MAJESTIC MANUFACTURING COMPANY was the third spinning mill built in Belmont by R. L. Stowe, S.-P. Stowe and A. C. Lineberger. It was incorporated September 27, 1907, by Stowe Brothers 250 shares, A. C. Lineberger 250 shares, T. W. Springs 300 shares, W. B. Puett 150 shares and F. P. Hall 100 shares, who subscribed $105,000 of the authorized $200,000 in capital stock at the time of charter. Abel C. Lineberger was elected the first president of the company and was in charge of overall manufacturing as he had been in the first two mills. Samuel P. "Pinck" Stowe was placed in charge of this mill as secretary, treasurer and buyer. It represented his initial entrance into the manufacturing partnership on an active basis, having previously been in charge of Stowe Brothers Mercantile Company. C. E. Bean became the Majestic's first superintendent.
The stock was offered widely in the Belmont community, and 47 individuals signed up for shares, representing investments ranging from as little as one hundred dollars in some instances to many thousands of dollars in others. Hardly had the canvassing for stock subscriptions been well underway before the 1907 panic began to severely restrict money for investment, so that some of those who had subscribed for stock were unable to meet their assessments. And before the mill began operations, there had been considerable stock swapping, and several new stockholders from outside Belmont emerged as owners. The venture then moved forward to completion.
The Majestic factory caused a great amount of interest and excitement as it began to rise on what had been a poor red dirt farm a short distance east of town. The town's population had grown from 145 in 1900 to nearly 700, and its citizens were aware that their third cotton mill would draw yet more new people to the area. The mill was a modern one-story brick structure, 125 x 340 feet in size. Stuart W. Cramer of Charlotte was hired as the architect-engineer in charge, and as agent for the Whitin Machine Works, the machinery was purchased from that company. A. K. Loftin of Lincolnton, N.C., was awarded the construction contract. The plant with its 10,944 spindles was in production by November 1, 1908.
There was a significant difference in the yarn manufactured by the Majestic compared to the yarn produced at the Chronicle and Imperial. It was to make a much finer combed yarn using long-staple Egyptian and Sea Island cotton in numbers ranging from 80s to 120s. Industry sources say that it was the first mill in the Southeast to produce ladies' lisle hosiery yarns. It had become evident by this time that the trend set by a Gastonia mill in 1900 which installed combing equipment to produce the finer quality yarns was now the policy of Southern spinning mills. A village of 60 one-story frame houses was built near the mill to house many of the 160 workers required to operate the machinery and produce the yarn.
Pinck Stowe proved to be as good a manager as his older brother Bob or Abel Lineberger. The Majestic earned handsome profits in the early days, particularly during the boom years of the First World War. Investors from Gastonia, Charlotte, Mount Holly and other places also participated in the rising success of this mill in addition to those from Belmont, and several families attributed their financial independence to it. The dividends it paid found their way into the local economy and into investments in new mills as well.
There were 12,768 spindles in place by 1914, and the Majestic Manufacturing Company in 1921 authorized capital stock was increased to $250,000. Abel Lineberger continued as president, Samuel Stowe, secretary and treasurer, and A. J. Mauney was the superintendent. Directors were A. C. Lineberger, S. P. Stowe, R. L. Stowe and W. B. Puett of Belmont, D. E. Rhyne of Lincolnton and G. W. Ragan of Gastonia. * The product continued to be fine combed yarn No. 50s to 100s, made from long-staple Sea Island and Egyptian cotton, and the company had created an excellent reputation in national markets for quality products.
In early 1920 there were approximately 2,000 shares of Majestic Manufacturing Company stock outstanding, held by 25 to 40 stockholders. The largest were A. C. Lineberger with 460 shares, D. E. Rhyne 285 shares.iS. P. Stowe 188 shares, R. L. Stowe 138 shares, W. B. Puett 100 shares and G. W. Ragan 100 shares, representing 63.5 percent of the company. On April 22, 1920, the authorized capital stock was once again raised, this time to $400,000, probably for the purpose of a 100 percent stock dividend. The same officers, superintendent and board of directors were in place, and the spindleage remained at 12,768.
