Indian Head Mills in Cordova
by Ruth Baker
Jul 31, 2011 | 3285 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
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Since the recent storm and damage done to Cordova, I wish to draw attention to the strength of a town and some of the history and the brave people who pick up the pieces and keep faith and togetherness.

The Nashua Company who built the Indian Head Mills in Cordova left a mark forever on the town. The work began with ground-breaking in 1896. The first cotton was put into the Mill on Jan. 24, 1898. Many things happened before this took place. I will go back to the parent company in Nashua, New Hampshire and the choice of the location as well as the name given the mill.

Nashua was an early textile company in New Hampshire. The Indians were still around and the story is told that there were many battles with the Indians as the people moved into the area and started towns and communities. The ending of one story is that a battle resulted in the loss of all life in the Indian group except one. In defiance he carved an Indian head on a tree as a taunt and a threat of vengeance.

When the Nashua Mfg. Company began its operation in the young town about a hundred years later, the Indian story was still being retold. The company decided to use the name “Indian Head” on one of their new products. It was in the year 1831, that Nashua created new sheeting which was destined to be known to the far ends of the world as a fabric of merit. At first it was called “Jackson” for one of its founders, but most people thought it was named for Andrew Jackson and so Nashua decided to change the name. Thus Indian Head was born and the fabric to bear the name continued for many years.

It has been attributed to the far sightedness of Captain B.M. Long, and through his efforts that Eastern capital was induced to build the Indian Head Mills of Alabama at Cordova. These capitalists had been textile manufacturers in the East for many years. They saw the advantages of having a mill in the South near the cotton fields and coal mines.

The first cloth was taken from the loom on February 8, 1898. The mill had been built and equipped to make sheeting for the China trade. However, that trade soon ended and the mill changed to domestic sheeting, drills, and flannels. The sheetings, which carry the name “Indian Head,” Were grey and also bleached, dyed and printed. The grey sheetings is said to have been used by housewives in every civilized country. The drill fabric was used principally for shoe linings. Flannels went to China for years to make into clothes, but in this country it was used to make gloves with fleeced linings.

The mill operated 28,112 spindles, 880 looms, and consumed 20,000 bales of cotton, and employed early on about 800 people.

The water supply, which is one of the most important features to be considered for a mill, was taken from the Warrior River, pumped one and one quarter miles from the reservoir which had a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons. The drinking water was taken from the same source but handled a different way. It was filtered and treated with Chlorine gas to make it perfectly pure. Each week a sample of drinking water was taken from several sources throughout the mill and village, and sent to the State Laboratory for testing.

The health of the village was in charge of a trained nurse, who made a visit to each home once a month. A day nursery kept open house the year round, and took charge of 40-60 children from three months to school age. A capable matron was in charge with several helpers. A kindergarten school was run nine months, having classes of about 40 children. A free library was set up for the children. The Indian Head School building of ten rooms was used by the town children as well as the mill children. The grades were first through fifth. It was owned by the mill but supervised by the Walker County Board of Education.

The mill also ran a hotel for its employees. The building was steam heated, equipped with shower baths, and automatic sprinklers for fire protection. Bands, movies, clubs, and several other forms of amusement were encouraged and paid for by the mill. Each Christmas, a present was given to each child.

The cotton used in the mill was bought locally as long as possible, but some grades were not grown in Alabama. The mill owned its own coal mine and operated by steam. One hundred thirty tenement houses were built for employees. They had running water, bats and electric lights. Rental was $2.00 per room per month. Coal was delivered to the door at company cost. Every effort was made by the company to make life as good as they could for the period of history.