In the early 20th century, Henry County was an agricultural area largely devoted to farming. It was undeveloped and remote, with no paved roads. Textile companies that developed in the area replaced the tobacco industry, which had employed many but was quickly fading away.
One of the draws for locating textile companies here was the area's labor pool. Hardworking locals who had spent their lives farming were eager to work. The furniture industry had also begun to blossom in Henry County, employing a large number of local men; this meant that there were many women available to work in textiles.
Until it was wrested away by Martinsville, Henry County and other areas of the south, textile and apparel manufacturing had been centered in the American Northeast. Introduction of competitive products at lower prices resulted in the growth and eventual transfer of the textile and apparel industry to the South.
For more than seven decades in the 20th century, Martinsville and Henry County were home to some of America's most well-known textile and apparel manufacturing companies, renowned worldwide for their high-quality products. The pioneering leaders of these companies were civic-minded and by all accounts benevolent; attentive to their relationships with employees, and eager to help the greater community grow and prosper. In response, a large number of employees stayed with the companies for their entire careers. At the height of success, local textile companies employed a combined workforce of over 20,000.
Experience our area's rich textile heritage through six interpretive trail signs highlighting the founders and the major accomplishments made by textile companies in the area. Martinsville-Henry County was home to some of America's most well-known textile manufacturing companies. The signs trace Martinsville-Henry County's beginnings in the textile industry and carry us through to modern day.
Martinsville-Henry County's Textile Heritage Trail is part of the Smith River Trail System and the Southern Textile Heritage Corridor.