Bivingsville/Glendale Mill Superintendents

The following story was furnished by Rev. Clarence Crocker, a life long Glendale resident.

Coming to Bivingsville in 1855 as a mill operative, Mr. Dexter Converse was promoted to Superintendent in 1856, becoming the first mill Superintendent according to my records. It was reported that his salary was set at $50 per month. Records show that he was still serving as Superintendent during the Civil War though he had been  named Manager of the mill in 1866 due to the illness and death of Mr. Bomar, President and chief stockholder at that time. The Mill  prospered greatly under his leadership.

Mr. Converse, was born in Swanton, Vt. April 21, 1829 and died in Spartanburg, S.C. October 4, 1899. He was the son of Mr. Orlin and Louisa Converse. His father, having died when he was three years old and his mother having married again, he was raised by his Uncle, Albert G. Brown in Canada and was educated in common schools.

Going to work in cotton mills in Cohoes, N.Y. at the age of twenty one, he moved to Lincolnton, N.C. in 1854 to become Superintendent of the Lincolnton Cotton Mill. Mr. Converse married his first cousin, Helen Antoinette Twichell, of New York Mills, N.Y. She was the daughter of Winslow and Anne Carroll Twichell and was born December 2, 1839 at New York Mills, N.Y. and died in Spartanburg, S.C. March 19, 1918. They had one daughter, Marie Antoinette, born in Charleston S.C. July 1, 1875 and died in New York, December 17, 1907. She had married Dr. William A Downes, and had one child, Helen Converse Downes born February 8, 1903 in New York City and died July 11, 1963 in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Converse was elected President of the D.E. Converse Co. when it was organized in 1889 and was serving in that capacity at the time of his death. A second plant had been built at Glendale with the third plant under construction at the time of his death.  Two Plants had been built at Clifton, S.C. along with one at Converse, S.C.


Mr. Converse purchased the spacious Bivings house at Glendale while he was Superintendent of the mill. He and his family lived there until he built a house on Pine Street in Spartanburg in 1892 into which they moved and were living at the time of his death.

Though he started at a salary of $50 per month some 40 years before, records show that when he died, he owned controlling interest of the Glendale Plant as well as a major interest in the two Clifton and Converse Mills. He also owned considerable stock in a number of other mills in the county. He was referred to by some as being a financial wizard.

Records show that the bulk of his estate was left to Mrs. Helen T. Converse, his wife of 44 years and their only daughter, Miss Marie A. Converse.  Converse College was also a beneficiary along with two or three  others.

An article published in the Spartanburg Herald on October 6, 1899 stated; “on yesterday, at 6:15 in the afternoon, Mr. D. E. Converse died at his residence on Pine street after two weeks illness. Mr. Converse, perhaps more than any one individual, has made Spartanburg what she is today. There has never been a death in this city which has cast such a universal pall of gloom about as that of Mr. Converse. In every sense of the word, Spartanburg has suffered a distinct loss. Spartanburg is mourning today. Tomorrow his mortal remains will go from the institution which was the pride of his heart, (Converse College) to their resting place, amid the tears and heartaches of thousands”.

His funeral was conducted in the auditorium of Converse College with interment following in the Oakwood Cemetery in Spartanburg, S. C. An estimated 3000 persons gathered for the services.

Mr. Converse and his wife along with their daughter, Marie Converse Downes and their grand-daughter, Helen Converse Downes are all buried in the Converse Square in the Oakwood Cemetery in Spartanburg, S.C.  Birth and death dates along with other pertinent material in this article were taken from the monument by this writer. Date is cut on both sides as well as on front of monument.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to identify and confirm another plant Superintendent of Glendale Mills after Mr. Converse until Mr. Robert Fred Bagwell moved into the village to take the position. Mr. Bagwell was a native of Princeton, S.C. which is located in Laurens County. He was the son of Mr. W. H. and Jane McClary Bagwell. He married Sallie Elizabeth Pearman, the daughter of Mr. Weldon C. and Sallie Ann Rickets Pearman of Anderson County on December 17, 1902. Coming to Glendale from Ware Shoals, S. C. where he was connected with a textile mill, he became the Superintendent of Glendale Mills about 1920. He continued in that capacity until his untimely death on Wednesday, May 3, 1944 in the Spartanburg General Hospital. He had been ill several weeks. He was 62 years of age at the time of his death.

