A History of Haw River, North Carolina

Haw River c.1909

In 1745, Adam Trollinger established a homestead on the banks of the Haw River in what is today Alamance County, North Carolina (Edgecombe County at the time, to become Granville County in 1746, and then Orange County in 1752). From that beginning, the community of Haw River was developed. Trollinger was a native of the Rhine River valley in Germany and had lived in Pennsylvania before heading south to seek a new life. His settlement was very near the site of an earlier Sissipahaw Indian Village. Trollinger chose the spot because it had an easy crossing while nearby the river moved with enough power to drive a mill wheel.

In 1748, Adam's son, Jacob, built a grist mill, one of the first industries in the wilderness area. A village known as Trollinger's Ford grew up around the mill. The British Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis passed nearby in 1781, during the Revolutionary War. His foraging soldiers raided Trollinger's mill and confiscated the miller's grain. When Jacob confronted the redcoats, they bound him to a tree with a bridle bit in his mouth. Upon his release, Trollinger sent two of his sons and a slave to help fight the British.

Soon after the American Revolution the burgeoning small village of Trollinger's Ford began to be called Haw River and it began to appear on many North Carolina maps of the 1780s and 1790s. It is not known exactly when this name was first used officially, but it is generally accepted that the burg of Haw River began around 1785. Very little information between 1785 and the mid-1800s is currently available.

Benjamin Trollinger built the first part of Granite Mill in 1844, marking the beginning of the textile industry in the village. It is the only antebellum mill building in Alamance County still in use. Since that time, the development of the town has been inextricably linked to events at the mill. In 1849, the North Carolina Railroad was chartered and Benjamin Trollinger secured its passage through the town by building a railroad bridge over the river at his own expense. The town became known as Haw River Depot. Benjamin Trollinger also was instrumental in locating the railroad repair station at the hamlet of Company Shops a few miles west, which ultimately became the town of Burlington.

Haw River developed as a typical mill village in which the mill owned the homes of the millworkers and operated the company store. Many people moved from family farms to the community around the mill. Day-to-day life centered around sections within the town like Red Slide, Pine Knot, Sugar Hill, and Johnson City.

In 1928, the cotton factories in Haw River were acquired by Proximity Manufacturing, which later became Cone Mills Corporation. When corduroy became popular, the company decided to produce the cloth in Haw River. The plants south of Main Street were renamed Tabardrey and were equipped with new machinery to produce corduroy. The mills north of the highway became Granite Finishing for the finishing of the cloth. Corduroy production began on May 1, 1930, and Granite was shipping finished goods by June of the same year.

Haw River thrived in the years following World War II. Businesses flourished on Main Street in the 1950s and the Cone plants became the largest producers of corduroy in the world, employing over 1,000 people in 1981.

William Kerr Scott served as governor of North Carolina from 1949 to 1953. From 1969 to 1973, his son, Robert Walker Scott, held the same office. Both men had Haw River addresses so that the only three governors from Alamance County are claimed by Haw River.

Haw River was officially incorporated on June 1, 1973. The Haw River Municipal building was dedicated on Sunday, July 18, 1976 as part of the nation's Bicentennial. The Haw River Municipal Park was opened on August 7, 1981.


Haw River was granted its Post Office on November 16, 1855 and has been in operation ever since. The first US Postmaster was Daniel A. Montgomery.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved