The Transylvania Times -

By Marcy Thompson
Picturing The Past 

Sid Barnett And Sons Were Talented Tradesmen

 

October 3, 2016

Barnett's Machine Shop was located on the Old Hendersonville Highway.

Industry, large and small, has played a major role in the development of Transylvania County. Throughout the mid- and late-20th century, Ecusta and DuPont were the largest industries and major employers in the county, but there have been, and continue to be, numerous other local industries and manufacturers.

Branson's North Carolina Business Directories from the mid- and late-19th century list blacksmithing and wheelwrighting, carpentry, gun and silversmithing, millwrighting, saddles and harness, wagon and buggy, and wool carding as types of manufactories in Transylvania County. In addition, grist, saw, and planing mills are listed. Listings include the name of the proprietor and the post office for the business.

The 1890 directory lists Brevard Lumber and Mfg. Co. owned by T.L. Clark, H.L. Pixly, and L.G. Siniard and a tannery owned by C.C. Patton. These show the direction local industry would move during the early- to mid-20th century when logging, lumber, and tanning became the major local industries. Joseph Silversteen and Louis Carr provided employment for hundreds of local workers for about 50 years. For shorter periods Brevard Tannin, Moltz Lumber and Shaffer Lumber also ran businesses related to the logging industry.

Other local manufacturers established in the early 1900s included Wheeler Hosiery (featured last week), Pisgah Mills and Barnett's Machine Shop.

Sid Barnett was the head machinist for Brevard Tannin. When the tannin plant closed Barnett bought the lathes and welding machines and opened his own shop at the intersection of Hendersonville Highway and Wilson Road in 1923.

A Nov. 23, 1939 Tran-sylvania Times article announced the Barnett's Machine Shop was being updated with new ultra-modern machines, including lathes, gear cutters, and planing mills. A new 300-amp portable electric Westing-house welding machine was now available for off-site jobs. Barnett had also recently added space to the shop and a new supply building. He had 11 employees at the time.

For nearly 80 years farmers, mechanics and businesses throughout the area relied on Barnett's to custom build anything they needed made of metal and for metal repair work. After Sid retired his son Ned took over operation of the shop. Barnett's Machine Shop closed in 2000.

With the recent demolition of the old shop, several members of the Transylvania County Historical Society shared memories of visits to Barnett's. Keith Parker described a "long drive shaft along the ceiling driven by an old engine out back (model A perhaps) with different belts coming down to drive lathes, drills and other machines as needed. Today, safety laws would never permit such but I was fascinated by it all and how smoothly it ran."

Mac Morrow added that, "Ned changed over to Bridgeport mills and CNC lathes by 1976."

Inside Barnett's Machine Shop. Jim Lyday is second from the left.

Jim Lyday's grandfather, also Jim Lyday, was Barnett's first employee. He worked as a lathe operator at the shop for over 30 years until retiring at the age of 75. Gene Baker remembered another long time employee, Fred Gillespie. Gillespie was the caterpillar mechanic.

All agreed that Barnett, his sons and employees all had reputations as highly respected, gifted and talented tradesmen.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.)

 
 

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