Mr. Bagwell had been a member of the Spartanburg County Board of Control since 1932 and was serving at the time of his death. He had been a member of the old County Highway Commission for six years before joining the Board of Control. He was a member of the Glendale Methodist Church and was serving as chairman of the Board of Stewards at the time of his death. He was also a member of the Woodman of the World. He and his family lived in the “Bivings/Converse House” which now belonged to the mill company and  was later to become known locally, as the “Super’s House”. Mr. Bagwell was well known throughout the county and was loved and deeply appreciated by all who knew him. He was a great asset to the county, Glendale community and its churches.

When Glendale Baptist Church started to make an addition to the building, a special service was held on Sunday evening to raise money for the project. After the Pastor had made some announcements regarding the building plans and proposing to take an offering towards the expenses, Mr. Bagwell unexpectedly, took the rostrum. He complimented the Church for their growth and plans to build. Then and there, unbeknown to anyone, he began to raise money for the program. Speaking to the congregation, he said, “Raise your hand if you will give twenty dollars with Fletcher Rogers and myself on the building expenses.” He had not mentioned his plans to Mr. Rodgers. He was as shocked as the congregation. After the show of a few hands, he then asked for a show of hands for ten dollars, then five dollars, then one dollar. Turning to the Preacher, he said, Preacher, “Send the ushers to get that money” and he sat down. He was indeed a jewel who loved his community and its churches. His family was the same and the community loved them.

His obituary published in the Spartanburg Herald May 14, 1944, page 8, stated that he was survived by his wife, three sons; Weldon W. of New Orleans, J. Leroy of Spartanburg and R. Fred Bagwell of somewhere in England, serving with the armed forces; three daughters; Mrs. Reba Bagwell Houser of Winston Salem, Misses Sibyl and Betty Bagwell of Glendale; three brothers; J.P. Bagwell of Greenville, W. H. Bagwell, Tampa, Fla. C. S. Bagwell of Buffalo, N.Y.; four sisters; Mrs. J. W. Mitchell of Greenville, Mrs. J. L. Warnock, Mrs. J. R. Simpson of Belton, S.C. and Mrs. Roy Gresham of Piedmont, S.C. He was also survived by seven grandchildren.

Funeral services were held at the Glendale Methodist Church on Friday May the 5th with interment following in the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.

Mr. Bagwell’s widow, Mrs. Sallie Pearman Bagwell was living at 1868 Hillview Street in Spartanburg at the time of her death, Thursday December 18,1969 following a long illness. She was 84 years old and was survived by her three daughters; Miss Sibyl Bagwell of the home, Mrs. Reba Bagwell Hauser of Winston Salem, N.C. and  Mrs. Norman Shuler of Alexander, Va. Sons; James Leroy and R. Fred, all of Spartanburg, S.C. Also one sister; Mrs. Eugene Parker of Anderson, S.C.  The funeral was held at the Glendale Methodist Church where she and her family had been a member for many years with interment being beside her husband at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens. Mrs. Bagwell was a dear Christian lady who was loved by all who knew her.

Mr. H. Bernard White was the son of J. K. and Donie Shackelford White and came to work at Glendale Mills in 1902. A picture in the Spartanburg “Textile Town” publication shows Mr. White as one of a team of nine fellow mill employees who helped lay the electric trolley track into the mill by which it received coal for the furnaces and bales of cotton for the mill production. He was made overseer of the weave room in 1918.

