Story furnished by Clarence
To my knowledge, the first
fire protection Glendale Mills had was limited to a large open top,
square steel plate water tank which was located in the very top of old
#2 mill entrance tower which was built in 1890. It was fabricated on
site and was kept filled with river water which flowed by gravity down
into pipes in the mill where fire hose were mounted on the walls to be
used in case of fires. When I looked at the tank back in the late
1940s, having not been in use for years, it had about a foot of water
with four to six inches of mud covering the bottom of the tank. As best
I remember, we had it cut out in the early fifties. Though it was long
before my day with the Mill Company, I was told by various old timer
mill workers that in the early days, it also supplied water to gutters
along the top of the old #2 mill weave room windows which dripped water
in front of the opened widows, adding humidity to the weave room years
before the automatic humidifying system was installed. Though the mill
burned in 2004, the tower still stands.
In 1902 the new mill addition
had been built and a large fire water storage tank (which stands today)
was erected on what was first named Main Street (Douglas Street today)
behind the “Biving’s” house. It was erected by the Chicago Bridge and
Iron Works of Chicago, Ill. Pumps kept the tank filled with river
water. It supplied water for a closed “wet/dry-pipe” sprinkler system
which was installed in the mill, the cloth warehouse, the cotton
warehouse and the Mill Store.
In locations subject to
freezing, the pipes were kept filled with air under pressure which kept
the water check valve clapper closed. When a sprinkler head was melted
by the heat of a fire, the air was released thus opening the clapper
valve to flood the burning area with water. Pumps were located in front
of the mill plant, on the side of the store and at the back of the
cotton warehouse to control water and air pressure. Too bad that the
system wasn’t active on March 21, 2004 when the mill building caught
fire and burned.
Small fires in the mill were
quite common, especially in the opening and card rooms where bales of
cotton were opened, cleaned and combed. Small rocks from the cotton
fields or metal particles from the ginning process were oft times in
the cotton and would spark fires when coming into contact with the
On one occasion, after I had
taken Supervision of the engineering department, J. B. Lanford who was
Mill Superintendent at the time, called me about 1 in the morning
saying that a major fire had broken out in the card room and most of
the aprons were burned. He said, “we have only enough cotton processed
to keep the mill running for about five or six hours, we desperately
need aprons .” I told him to call the supplier in Gastonia, N. C.,
telling him we would be there in about an hour to pick up the needed
I had just purchased a new 55
Ford Mercury with a large trunk which had a kilometer rather than a
speedometer. Picking J. B. up at his office, we took off to Gastonia.
When I got on the interstate, I set the car on about 95 which meant I
was doing about 75. I had not explained the difference to J. B. After
traveling for a while, I asked J. B. where we should turn off. He said,
“back about a quarter mile”. I asked, “why didn’t you tell me”. “Man“,
he said, “at 95 I couldn’t hardly get my breath, much less talking”. We
picked up the needed aprons and on the way back I told him about the
difference in the speedometer and we laughed about that incident all
the way back home and for a long time after.
Glendale village fire
protection in the early 1900s was limited to the stationary fire water
pump, the river water storage tank previously mentioned , four and six
inch cast iron water lines up the village streets, a few scattered fire
hydrants and a few small ten by ten hose houses, strategically located
throughout the village. A two wheel hand drawn hose cart holding
several hundred feet of fire hose, a hose wrench and a fire hydrant
wrench was stored in each hose house. Shop personnel formed the fire
brigade and manned the carts in case of fires.
The first two fresh water
wells of which I have any record or knowledge of, were located adjacent
to the Bivingsville Cotton Mill and among the first houses that were
built in the village. The well adjacent to the mill, by electric pump,
supplied fresh water for drinking and rest room facilities in the mill.
Incidentally, when Glendale plant #2 was built in 1890, it was built
over this well and it was still supplying water in the 1950s. The
second well was located on Main Street directly behind Dr. Biving’s
house. A hand pump was installed in that one well. As the village grew,
wells from which water was drawn by bucket, were located at central
locations on most every street. It was not until 1917 that fresh water
was piped into each village house and toilet facilities were added.
In an article presented in
the Tenth Annual report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Commerce
and Industries in 1918, (I have a copy) Mr. Wilton Lindsay, President
of D. E. Converse Co. (Glendale Mills Division) at that time, reported
that “in the past year we have installed septic tank closets in our
mill village and contracted for electric lights and a movie projector
was purchased for the Community building.” A flat, box like sink was
In order to run fresh water
to the homes, the trunk lines which had supplied river water to the
village fire hydrants for fire protection for some 15 years, were
converted to fresh water lines. This required that a valve located
under the cloth warehouse which controlled the river water to the
hydrants, be cut off and the lines purged. After that date, all fires
in the village were fought with fresh water from mill company wells.
Though the river water valve had been closed for many years, it
remained in the line when I left the mill. A fresh water storage tank
was erected at the side of the Glendale Baptist Church.
A new fire water pumping and
pressure control station providing protection for the mills, store and
warehouses, was built between Plant #3 and the cloth warehouse in the
late 1940s. John T. Varner Jr. was shop foreman at the time and was
placed in charge of maintaining these systems. Big pressure gauges
showed if the lines were charged properly. The fire insurance inspector
came from time to time, unexpectedly, to see that all specifications
were being met.
On one occasion, at the
inspector’s request, John started the pumps and when the pressure got
to the maximum point at which it was to be operated, John cut the pump
back. The inspector asked if that was as high as it would go? “Of
course not” John replied, “but if I take it higher, pipes will pop.”.
George Hodge, who was the mill Engineer at that time, told John to
“bring it on up.”“O.K“. John replied, “but look for some pipes to
burst”. Speeding the pump up, suddenly all pressure was lost. Hearing a
noise and looking out the window, they saw the fire hydrant behind the
mill office had popped out of the ground with water gushing everywhere.
That was the last time anyone asked John to bring pressure up above
what he knew was to be the maximum.
By 1954, with all homes in
the village having been remodeled, additional toilet facilities and a
sewage treatment system installed, additional fresh water wells having
been purchased, a new 60,000 gallon fresh water tank was added
supplying the village with sufficient storage of fresh water for
drinking, bathing, sewer and fire protection which was still limited to
the company fire brigade and hose carts.
After the houses had been
sold, knowing that the company would no longer provide fire protection,
Mr. deLoach, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Glendale
Mills, felt that a volunteer fire department needed to be organized.
Being Supervisor of the engineering department, Mr. deLoach asked me
(Clarence Crocker) to work up some figures for his information on the
cost of such, including the insurance savings home owners would save by
having a fire department.
Checking with insurance
carriers, I found that the insurance savings per year in most all cases
would be greater than the estimated membership cost per year. After
discussing the material which I had gathered with Mr. deLoach, he
suggested that the fire truck could be housed in the old company
garage, saving the cost of a new building. Since this was to be a
homeowners project, Mr. deLoach discussed this matter with Jack Key and
Ernest Alley. After giving them the assurance of the companies support,
they took up the suggestion and began canvassing the village home
owners concerning the fire protection plans.
In 1958 a Public meeting was
held in which they were successful in organizing the Glendale Area Fire
Protection Association, Inc. with a roster of 29 volunteer fireman. Ten
Directors were elected. W. T. Rothrock Jr., Chairman; Howard Lee,
Treasurer; E. F. Alley, Vice Chairman; E. C. Hopper, Secretary;
Clarence E. Crocker, E. C. Brown, W. A. Jones, Howard Millwood, W. T.
Rothrock, Sr. Jack Key was elected as the first Fire Chief and Ernest
Alley was elected as assistant Fire Chief. Membership fees were set at
ten dollars per year per household. Plans for the purchase of the first
fire truck by a loan through the First National Bank was made.
The first fire truck, an
American LaFrance, was purchased at a cost of approximately $14,000.
Having no fire station, the truck was stored in the old mill company
barn where the dray mules and dray wagons were once housed. It had been
renovated for the mill store and mill trucks. The barn was located
between the old Community building and the old tin cotton warehouse.
fire department volunteers took an active role in community affairs. In
1960 they collected and prepared toys to give to Glendale Children. See
the photo at Christmas -1960.
