Brief History of The Town of Robbins
The Town, now known as Robbins, began in 1795 when gunsmith Alexander Kennedy and his family left Philadelphia to settle along Bear Creek. Kennedy set up a factory, which produced long rifles for American soldiers, near the present-day Robbins Water Plant site. The Kennedy rifle works continued in operation until 1838 when the place became known as Mechanics Hill.
In 1891, the Durham and Charlotte Railroad railway connected Gulf, in Chatham County, to Troy, in Montgomery County. The railroad reached Mechanics Hill around 1899. Railroad construction added many jobs and significantly increased the number of settlers. The railroad created its own positions and generated commerce by providing a ready means of transportation for turpentine, lumber, agricultural products, and passengers. John B. Lennig was the President and owner of the company. Mr. Lennig was here, off and on, for about 12 years. During that time, town lots and streets were designed. A map was registered at the Moore County Register of Deeds Office on March 24, 1900, and the Town was named Elise in honor of Mr. Lennigs daughter.
Education was a significant concern for the citizens of Elise and the surrounding communities. Some local businessmen and Mr. Lennig met many times to discuss these concerns. These meetings resulted in the founding of Elise Academy in 1904. The academy was very proud, and children from here and from other states and counties attended this first-class establishment. Elise Academy operated until 1940 when it was sold to the Moore County Board of Education.
Between 1923 and 1924, generators were installed at Carter’s Mill, along Bear Creek, adjacent to Elise, and the first power was supplied to this area. In 1924 and 1925, William Cowgill built the first textile plant here, operating it as Moore Mills Textiles Plant. Three companies operated that mill until September 1930, when Karl Robbins, a Russian immigrant, purchased it and renamed it Pinehurst Silk Mills. Mr. Robbins’ goal was to make his mill the greatest of its kind.
In 1935, the Town’s name was changed again. The name was changed to Hemp to avoid confusion between Elise and another town in North Carolina with a similar name. Karl Robbins brought great prominence to Hemp. He was responsible for a modern water treatment plant and wastewater disposal system being completed in 1937. He also provided recreational facilities and a baseball park. Mr. Robbins did many other things, too numerous to mention, for the Town of Hemp.
In honor of Karl Robbins, grateful for all he had done, the citizens of Hemp changed the name of the Town that was Mechanics Hill, then Elise, then Hemp, to Robbins. The Town officially became Robbins in 1943 by an act of the General Assembly.
The Town of Robbins became home to a modern poultry processing plant, a mobile home manufacturing plant, and several textile mills. Ithaca Industries produced ladies’ hosiery and, at the height of its operation, employed 1,100 people.
Like other rural towns in the South, Robbins began to suffer loss to its manufacturing base around 1990. The trend escalated throughout the 90s, but this resilient small town did not give in. According to the Employment Security Commission, Robbins has lost 1,447 jobs since 1990. The Town has also lost a substantial portion of its water and sewer customer base. The devastating effects caused by losing the manufacturing base left Robbins down but not out. Immediately, the governing body, staff, and community leaders began efforts to attract new forms of industry to the area. The steps are paying off, and the Town of Robbins is redefining itself again. Robbins is a town proud of its colorful past and excited about its vibrant future.