Welcome back to week 3 of Field Trip Friday! This week's topic is the Springs Legacy with the Fort Mill History Museum. You'll learn about Fort Mill's textile industry past and one person in particular who influenced the industry.
Special thanks to the Fort Mill History Museum and David Ward, Jr. for teaching us today!
There's hardly a place in Fort Mill that you can go without being reminded of the Springs Legacy. Whether it's Kingsley Town Center with its street names and murals or Baxter Village with its Springmaid Park banners. Today we'll be looking at one of the main men behind the Springs Legacy - Elliott White Springs, who some know simply as "the Colonel."
So why is this man so important? Well, for starters, he lived a very interesting life. He lived from the late 1890s to the 1950s and was considered to be "ahead of his time" in a lot of aspects of his life. He was a big fan of travel and adventure and even wrote several books about it. In addition, he was the fifth-ranking American ace of World War I and returned to military service in 1941 during World War II and retired as a lieutenant colonel which earned him the nickname "Colonel" that we mentioned earlier. Outside of all this, he was also a major influence in the textile industry, specifically in Fort Mill.
He was not originally interested in working in the textile mills that his father and grandfather started way back in the day. But when his father died in 1931, he ended up taking over the mills in Lancaster, Kershaw, and Chester counties, and of course Fort Mill as well.
What was happening during 1931 in America? You may have heard of a time called the Great Depression. During this time, a lot of businesses were closing, and a lot of people lost their jobs. But what was so great about Elliott White Springs is that he was doing the exact opposite - he continued textile manufacturing during this time and didn't have to lay off a single worker. During this time, he also started warehousing or storing mass amounts, of all the cotton from his mills. This proved to be beneficial when World War II broke out because he now had all this product that he could sell for soldier uniforms and materials during the war. He was popular among his employees, because to him they were not just employees. His motto was said to be "treat your workers right" - and because of this, he never had to worry about his workers forming a union against him.
His manufacturing business was such a success that the Springmaid Fabrics brand became well known across the country. It's even rumored that his brand was so prominent that if you had bedsheets in the 1950s-1960s in America, that they came from one of his five mills! Just ask your parents or grandparents if they've heard of Springmaid Fabrics, we bet they have!
Due to his major success and influence on the textile industry, some consider him to be one of the "patriarchs of Fort Mill" - because of who he was and the family he came from. Between him, his father, and his grandfather, the three men essentially built the basis of Fort Mill. He truly impacted the industry during a time of transition.
What are some places you might recognize today with connections to the Springs family? Check out his executive office near Walter Elisha
Park - it's the one shaped like an airplane, eluding to his pilot past. You also might not be surprised to find out that the "Springs" in the Anne Springs Close Greenway is from the same family - Anne Springs Close is his daughter! Just as the operating mills during the textile boom were named after family members, today there are commercial and shopping centers continuing with family ties such as Baxter Village and Kingsley Town Center which we mentioned earlier.
The main takeaway of this lesson:
So why should kids today still care about the Colonel? They should know about him and his legacy because he made decisions that were for the good of the greater people - not just himself. He never looked at solely profit, and he always took what he could and gave back to the community. He's a great example of a business person making the world a better place to live, work, and play.
People who live in Fort Mill should know about his legacy because a lot of people who knew him in person are older or have passed away, so it’s important to keep that history alive, particularly for people who aren't from here.