In the early 1870’s there was a broom handle factory in Rockford on the east side of the river located just north of the current hwy 55 bridge. By 1875 the factory could produce 2,500 handles a day. Given that it would have taken machinery to produce that many handles it is thought that the factory relocated to the west side of the river into another building. Fueling this assumption was the fact that in April 1874 an editor’s note appear in the Delano Eagle that Rockford was rejoicing in a prosperous Woolen Mill in their community. This was most likely an overstatement given that the first ads stating the “Red Mill” in Rockford was buying wool didn’t appear until May 1875. The mill was very successful immediately. Owners purchased additional machinery over the next 5 years and in 1878 George F Ames oversaw the addition of a 45’ X 23’ building to the original structure. By 1880 the mill was now a factory producing flannel, jeans and blankets. The mill was also sourcing wool from a wide range of counties in Minnesota and offering free shipping. In May of 1880 Lake City made an attempt to lure the Rockford Woolen Mill to their city. One of the owners (W. W. Parker) was a man of temperance and was attracted to the city because it was a ‘dry” town and at the time Rockford had several saloons and monthly cattle fairs which led to public drunkenness. The offer never materialized, and the mill continued to grow. So much so, that summer the mill sent buyers to Chicago to purchase wool in bulk.
The reputation of Rockford Woolen Mill’s was so strong that they gave small framed cards to merchants who were authorized sellers to protect from copy cats.