Woolen manufacturing was among the earliest and longest lasting businesses in Spartansburg. As early as 1837, nearly 20 years before the borough was incorporated, McWilliams and Emerson developed a carding and fulling mill south of what would become the center of town. The business was at the end of what is now Mechanic Street and approximately where a lumber company is now (2021)
In 1849, McWilliams sold his portion of the business to Mr. Lamb whose family later became sole owners and he made it into a Woolen Mill. The original mill building was maintained as a storage facility and a new 2 story factory was completed in 1862. Lamb encouraged local farmers to raise sheep and throughout his ownership, always offered the best pricing for the high quality wool he accepted.
An article printed in 1874 describes the machinery being used at that time to make the 100% pure wool thread and cloth produced by the Lamb Mills. The mill employed about 12 people at that time. It is described as follows:
*A one-set mill run by an iron turbine water wheel
*2 wool pickers *4 carding machines
carding machine video
*1 spinning jack with 200 spindles *4 looms
*1 warping/dressing machine
*series of finishing machines
In 1880 and 1882, the mill was described in additional articles about manufacturing in the area. Expansion of the mill resulted in Lamb’s being the 2nd largest producer of wool batting in Pennsylvania. Other products included yarn, flannel and wool cloth, and later, cashmere. Major Lamb purchased about 30,000 pounds of wool annually. About 1/2 of that wool was cleaned and resold to manufacturers in the East. 10,000 pounds was made into manufactured goods that were sold throughout the county, and wider markets. 5,000 pounds was carded onto rolls.
The mill (built in 1862) was described as being a two-story 32’x80′ building. The first floor held 5 looms which ran constantly between April 1 and January 1 and employed 6-10 people. The second floor was for drying and sorting and additional folks worked there. The mill shut down in the winter months due to a scarcity of water to run the water wheel.
Farmers in the area made Spartansburg a jumping place when shearing was completed and they brought their wool to Lambs. While he offered the best prices for the wool, often the farmers preferred to barter for cloth and other products. One town merchant shared that a large portion of their revenue came to them when the farmers were in town to bring their wool to Lambs.
Harvey “Major” Lamb built a home near the mill on Mechanic Street. Besides being a residence, it was also used as an American Legion home in the 1940’s and 50’s. This home is featured here.
Lamb advertised the mill for sale in the Fibre and Fabric magazine in 1895.
From Lambs to Taubers
In 1898, the mill was purchased by Martin Tauber from Maryland. He only owned the business for 7 months before his death. John and Charles Tauber (brothers) took over the mill and continued it under the Tauber name. While John only remained with the firm for a short time, an invention of his spurred the development a new technique that further enhanced the quality products made there. The main selling item became the “luxury” comfort (comforter). This became a trademark item for the company and was sold throughout the US and overseas.
During their ownership, a 3 story factory was added and machinery was consistently updated. They added machines to work with cotton as well as wool so to further enhance their product line.
After John Tauber left the firm, nephews of Charles, Earl Tauber and Walter Pfeiffer joined Charles in management in 1921. The three men managed and advertised, traveling to acquaint new markets with their goods. Orders continued to grow and the company was a large and important part of Spartansburg’s economy. They employed about 35 people.
The curse of Spartansburg visits the Mill
Then, in 1928, a fate that had visited Spartansburg’s downtown 3 times, found its way to the mill…Fire…At about 9:30 AM, Lawrence Snapp was operating the “Picker” on an upper floor of the factory. In an article about the fire, this process of “picking” was described: “picks to pieces the bales of cotton and wool” This was a cleaning and preparatory operation that filled the area with lint and particles that resembled a snowstorm. While Mr. Snapp was running the machine, apparently a spark was produced that connected with the floating debris. Smoke was immediate and heavy and Mr. Snapp fell to his knees and crawled from the area. Smoke and flame followed and moved to other floors of the factory.
An alarm was sounded from the Supplee-Wills-Jones Milk Plant up the creek from the mill. Even though chemicals for fighting the fire were quickly brought to the plant, it only took about an hour for the three story factory walls to collapse and be totally destroyed. Books and orders were able to be saved, but none of the machinery, including a recently purchased quilter ($3000) were saved. No fatal injuries were incurred and the metal-roofed and sided storage buildings were preserved.
Charles Tauber, the principal owner of the mill had been away in Hawaii and was thought to be back in California at the time of the fire. It took several days to reach him, and then additional travel time for his return to Spartansburg. Until his return it was unclear (and of great concern to the community) whether the factory would be rebuilt. Some older machines were housed in the warehouses and they were called back into service for some production.
The mill continued to operate. A store on Main Street was procured to serve as offices and a showroom. The building was a store purchased from Gustave Schmeltzer who was a longtime shoe and boot maker and merchant. He had built the brick 2 story building after the 1905 fires. The same building later was purchased and used by the Gospel Tabernacle.
After 1928, changes, growth and finally decline
Walter Pfeiffer made business connections as he traveled to find new markets for the mill. One of the contacts he made was a man named Oscar Most who had a tannery in Cleveland. Mr. Most brought the Osmo Manufacturing Company to Spartansburg and began business near Tauber Mills on the site of the burned factory in 1933. More about Mr. Most’s business will be included on this site.
The mill changed hands again in 1952, being purchased by RR Weller and Donahey from Tionesta. They expanded the sale of the “luxury comforts” into more countries. They also added equipment that could re-purpose old wool clothing and other articles to make the down comforters. It was advertised as the only place in the state where this could be done.
In 1960, Oscar Most of the Osmo Manufacturing Company purchased the woolen company. Later, the tannery and woolen company’s management was taken over by outside individuals, with Walter Pfeiffer acting in an advisory and supervisory capacity for the mill. 1960 Article: Expansion Plan
Advertisements for products from the mill are seen as recently as 1978. An exact closing date for the business is not currently known. The property fell into unpaid taxes and when purchased, the land and remaining equipment was demolished to accommodate new industry.
Regardless of the end of the woolen mill story, longevity of 140 plus years of producing quality products that are still held in high regard by those fortunate enough to own them is remarkable. If you worked at the mill, or have stories from others who did, please consider contacting firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared.