Lonaconing Silk Mill history
"I told them then that it doesn’t look like they re going to give you any money, so if you strike, it will only be for yourself. I’m warning you. So, they went out and that was the end of it.”
— Wes Duckworth, mill superintendent
in New York to intercede on behalf of the workers. "I was superintendent and I went to New York because they ask me to go up." He contacted mill customers about a possible increase in the price of mill products. Customers not only rejected Wes Duckworth's request, but they countered by demanding a price cut. Wes Duckworth returned from New York without a resolution to the dispute. Soon after, a meeting was held in the upstairs section of the mill where workers continued to press for their demands. "I told them then that it doesn't look like they're going to give you any money, so if you strike, it will only be for yourself. I'm warning you. So, they went out and that was the end of it." A vote to strike was passed. Subsequent to that vote, the mill was closed by the company. On June 23, 1957, the last full payroll was made. At that time, 67 workers were listed on the company ledger. The pay for that two week period week ranged from $80.27 to $15.12. On June 30, only 6 workers remained; by July 7, only 5. A small staff of 4 employees remained working at the facility for several years after it formally ended production.
The silk mill's closing had an impact on the town of Lonaconing and contributed to the general economic decline that began earlier in the region. Once home to an opera house, two newspapers, hotels, banks, a glass factory, a theater, and a variety of stores, Lonaconing saw its economy collapse and its population decrease. A major reason for the economic depression was the end of deep mining along George's Creek. By 1957, when the mill closed, deep mining operations had also ceased.
Due to its relative remoteness and to the efforts of its current owners, Herbert Crawford and Joyce Growden, the mill property remains virtually untouched since 1957. It has become a time capsule to a more prosperous past. Lunch pails, umbrellas, shoes, books, powder boxes, aspirin, and various personal effects provide a testament to the workers who depended on the mill for a living.
The mill's future is uncertain at this time. Various plans have been offered to save the property and equipment, but to date no comprehensive rescue effort has been implemented and it remains closed to the general public. Ironically, the remoteness that saved the mill from destruction also hinders its marketability as a viable historical attraction.
Photographs Above: Herbert Crawford, current co-owner.
Below: Last letter from the General Textile Mills, Inc. Lonaconing, Md. plant.
Allegany High School, Oral history project
Allegany High School, Cumberland
28 cms x 22 cms
Anne Failing, Erin Degyansky, Chris Jewell, Amber Sallerson, Dan Whetzel and Mike Lewis
Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing, Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing Silk Mill; Silk mills, History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1907-1957