He and his family, for a number of years, lived in the large two story “Boss Weaver’s house” located in front of the elementary school. Continuing as “Boss Weaver” for some 24 years, he left Glendale in 1941 to become overseer of the weave room of Borden Mills in Kingsport, Tenn. He returned to Glendale Mills in 1942 taking the position of Superintendent following the untimely death of Mr. R. Fred Bagwell. Resigning his position at Glendale in 1949 he was employed with Moreland Chemical, Spartanburg, S.C. in 1950. Leaving Moreland Chemical, he was employed as Overseer at Arkwright Mill #2 in 1951.

Mr. White had married Winnie Hames, the daughter of William and Sallie Gilmer Hames of Glendale. They were the parents of three children, two daughters and one son; Mrs. G. B. Rothrock and Mrs. Clyde Hawkins, both of Spartanburg, S. C. and W. J. White of Calhoun Falls, S.C.

Mr. White was a member of the Glendale Methodist Church and the Glendale Masonic Lodge. He died unexpectedly in a Spartanburg Hospital on Sunday June 24, 1951. He was 58 years of age. His Funeral was held at Floyd’s Mortuary with interment following in the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens. He was living in the Camp Croft area at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife, two daughters and one son. Two sisters; Mrs. John Horton of Chesnee, Mrs. Fred Love of Welford. Five brothers; Boyce D. White of Glendale, A. V. White of Chesnee, W. Rush,  W. Ray and G. A. White all of Spartanburg, S.C. Also three grandchildren.

Mrs. Winnie Hames White died Wednesday June 9, 1965 in the Mary Black Hospital, Spartanburg, S.C. She was 70 years of age. Her funeral was held in the Glendale Methodist Church with interment following in the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens. She was a member of the Glendale Methodist Church and had served as President of the WSCS. She was survived by her two daughters and one son. Two sisters; Mrs. J. L. Murph of Glendale and Mrs. W. C. Thomas of Spartanburg, S.C.

Mr. Ed. Bagwell came to Glendale as Mill Superintendent in 1949 and left in 1952. About the only other tangible record I have of Mr. Ed. Bagwell is the picture above which I made of him as he left the mill coming to the office on one occasion. He was a congenial fellow and compatible with most workers. Personally, I enjoyed my association with him. Unfortunately, things just didn’t pan out for him at Glendale. He and his family lived in the Super’s house while at Glendale.    
Mr. J. B. Lanford, a native of Woodruff, the son of Mr. Fred and Dora Chastain Lanford, came to Glendale in 1948 as Overseer of the weave room and was promoted to Superintendent in 1952, working in that position until the mill was sold by merger with Indian Head Mills in 1957. Mr. Lanford came to Glendale from Clinton Mills, Clinton, S.C. He had previously worked at Mayfair Mills, Arcadia, S.C.. J. B. as he was known, married Christine Burch, a native of Greenville county, the daughter of Mr. Jack and Lily Arms Burch. J. B. and Christine had one daughter, Evelyn.

Coming to Glendale, they lived for a short while in a new house which had been built by the company on the Glendale/Clifton road. Next, they moved into  the large “Boss Weavers” house in front of the school and finally, after being promoted to mill Superintendent, they moved into the Super’s house in front of the mill. J. B. and his family were all faithful members of the Glendale Baptist Church while living in Glendale.

Mrs. Christine Burch Lanford proceeded her husband in death having  died Sunday, July 14,1991 in the Spartanburg Regional Hospital. She was 78 years of age and  was survived by her husband and their daughter, Mrs. John (Evelyn) Lanford Shehan. One brother; Edgar Burch of Plant City, Fla. and three sisters: Ruby Morgan of Spartanburg, Mafry Padgett of Campobello and Martha Grubbs of Roebuck. Her funeral was held at the Northview Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.  with interment in the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.

After leaving Glendale, J.B., as he was known, worked with the Andrews Bearings Company until his retirement and  was living at 137 Lanier Drive in Spartanburg when he died on April 17,1992. He was 79 years of age. He had moved his church membership to the Northview Baptist Church, Spartanburg where he had served as a Deacon. He was a member of the Montgomery Masonic Lodge. Mr. Lanford  was survived by his daughter, Mrs. Evelyn Lanford Shehan and several nieces and nephews. His funeral was held at Northview Baptist Church with interment following in the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.

