In 1906, Peter Thompson arrived in Haywood County, North Carolina, looking for a source of pulp for his growing Ohio paper mill. He settled on a village on the Pigeon River. Within a year Champion Fiber Company employed over eight hundred people. Its history over the next ninety years was a complex one of persistence environmental problems and remarkable prosperity for the people of Haywood County. While much of Appalachia suffered from the effects of industrialization, the thousands of workers at Champion enjoyed wages above the state and national averages. The county benefited with schools, hospitals, and libraries. However by the 1980’s pollution of the Pigeon River had become an environmental issue of national stature. In 1997, the mill was offered for sale and was bought by its employees.


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