The Textile Heritage Trail has opened in Henry County, honoring the area’s history in the textile industry and promoting tourism and economic development.
The new trail, located on South River Road in Fieldale, connects to the 3.5-mile Fieldale Trail as part of the Smith River Trail System.
The quarter-mile loop trail features an elevated boardwalk with seven interpretive signs. Along the self-guided tour in Fieldale, visitors will see a glimpse of the nearby historic Fieldcrest Mills opened by Marshall Field & Co. in 1919 and its iconic smokestack.
A supplemental sign to the textile trail is located in Martinsville along the Uptown Connection Trail overlooking Commonwealth Clocktower. This building was home to Martinsville’s first textile mill, the Martinsville Cotton Mill Co., in 1910.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trail is planned for 1 p.m. Feb. 15, and the public is welcome. Afterward, people may walk the trail and listen to music by Fieldale Antiques’ Mountain Music Jamboree.
The trail has been listed as a point of interest along the Southern Textile Heritage Corridor (STHC), a 700-mile National Heritage Corridor that spans from Richmond to Montgomery, Ala. Goals of the STHC, a grassroots organization, include:
• Saving the legacy stories of the region’s cotton mill people and its textile industry, to preserve the places where those stories took place and to better document this era of history.
• Promoting economic development within the corridor by attracting cultural heritage tourists and cultivating associated job-producing business and commerce.
“The new Martinsville-Henry County Textile Heritage Trail marks the contributions made by the men, women and children who once produced so much of the South’s wealth by their labors,” said Lynn Rumley, executive director of the Cooleemee’s Textile Heritage Museum and board secretary of the STHC. “We are elated that the public will have a chance to share this rich heritage. Along with the Schoolfield Museum in Danville, Martinsville has made a great contribution to remembering that time when America still clothed itself.”
The Textile Heritage Trail was funded by the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. as part of its Deep Roots Initiative with funding assistance from Dominion Power and The Harvest Foundation. It was developed by a public/private partnership between the EDC, Dan River Basin Association and Henry County Parks & Recreation Department. The cost was not disclosed.
Additional project contributors include Donald G. Trantham Jr., Friends of the Fieldale Trail, Martinsville-Henry County Rivers & Trails Group, Henry County Public Service Authority, Bassett Historical Center, Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society, Virginia Department of Transportation, Fieldale Heritage Committee and the Walker and Pannill families.
“This trail is a fantastic example how partners come together to complete a project that benefits the entire community and helps us capture a fascinating and intricate part of our heritage,” said Brian Williams, project manager for the Dan River Basin Association. “With help from Dominion for the initial grant for phase II of the Fieldale Trail, we leveraged that in a partnership with the EDC and Henry County, which allowed us to build this exciting new addition to the Smith River Trail System. The textile industry was part of who we were and helped build this community, and now people can get out and learn about the history of our region while enjoying a hike and exercise at the same time.”
Jennifer Doss, director of tourism for Martinsville-Henry County, said, “We are proud that the rich heritage of our area’s textile mills has been included in the Southern Textile Heritage Corridor. This gives us an opportunity to share our stories with a much larger audience showcasing the accomplishments of our entrepreneurs and the natural beauty of Southern Virginia.”
Roger Adams, director of Henry County Parks & Recreation, said that the Textile Heritage Trail will add to the experience of the Fieldale Trail while educating people on the rich textile heritage of Martinsville and Henry County.
“Henry County is blessed to have so many wonderful hiking, biking and multi-use trails for citizens and visitors to enjoy,” he said. “These trails provide a great way for folks to get outdoors, stay active and enjoy the beautiful nature around us.”