Though William Fletcher Rogers was never Superintendent of Glendale Mills, his life and influence made such an impact in the mill and community, he could have very well been labeled, “the Assistant Super”. I feel that it is appropriate to include the story of his life as I knew him, along with the mill Superintendents.

“Mister” Rogers, as he was called by most mill workers and village residents, was the son of William Simpson and Mary Parham Rogers of the Walnut Grove area in Spartanburg county. The story is that at the age of ten, the family moved from their farm to Pacolet Mills, S.C. where Fletcher started working as a doffer in Pacolet Mills for fifteen cents a day. After proving himself as a good productive worker, his salary was raised to thirty cents a day.

Fletcher was promoted to “second hand” at the age of twenty. Moving to various mills, he worked as second hand, overseer and boss spinner in mills in North Carolina and Georgia before coming to Spartanburg. His first venture in Spartanburg was in the grocery business but it was not long before he was back into the textile business as a “Boss” spinner. “Mister” Rogers was 72 when he retired after a total of some 62 years in the textile industry, some 45 years as “Boss” spinner, 28 of those years being spent at Glendale Mills.

Mr. Roger had married Nannie Cothran and they lived in the original Twitchell house located on Main street in Glendale directly in front of the old mill across the street from the Super’s house. They were the proud parents of seven wonderful children. Each of the Roger children was mannerly, courteous and friendly and made their own mark in life.  Willie Mae was Teacher/Principal at Glendale Elementary school for some twenty Years. “Ducky”, being ordained became the Reverend William F. Rogers, a Methodist Preacher/Missionary. BoBo (BB) became a mill supervisor and invented, developed and patented a number of pieces of textile equipment. Johnny became an accountant in Spartanburg. Fletcher moved to Florida and I lost account of him. The Roger’s family was one of the most congenial, loving and caring families to be found anywhere.
In 1928 Mister Rodgers personally bought and operated the first school bus carrying high school students from Glendale to Spartanburg High. It was an old black bus built on a truck chassis. It had bench like seats with large glass windows that could be raised up like a house window for fresh air. The body had straight sides with a flat top. Nothing classic about it but it served it’s purpose well for some eight or ten years and the people appreciated “Mister” Rogers for his efforts to make going to high school just a little more convenient  for the Glendale students. I believe the fee for riding on the bus was about 25 cents per week. His son, Will, better known as “Ducky” was the first driver. L. Eston Crocker (my brother) and  John, (Johnny) Rogers followed “Ducky” as drivers.

Mrs. Nannie C. Rogers predeceased her husband having died in the Spartanburg General Hospital on Thursday September 21, 1941 following a brief illness. After having been a resident of Glendale for many years, she was living on the Country Club road at the time of her death. She had been a member of the Glendale Methodist Church for some 42 years. Her funeral was held at the Glendale Methodist Church on September 22 with interment following in the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Spartanburg, S.C. She was survived by two daughters; Mrs. F. D. Murray of Spartanburg, Lt. Commander Marriette Rogers, J.S.N. of  Oakland, Calif. Five sons; John B, Paul S. and Bobo Rogers of Spartanburg, F. J. Rogers of Gadsden, Ala. and Rev. W.F. Rogers, Missionary to Brazil. Three sisters and three brothers, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Mister Rogers died in October 1956. His funeral was held in the Glendale Methodist Church with interment in the Green lawn Memorial Gardens. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers  were dear friends of my family and parents, Albert and Ella Crocker.

Bivingsville Cotton Mills, and it’s successors, the D. E. Converse Co. and Glendale Mills, were for some 125 years, three of the finest textile mill companies one could ever hope to work for. Some of the finest men and women to be found anywhere, were among those workers.

Recently, Clarence Crocker has added information about other Glendale Mill Superintendents from earlier years. Read this at More Mill Superintendents.
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