January & Wood
A look back at January and Wood, Inc. – Maysville Cotton Mills
The process of tearing down the former January and Wood Company, Inc. — the Maysville cotton mill on West Second Street has been in the works for about two years and there is little that remains of what was Kentucky’s oldest family-owned business.
When the mill closed in 2004, 170 years after its beginnings in 1834, there were approximately 45 people employed at the mill, which at one time employed as many as 500 people.
Once the remnants of the mill are hauled away and the ground leveled for development by the current owners, future generations will not have a tangible symbol of what this company meant to Maysville during its reign as a leading producer of carpet warp, rug yarns, cotton twine, twisted cord and tent rope.
Unraveling the history of such an institution is challenging, but due to the foresight of the company’s owners and management, a record remains of when the mill began operation and its history throughout the years.
Belinda Adair Breslin is a seventh generation descendant of the January/Cochran family which started January and Wood and maintained a controlling interest in the corporation until its closing. Belinda and her brothers, William C. Adair Jr. and Clifford “Kip” Adair, have become keepers of the mills’ history by preserving important documents and photographs.
The following history of January and Wood Incorporated was provided by Belinda and gives a glimpse of the family that built the business and the products which were used around the world. The 1930’s publication “The Spirit of a Greater Maysville and Mason County,” was also used to gather historical data about January and Wood, Inc.
January and Wood Time line
• 1834 — William Shotwell builds the cotton mill
• 1838 — William Gosling purchases the mill
• 1844 — Richard Henry Lee purchases the mill
• 1844 — Lee builds a four-story building fronting Second Street, next to the original building.
• 1848 — Andrew M. January, Christian Schultz, Thomas Mannen and William Stillwell purchase the cotton mill; Stillwell sold his interest in 1849 to Henry Cutter.
• 1851 — Andrew January and Benjamin W. Wood purchase the interests of Schultz, Mannen and Cutter and form a 50-50 percent partnership under the name January and Wood.
• 1877 — Andrew M. January dies in June, interests of other January heirs are purchased by A. January Grundy and Andrew’s daughter, Harriet January Cochran, who married Robert A. Cochran. B.W. Wood was elected president and Robert Cochran became secretary and active manager of the mills.
• 1888 — The business is incorporated as the January and Wood Company Incorporated, with a capital stock of $200,000. B.W. Wood served as president; Robert A. Cochran served as secretary and manager until his death in January, 1896.
• 1896 — Harriet January Cochran and her sons purchase B.W. Wood’s interest in August. A.M.J. Cochran served as president, Robert Cochran Jr., served as secretary until his retirement in 1926.
• 1926 — Company officers are A.M.J. Cochran, president; Robert N. Adair, vice president and Robert A. Cochran, III, secretary. Robert Adair married Zorayda Young Cochran.
• 1934 — Company officers are Robert N. Adair, president and Robert A. Cochran III, secretary and treasurer: both men retired in 1965.
• 1965 — Company officers are William C. Adair, president and John M. Cochran, secretary and treasurer. William Adair held the position of president until his death in 2001; John Cochran left the family business by the late 1970s.
• 2001 — Company officers are William C. Adair Jr., president and Clifford “Kip” Adair, vice president.
• 2004 — January and Wood Inc., Maysville Cotton Mills ceases operation.
Tidbits & Trivia of J&W History
— J&W was known for its high grade cordage, twines, and carpet warp, known as Maysville Carpet Warp. The “Maysville” brand of carpet warp, rug yarns and rug filler were purchased across the country through wholesalers, independently owned “variety and department stores” and mail-order distribution.
According to a letter written in 1954 by J&W President Robert N. Adair to the management of Sears Roebuck and Company, “About 1915, Sears first listed Maysville Carpet Warp and Rug Filler in their catalog in the Domestics Department, and they were the first large retail firm to offer carpet warp direct to the weaver in one step from the manufacturer. This catalog listing was an immediate success. About the middle of the 1920s, when Sears’ retail stores were first opened, distribution to an even greater number of customers was put into effect, with Sears’ sales continuing to increase steadily year after year.”
• The mill was in operation through the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Iraqi War, plus other military conflicts.
• Andrew Jackson was president of the United States when the mills began operation in 1834; George W. Bush was president when the mills ceased operation.
• During the depression, J&W begins publication of The Shuttle, a subscription newsletter sent to rug weavers who used Maysville Warp. The publication included projects, pictures and letters from readers detailing their experiences in selling and weaving. The Shuttle was in existence until 1965.
According to the publication Rag Rug Handbook by Janet Meany and Paula Pfaff, “no discussion of rag rug weaving, supplies and equipment would be complete without mentioning the January and Wood Company, Inc. “
• In 1957 Jean E. Adair, wife of J&W President William C. Adair, started Edgemont Yarn Service. Jean Adair designed crochet, knitting and weaving patterns for J&W and was also in charge of publishing The Shuttle from 1957-1965. Belinda Adair became manager of Edgemont Yarn Service in 1980 until it ceased operations.
• Cotton was brought to Maysville by steamboat from Memphis and New Orleans before the coming of the railroad.
• The Maysville Cotton Mills have been in continuous operation since the first building was erected about 1834 with the exception of several months during the Civil War, when due to the inability to secure cotton, the mill closed from November, 1861 to March, 1862. J&W was one of only a few cotton mills in the country that continued operations throughout the Civil War and at times paid as much at $1.75 a pound for cotton.
• J&W maintained continuous operation throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s.
• A fire in May, 1915 destroyed a cotton shed and an “iron clad” building adjoining the mill on the north side; 400 bales of cotton were consumed in the fire.
