Pendleton Manufacturing Co. opened it’s door in Anderson County, SC. Originally incorporated by Enoch B. Benson, W.H.D. Gaillard, and the Sloans, it was located in what is now known as LaFrance, SC, and one of the first textile mills in the state.
Meanwhile in Trion, GA, the Trion Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1875 by Andrew P. Allgood. It was the first cotton mill in Georgia and included 600 spindles and employed 40 people to produce yarn and osnaburg sacks for the local wheat crops.
By 1912, the mill was in decline. Benjamin D. Riegel purchased the mills and renamed the company Trion Company. Under Mr. Riegel’s leadership the mill and the town once again began to flourish.
The face of Trion begins to change in 1934. Muddy streets become paved and better housing is built for the employees. A large farm is put into production on the many acres of land owned by the company. One of the most modern dairies in the South was built in 1934, Riegeldale Farm. The small birch store, substantial though dingy, became a modern Department Store (The Big Friendly). The “Y” housed the pool, a library, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, a theater, a billiard room, dressing rooms and a snack bar. A local hospital was also built.
The Riegeldale Tavern, one of the few buildings other than mill additions remaining from the era of rapid growth, was constructed in the summer of 1936. What started off as an idea for a roadside stand to sell dairy and farm products along highway 27 became one of the most beautiful and best places to eat in the South.
All of this speaks volumes about the keen business sense and determination of Benjamin D. Riegel. Our nation was in the midst of the Great Depression. In other parts of the country there were bread lines, former businessmen selling pencils on street corners and even suicides over the sad state of financial affairs. Mr. Riegel, the mill, and the people of Trion, however, refused to participate in the Great Depression. Sadly, Mr. Riegel passed away in 1941 and his cousin, John L. Riegel took over the company.
Textile League Baseball began as recreation for mill workers. Riegel Stadium was originally built in 1931 in Ware Shoals, SC. The field was played on by such greats as Shoeless Joe Jackson and Lou Brissie(pictured). Brissie was a Ware Shoals Riegel who enlisted in the Army in 1942. On December 2, 1944, his unit suffered an artillery barrage and a shell exploded which shattered his left tibia and shinbone in 30 pieces. At the Army field hospital, doctors told Brissie that his leg would have to be amputated due to the severity of the injury. Brissie told the doctors that he was a ballplayer and insisted that the leg be saved even if it jeopardized his life.
After two years and 23 major operations, Brissie was able to return to baseball with a metal brace on his leg. The A's called him up and on September 28, 1947 he realized his "life's ambition" of pitching in the major leagues. Brissie's first start of the 1948 season was against the Boston Red Sox. Brissie went on to defeat the Red Sox 4-2, striking out Ted Williams for the game's final out. A war hero and all-star athlete, Brissie’s humble beginnings are something we’re proud to be a part of here at Riegel.
The prestigious Army-Navy E Award was presented to the Trion Company and its employees in March of 1943. The presentation was a grand affair with many radio stations covering the speeches live and newspapers devoting several pages to the coverage. During World War II, the mill produced 50 million yards of herringbone for use in making fighting uniforms. The Finishing Plant finished 58 billion yards of herringbone. The herringbone finished at Trion would have been enough fabric to make 10,500,000 fatigue suits; enough to outfit the entire U.S. Army! 4 million yards of tent twill was produced by the mill and the Finishing Plant finished over 7 million yards of tent twill. The mill produced over 7 ½ million yards of material for gun patches and over 2 ½ billion gun patches were produced by the Glove Mill. Placed end to end, the patches would reach 107,322 miles! The Glove Mill also produced over 7 ½ million dozen gloves for the armed forces. That is 180 million individual gloves!
Riegel Textile Corporation flourished in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Producing a wide array of textile products that included men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, as well as gloves and bedding products, Riegel was a household name sold across the country. Our advertising arm was busy during this time as well, taking ads out in nationally published magazines featuring the likes of many different celebrities, most notably Arnold Palmer.
In the 70’s, the Trion mills began to produce Denim fabric, with 1,100 looms being added by 1976. Then in 1985, R. B. Pamplin Sr. and Mount Vernon Mills purchased Riegel Textile Corporation from Mrs. German H. H. Emory, daughter of Benjamin D. Riegel. Her decision was not a monetary one. Others had offered her more for her stock than Mr. Pamplin. She based her decision to sell on the fact that she believed that Mr. Pamplin would be the best person to guide the company and take care of the employees and the communities in which they worked. She saw in Mr. Pamplin the same qualities she saw in her father. Mrs. Emory proved to be an excellent judge of character.
Today, Riegel Linen is now a standalone company poised for growth in the hospitality, linen rental, and healthcare markets. Makers of high quality, durable, table linen, sheets, towels, and bedding products made to last with comfort in mind, we still hold true to our commitment to service and customer satisfaction that has held us up after all these years. Contact us today and find out how we can extend that hospitality to you.
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