Today, Glendale fire
Department has a large fire station located on Church Street on the old
school grounds, in the heart of the village. It was built in 1964 at a
cost of approximately $500,000. It also has a well equipped satellite
station at the intersection of Brown and Bethesda roads which was built
in 1994 at a cost of approximately $ 220,000. Today the department has
9 trucks; 3 pumper trucks, 1 ladder truck, 1 rescue truck, 2-1700
gallon tankers, 1- 4400 gallon tanker, 1 brush truck and other
equipment at a total cost of approximately $ 1,545,000.
At the beginning, all fireman
were volunteers. Today they have 6 full time paid fireman and 17
volunteers. Robert Brown, Sr. was elected Fire Chief in 1976 and
remains such as of this writing. (August 2010) Robert Brown Jr. is
assistant Chief. Present fire Directors are; Edward E. Brown, Jeff
McKinnish, Terry Gilmer, Glenn Hammett and William (Billy) Gossett.
Personally, and I believe
their record proves me out, Glendale has a Fire department second to
none. They are professional and efficient. During the few times I have
been able to observe them in action, I was impressed by their sincere
concern and responsibility. My hat’s off to our Fire Department.
Glendale community is indeed fortunate to have such a fine fire
Today, the village of
Glendale and most of the immediate surrounding area, is furnished water
and sewer services by the Spartanburg Water Works of Spartanburg, S.C.
Both fresh water tanks have been removed. Only the old river water
storage tank located on Douglas Street used for fire protection in
1902, stands idle by the side of the road collecting rust, bird nests
and wild vines. I did notice what appears to be a radio antenna mounted
at the top when I last passed by. In bygone years, when they caught Mr.
Quinn, the village Policeman looking the other way, adventurous boys
would dare climb the tank and write or draw on the side.
When I went down to take a
picture of the tank back in early 2010, I stood there and began to
reminiscence. I became very sentimental. Looking down the street, I saw
the burned skeleton towers and smoke stacks standing like a tall
statue, as a monument to a once vibrant mill, the bread basket for
hundreds of workers and their families for almost 150 years. The once
beautiful home of the Twichells, was slowly but surely decaying. The
stately mansion of Dr. Bivings, founder and builder of the mill and
village, which at one time would have been a “must see” showplace in
any town, stood in disrepair.
Looking up the street, I saw
the houses where some of the finest people that could be found
anywhere, once lived. Sadly, there were no more Alleys, Cash, Warrens,
Murrays, Hammetts, Nichols, Burgess, Gregorys, Mittags. The old
generation was all gone. I am so proud to have known them and call
them, “friends“. The street seems empty without them but precious
memories makes standing there worth while. The Methodist Church which
had it’s beginning as the Community Church with the founding of the
village some 175 years ago, was closed. Its impact on the community can
never be measured. Some of the first schooling the children of Glendale
had in the early 1800’s, was in the Community Church. Main and Mill
Street signs have long since been taken down and for the most part,
forgotten. Incidentally, I know of no native son or daughter of
Glendale living in the village today who is as old as this writer,
85years, nine months. (wow! -1029 months) I have had a good and blessed
life for which I am truly grateful to God.
On a second visit to the
water tank, I was reminded how that time and life moves on. The charred
remains of the burned mill have been cleaned up, grass planted, the
area landscaped. The property has been donated to Wofford College. They
have had the Mill office renovated and is now occupied by College
Glendale Avenue and Douglas
Street have taken the place of Main and Mill. The Bivings Mansion was
being restored. The houses on the street have been painted, many
remodeled and new families have moved in. Though it doesn’t look the
same, the sight is pleasant and hope runs high. Yes, life moves on and
so must I if I am to finish the nuggets of Glendale history which I
hope to write and post before I too, pass on.
My sincere appreciation to
Chief Robert Brown for supplying me with figures and names regarding
the Glendale Fire Department.
This web site has been started as a
public service to share the story of Glendale. The web master and
person to contact about putting information on the web site is Mary
McKinney Teaster. Contact her at:
or by telephone at (843) 873-8117. See
more information about Mary and her Glendale connection at Mary McKinney Teaster.