The May 8, 1950 issue of the Bonham Daily Favorite celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Bonham Cotton Mill and contained a number of articles and photos about the Mill. One of the articles is transcribed below.
Cotton Mill was Founded in 1900 by Enterprising Bonham Citizens
Production Has Been Boosted by New Equipment
The Bonham Cotton Mill is 50 years old this month. It has survived wars, hard times and short cotton crops to become Bonham's largest single manufacturing plant.
Back in 1900 when 192 Bonham citizens purchased stock in the infant company, it was small and one of the few west of the Mississippi. Today, the plant is the second largest cotton mill in Texas and the largest of its particular type west of the Mississippi.
When the Mill first began operating in 1900 with John C. Sunders, one of Bonham's pioneer industrialists, as manager, there were 5,000 spindles and 150 looms. Today there are 17,500 spindles and 426 looms operating on a 24 hour schedule to keep pace with the demand for the Mill's products.
Mr. Saunders,when he was selected as manager of the Mill in 1900, had no previous experience in that type of work but made a special trip east to visit mills in that area and learn more of their operation so that he could efficiently direct the work of the local plant.
The Mill had its ups and downs during the passing years and there were some years when the payments of dividends was skipped as the profits were plowed back into the mill in improved machinery and more space.
In 1920, acting for the stockholders of the Mill, Mr. Saunders wold the plant to a New York syndicate for just give times the original amount invested by Bonham citizens. The syndicate purchased the Mill on the condition that Mr. Saunders would remain as manager - which he did.
In 1930, the New York group went bankrupt during the depression and the mill was closed. Mr. Saunders and local citizens, learning that it could be purchased at a great discount, immediately launched a campaign for capital to reopen the plant. Sufficient funds were secured locally and . . . was used to purchase the mill and reopen it. . . opened and has been a going concern since that time.
Mr. Saunders served as manager until his death when he was succeeded by H. A. Burow, the present plant manager.
During World War II, the plant was kept busy with war contracts, operating 24 hours per day and seven days per week to keep up with the demand for cotton goods.
A complete modernization program was completed in 1949 when high speed and more efficient looms and spindles were put in. This equipment had been ordered in 1947 but due to the fact that practically every mill in the country was also remodelling and replacing equipment that had been worn out during the war years, it was two years before delivery could be made on the new machinery.
"During the war, you just patched up the old machines and kept going", Mr. Burow said. "There was no getting new equipment to replace that worn out."
The plant is now air conditioned - one of the modernization jobs completed in 1949.
It has long since converted to electricity as a means of power. In the beginning, coal and water pwoer were used to turn the wheels of the Mill. The old dam on Powder Creek can still be seen, but it was torn out many years ago when the Mill ceased the use of additional water power.
A plant-wide sprinkler system offers protection against fire and in addition there are hose connections scattered through the building and over the grounds to give extra protection.
The Mill is classified as one of the most modern cotton mills in the country following its 1949 program of modernization, Mr. Burrow said.
He pointed out that some additional new equipment was being considered and would be installed.
In 1900, nine Bonham businessmen formed a corporation to construct and operate a cotton mill near this site. The town's presence on the northern edge of the blackland prairie made it an ideal location for textile manufacturing, since cotton was one of the area's principal crops.
The Bonham Cotton Mill, which opened in 1901, was the town's first significant industrial plant. The corporation constructed a series of company homes and provided free day care for children of employees.
In 1920, the company merged with Consolidated Textile Corporation, which was based on the east coast. Management of the mill remained in the hands of John C. Saunders until his death in 1934. The Bonham Cotton Mill closed in 1930 with the onset of the great depression. In 1931, Bonham businessmen rechartered it as a Texas corporation.
After reaching its peak of production during the 1940s, the cotton mill declined in the post-World War II years. The plant merged with the Breham Cotton Mill in 1958 but closed eventually in the 1970s. As Bonham's principal employer for many years of the 20th century, the cotton mill had a major impact of the city's social and economic history.
Location: 1 Main Street, Bonham.
Postcard provided by Dwight Jones.
The following article from the January 14, 1986 Bonham Daily Favorite discusses the free kindergarten associated with the Bonham Cotton Mill.
In the spring of 1907, Mrs. Ernest F. White, wife of an original stockholder in Bonham Cotton Mills, and Mrs. P. B. Weaks enlisted the cooperation of parents in the mill village for a free kindergarten. They secured one room of a residence on South Fifth Street and engaged the services of Miss Katherine Phillips, assisted by Lavinna Cecil, for the first term. Twelve children were enrolled.
By the beginning of the fall term, John c. Saunders, acting on behalf of the mill corporation, had the building constructed at South Fifth and Bill Streets that was permanent quarters up to 1957 when the kindergarten closed. Miss Katherine Phillips continued as teacher for more than 43 years, and her assistants in time numbered some of the best educated musicians in Bonham.
Mrs. White and Mrs. Weaks had the support of the First Methodist Church in starting the kindergarten. mrs. White served as first president of the Board of Directors, and she continued to serve on the Board for a number of years. Others who served on the Board included Mrs. John C. Sunders, wife of the mill manager, and Mrs. C. H. VanZandt, their daughter. Mrs. Ben Johnson, society editor for Bonham Daily Favorite, also served.
In later years, the Community Chest budgeted funds for the kindergarten. However, Miss Phillips was quoted in a 1950 newspaper story as having said that "the management and employees of Bonham Cotton Mills have been among our best friends through the years."
By 1950, the number of children who had attended Free Kindergarten exceeded 2000.