The story of Glendale on Lawson’s Fork Creek is similar to those of many other South Carolina mill towns. The textile industry thrived in the Upstate until after World War II, when a transition to cheap foreign labor all but destroyed this Southern mainstay.
Glendale and its mill were not always known as Glendale. The story begins with Dr. James Bivings, who arrived in the Spartanburg area around 1830, bringing with him an entire crew of laborers. He started a cotton manufacturing company in 1831 and built the Bivingsville Mill and surrounding town of Bivingsville. His home, now known as the Bivings-Converse House, was situated on a bluff above the mill.
The mill was profitable under Bivings’ leadership until the late 1840s, when it struggled due to an economic downturn. Bivings and his business partners had a dispute around this time, and he decided to give up his stake in the mill and leave the area in 1854.
After Dr. Bivings left, the mill fell into bankruptcy and was auctioned off in 1856 to a group of businessmen, one being Dexter Converse. Converse later founded D.E. Converse Company, bought out his business partners, and took over mill operations. Under Converse’s control the mill was successful again, and he renamed the town and mill Glendale in 1878 at his wife’s suggestion.
Converse not only expanded the operations at Glendale Mill, he also founded additional mills and invested in others across South Carolina. However, his greatest contribution to our state may be the establishment of Converse College in Spartanburg. He helped establish the school in 1890 so that his daughter could continue her education. Dexter Converse died in 1899, but Converse College continues to be a prestigious private women’s college.
Like many manufacturing businesses in the United States, Glendale Mill struggled financially during the turn of the century and again during the Great Depression. World Wars I and II provided temporary production booms, but afterwards the textile industry in South Carolina diminished drastically. The most notable exception, of course, is Milliken & Company, also headquartered near Spartanburg. Milliken & Company remains a leader in fabrics and is considered to be among the most ethical companies in America.
Glendale Mill changed ownership several more times but ultimately closed its doors in 1961. The mill’s edifice burned on March 21, 2004, and all that remains are the ruins pictured here. Today the site serves as a popular park ad also houses the Goodall Environmental Studies Center for nearby Wofford College. Known as Glendale Shoals Preserve, the park spreads across thirteen acres and features numerous activities for people to enjoy including picnic areas, a kayak and canoe launch, an amphitheater, and nature trails.
Though the mill is gone, Glendale remains a populated community. To get a detailed history of the town, complete with plenty of great photos, please visit GlendaleSC.com. It is an excellent resource.
Glendale Mill Office
The Goodall Environmental Studies Center includes a garden and vineyard, a laboratory, a room that serves as a classroom and conference room, and an amphitheater.
More Pictures of Glendale Mill
Reflections on Glendale Mill
Contributor Stacey Gardner, whose photo can be seen below, says: “I went to Glendale Mill with my daughter on a hot day in June. I loved this place, such a beautiful park, and the ruins of the mill are so amazing.”