• In 1918, new electric motors were installed at the mills’ power house, which provided electricity for the mill. The Maysville Gas and Electric Company operated the power house.
• During the 1930s, J&W’s annual payroll was approximately $150,000 and 5,000 bales of cotton were consumed per year, weighing around 2.5 million pounds and producing in excess of two million pounds of finished products.
• When the US Postal Service banned the use of string on packages and butchers stopped using string to wrap packages, because of the invention of scotch tape, the loss of product sales impacted businesses like January and Wood.
• According to family stories, Robert N. Adair traveled to Washington, D.C. to talk with politicians about the impact of imported products to American industry during his tenure as J&W president. A second story is that Chicago police solved a murder by tracing the piece of string used to kill the victim back to J&W, who in turn provided authorities with the names of its customers in the Chicago area.
-------- below history from http://abandonedonline.net/legacy-locations/january-and-wood-company/
In 1834, William Shotwell constructed a cotton mill near West Second Street. 8 It was acquired by William Gosling in 1838 and Richard Henry Lee in 1844. Lee expanded operations at the mill, constructing a four-story building that fronted Second Street adjacent to the original mill.
Andrew M. January, Christian Schultz, Thomas Mannen and William Stillwell purchased the mill in 1848. 8 A year later, Stillwell sold his interest to Henry Cutter. January and Benjamin W. Wood purchased the interests of Schultz, Mannen and Cutter in 1851 and formed a partnership under the name January and Wood.
January passed away in June 1877 and his interests were purchased by A. January Grundy and Andrew’s daughter, Harriet January Cochran. 8 B.W. Wood was elected president and Robert Cochran, husband of Harriet, became secretary and manager. Cochran served in those positions until his death in January 1896.
The cotton mill was formally incorporated in 1888 as the January and Wood Company with a capital stock of $200,000. 8 It became known for its high-grade cordage, twines and Maysville Carpet Warp.
Owing to the inability to secure cotton during the Civil War, the mill closed from November 1861 to March 1862. 8
One of its first major commercial accounts was the Sears Roebuck and Company in 1915. 8 The company became the first in the nation to offer carpet warp directly to the weaver. Additional deals were made to the G.C. Murphy Company, Southern States, Ace Hardware, Woolworth’s, Kroger, Shillito’s, K-Mart, Coats and Clark and General Motors. 9
A fire in May 1915 destroyed a cotton shed, consuming 400 bales of raw material. 8 New electric motors, operated by the Maysville Gas and Electric Company, were installed in the power house in 1918.
By the 1930’s, January and Wood consumed 5,000 bales of cotton per year, producing two million pounds of finished goods with an annual payroll of $150,000. 8 The company expanded into synthetic fibers by the 1970’s, including rayon and polyester, processing over 10,000 bales of cotton, rayon and polyester per year and employing over 200. 9
Changing product needs led to sales declines in the early 1980’s, and many of the traditional product lines were replaced with prepackaging and synthetic fibers manufactured with different types of machinery. 9 Commercial wrapping, crochet, household and meat packing twines were added, along with netting and welting cord.
Due to a general decline in orders, January and Wood ceased operations in late 2003. 3 4 8 At the time of its closure, it was the oldest business in the city. 6
The JT Thorpe Company opened a branch office on the site of the former mill in August 2004. 3 Thorpe specialized in the supply and installation of the inner workings of factories. 6 Kelly Bradford and Jeff Schumacher purchased the former factory and formed the Cotton Mill Limited Company in April 2006. 2 6 The acquisition included a warehouse on Wall Street but not the offices of JT Thorpe. The intention was to demolish the oldest portions of the factory 6 and the company filed for a demolition permit. 2 Demolition of the January and Wood complex began in May.
Work to tear down the buildings was halted on June 15 after the owners had failed to notify the state’s Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. 1 Asbestos containing material, which had not been abated, had been disturbed and potentially released into the air. 5 A written notice of violation was issued on June 26, although the state did not penalize the owners or workers. Bradford and Schumacher hired a certified contractor that removed the remaining asbestos in a safe manner. 5
Demolition was set to resume on November 28, but no further work was completed. 5 The mill was sold to Jerry Lundergan for $220,000 on January 19, 2007 2 who resumed demolition by the middle of the year. 7
Maynard, Misty. “January and Wood demolition hits a snag.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), June 16, 2006. May 18, 2007 Article.
Maynard, Misty. “Lundergan purchases January and Wood Cotton Mill property.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), January 22, 2007. May 18, 2007 Article.
Story, Justin. “JT Thorpe, a local institution.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), March 11, 2005. May 18, 2007 Article.
“Loyal customers help local business.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), August 18, 2003. May 18, 2007 Letter to the editor.
Carlson, Carrie. “Asbestos abatement complete, demolition of cotton mill to continue.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), November 28, 2006. May 18, 2007 Article.
Maynard, Misty. “New owners have differing plans for cotton mill.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), May 18, 2006. May 18, 2007 Article.
Maynard, Misty. “Old cotton mill coming down slowly, but surely.” Ledger Independent (Maysville), 19 Oct. 2007. 21 Oct. 2007 Article.
Toncray, Marla. “A look back at January and Wood, Inc. – Maysville Cotton Mills.” Ledger Independent [Maysville] 23 Jan. 2008: n. page. 13 May 2014. Article.
January and Wood: 150 years of textile history. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014. Article.
A time line from The Ledger Independent, January 23, 2008, as posted on Facebook by Charles William Marshall