Julian’s Fulling Mill

Written By Mac Whatley


An advertisement in the Southern Citizen, published in Asheboro on December 9, 1837, announced that the Fulling Mill belonging to Howgill Julian was for sale.

The ad states that the mill was located “near the mouth of Polecat Creek, four miles above the Cedar Falls cotton factory.”

Between the time of Howgill Julian’s first purchase in 1830 (DB18:284) and his last purchase in 1861 (DB23:243), hundreds of acres of Deep River property passed through Julian’s ownership. Most of it appears to be located on the north side of the river between Polecat and Bush Creeks, and interestingly, adjoins the location of the Whetstone Quarry (I’m indebted to my fellow historian Warren Dixon for pointing out that the Whetstone Quarry is apparently located today somewhere on Randolph County tax parcel #7764893536, presently the site of the City of Randleman’s wastewater treatment plant).

Howgill Julian’s Fulling Mill was evidently located on a tract of 107 acres that Julian purchased from Tobias Julian on October 13, 1830. The tract description begins “on a Maple at the mouth of the Creek… then runs North and East to a branch, then “down the said branch to the mouth at the river… thence crossing sd. River… thence up sd. River on the W. bank… thence E. crossing sd. River to the Beginning.” So the fulling mill could have been located alternatively on Polecat Creek, Deep River or “the branch,” presumably Trogdon’s Branch which enters Deep River from the North opposite Worthville near the present-day bridge carrying NCSR 2122 across the river. At any rate, it was downstream of the Whetstone Quarry.

It may be that the sites of both the Whetstone Quarry and the Fulling Mill now lie under the waters of the Worthville Mill Pond, which impounds water just below the mouth of Polecat Creek.

The Worthville Mill Dam still stands just northwest of the site of the former bridge which carried NCSR 2128 across the river, just to the East of the Worthville cotton mill, originally known as the John M.Worth Manufacturing Company, and built in 1880. The mill at Worthville was built at a site know before the Civil War as “Hopper’s Ford” (See the entries at p. 128 of my survey book, entries R:48 and R:49).

A fulling mill was necessary to clean and thicken the weave of woolen cloth. Woolen cloth is a relative rarity in Randolph County today, but the presence of a woolen mill indicates that in the 19th century there were not only handweavers producing enough cloth that a mill could be profitable, but that farmers kept sufficient sheep to produce the wool needed to weave the cloth.  At a fulling mill, woolen cloth was washed in a nasty-smelling combination of boiling urine and fuller’s earth, to remove the natural grease from the wool; then the cloth was beaten in troughs by wooden hammers lifted and dropped by a water wheel.

This may be the only Randolph County fulling mill.