate success brought many families to the community.  The Jackson family was one of those families.  The Jacksons had worked for the mill since the 1890s and their son Joe had been there for several years when something came along that changed his fate forever - baseball. Joe Jackson went on to greater fame as “Shoeless Joe” when he had to take his spiked shoes off during a game.


Primary Sources
  • American Spinning Co. Photograph. circa early 20th century. The Greenville Piedmont. Collection of Greenville County Library. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Camperdown Mill Workers Photograph. circa 1905.  Collection of Greenville County Library. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Current picture of Brandon Mill Photograph. 2003. Private Collection of Rachael Kline. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • “Mills Mill Closing Announced.”  1978.  Collection of Greenville County Library. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • “Mills Mill to Become Loft Condominiums.”  Greenville Journal.  2003. Collection of Greenville County Library.  Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Old Pelham Mill Office Photograph. 2003. Private Collection of Rachael Kline. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • "Operatives on County Textile..."  Greenville Daily News.  1929. Collection of Greenville County Library. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Pelham Mill and Office Photograph. Collection of Greenville County Library. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • SCIway: South Carolina’s Front Door, “Map of Greenville, SC.” http://www.sciway.net/maps/cnty/greenville.html
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson Baseball Field Photograph.  2003.  Private Collection of Rachael Kline. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Photograph. 2003.  Private Collection of Rachael Kline. Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Plaque Photograph. 2003. Private Collection of Rachael Kline. Greenville, South Carolina.
    Secondary Sources
  • Bainbridge, Judith. Greenville Communities. Greenville, SC: Judith Bainbridge, 1999.
  • Belcher, Ray.  Greer: From Cotton Town to Industrial Center.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2003.
  • Perry, Thomas K.  Textile League Baseball: South Carolina’s Mill Teams; 1880- 1955.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1993.
  • Partial List of Greenville Mills
  • Lesson Plans

    From Cotton to Baseball” allows students to learn about the development of their local community.  The lesson can be done in a combination of in and out of class activities but must include time for student research.

    1. Students will be given the Partial List of Greenville Mills handout.
    2. They are to choose one mill to research.
    3. Students prepare a power point presentation of their research. Information to be included should be:
    • History of mill (founders, start date, what they produced, what the community was like)
    • Location of mill (to be plotted on current Greenville map)
    • Any famous people to come out of that particular mill (including baseball players)
    • A picture of the mill (current or old- encourage them to do both)
    4. The teacher will share the primary sources she has collected with the students to generate ideas on what they can look for for their own projects.
    5. As a class, all mills should be placed on a current Greenville map.
    6. Students present their work to the class.
    7. Discussions could lead to further research on why certain things in Greenville are named for people during this era.

    Teacher Reflections

    It didn’t take me long to realize that a lot of the places and streets in Greenville were named after these [textile] mills.  I became more observant of the world around me and started noticing the mills that I passed on my way to school every day.  I realized that my students probably had ties in some way to the mills in our community.  I was excited to get the project underway.

      …  I wanted to use the baseball league as something that would excite the kids and get them interested in the topic, but as I began my research, I realized that there was even less info about the baseball players.  I knew I could find information about some of the famous players like Shoeless Joe, but I wanted more than that.  I had to give up my first lesson and try again.

    Knowing that information about the mills was hard to come by, I knew I had to spoon-feed a lot of the information I wanted them to get.  I had to alter my plans a bit, but I was still hopeful.  I began by giving them a brief summary about each of the mills.  To my surprise and excitement, they were instantly enthusiastic about this - it seems I had underestimated the content.  I didn’t need baseball to get them interested, I had picked something that was fascinating and relevant - I hit the jackpot.  I brought out newspaper articles that talked about three of the mills and their current status.  My kids instantly recognized one of the mills because of the ads around town for condos in the old mill building. I was amazed at the connections I was making.

     The next day in class, I was overwhelmed as I quickly learned that I had hit another jackpot.  It seems I had again underestimated my students.  Being new to the area, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that a lot of my students had family that had, at one time, worked for one of the mills I had talked about.  Major jackpot.  They began bringing in things that I would have never found in any library - old photographs of baseball teams, history books published by different mills, etc.  I even had a student bring in blueprint-sized pictures of the Dunean mill.  It included the most important buildings found at the mill.  On another blueprint was Judith Bainbridge’s history of the mill including pictures (no pictures were published in the book that I had of hers).  My kids, by going home and asking questions, had uncovered more information than I could by researching for a month.  Part of the assignment was to find old and current photographs of the mill that the student had chosen to research.  I had several students actually go to the site and take pictures of what was left of the mill (see figure 1).  I was amazed and excited.

    After all of the assignments were handed in, I had planned to then plot all of the mills onto a current Greenville map.  I did not have time to do this, but I will probably do it next year.

    I really struggled to find primary sources to use for this assignment.  I had things I could use, but none really seemed fit to be called primary sources.  With the help of my students, I now I have many more items I can use next year.

    I had so much student interest from this lesson that I have decided to create a whole unit around this idea.  I would like to expand this lesson and create a whole unit filled with information about Greenville.  I even think that a bus tour similar to the one we took would be fun. 

    Student Assessments

    Student work should be evaluated based on the criteria set forth in Procedure #3.

    Examples of Students Work

    Note: The links below will show student created powerpoint presentations, you may find you need to click the mouse to advance certain slides.


    Rachael Kline
    Riverside Middle School, South Carolina