| || |
Robert Davidson "Dave" Hall (1898-1972) joined S. P. Stowe in the offices of the Majestic Manufacturing Company and Climax Spinning Company immediately upon his graduation from Davidson College in 1919. The Belmont native was to become Stowe's trusted right-hand man and would play a pivotal role in the S. P. Stowe-managed mills for 53 years. He was elected assistant secretary treasurer of the Majestic in 1936. B. T. Bumgardner was superintendent during 1918 to 1919 and C. L. Bumgardner from 1919 to 1938. The company operated successfully during the Great Depression of the 1930s and spun fine yarns day and night during the years of World War II and immediately afterwards. Meanwhile, Joseph W. Lineberger, son of the Majestic's president, became superintendent in 1937 and remained in that position until 1955, when he advanced to greater responsibilities in the Lineberger-managed mills. Continued modernization of plant and equipment kept the mill competitive into the 1950s and 1960s. Upon the death of A. C. Lineberger in 1947, S. P. Stowe became president and R. Dave Hall was elected secretary and treasurer and also became general manager.
S. Pinckney Stowe, Jr., a Davidson and North Carolina State College graduate, joined the firm in 1939 and assisted his father and Dave Hall in various management duties. When the elder Stowe died in 1956, he was succeeded as president by his 90-year-old brother Robert, and upon his death in 1963, S. Pinckney Stowe, Jr., became the new president, Joseph W. Lineberger, vice president of manufacturing, R. Dave Hall, secretary, treasurer and general manager, and Ike E. Howe, assistant secretary-treasurer. J. D. Lingerfelt was the superintendent. The capital stock account stood at $400,000, and there was a large surplus account reflecting years of profitable earnings. There were 17,196 spindles producing combed Sel Pima and combed Peeler, polyester, and polyester/cotton yarns No. 40s to 100s, single and ply.
Upon the death of Dave Hall in 1972, the mills in the S. P. Stowe group, namely Majestic Manufacturing Company, Climax Spinning Company, Stowe Thread Company and Belmont Hosiery Mills, merged into a new holding company known as Belmont Heritage Corporation. It was owned by the combined stockholders of the four companies. The holding company had a capital and surplus of several million dollars, operated approximately 52,000 spindles, and had 1,000 employees. The merger was entered into for the purpose of efficiency and better control of the various operations. The officers of Belmont Heritage Corporation became S. Pinckney Stowe, Jr., president and CEO, Charles T. Stowe, Jr., vice president of hosiery, Clyde W. Cox, executive vice president of yarn and superintendent, Clyde J. Dietz, senior vice president, Maion R. Smith, vice president and treasurer, J. C. Owens, vice president of fibers, T. A. Weaver, vice president of hosiery sales, and Gordon M. Gatlin, vice president of yarn manufacturing. Directors were S. P. Stowe, Jr., C. T. Stowe, Jr., C. W. Cox, C. J. Dietz, M. R. Smith, H. A. Lineberger, R. L. Stowe, Jr., G. W. Stowe, Jr. and R. D. Hall, Jr.
Most of the Majestic village houses along Central A venue and Fifth Street, already in disrepair, were torn down in 1976, having become too expensive for the company to maintain. Mill houses, which were an advantage during the early years of the 20th century to workers who had no automobiles, had become an unneeded expense, and villages were gradually sold off after the 1950s by most mills. The surviving houses were sold to individual owners who usually took pride in maintaining them in good repair.
Belmont Heritage was only marginally profitable during its existence, and by the mid-1980s it was suffering large losses which were continually draining its once strong capital position. Production had dropped and its employment was down to only 450 workers due to competition from more aggressive foreign and domestic firms. Management then began seeking a buyer capable of spending the funds necessary to modernize the plants and make them competitive in a new era of American textiles.
In 1989 Parkdale Mills, Inc. of Gastonia purchased the three spinning plants of Belmont Heritage Corporation in a cash transaction which increased its already sizeable share of the combed cotton sales yarn market. Those mills now operate as plants in the Parkdale organization and have been significantly modernized and re-equipped with the latest state-of-the-art machinery. The Majestic plant, located at 406 Catawba Street, was sold to R. L. Stowe Mills in the 1990s.
Ragan, Robert Allison, The Textile Heritage of Gaston County North Carolina 1848-2000 . Charlotte: R.A. Ragan & Co., 2001.