Paul and James Camp started P.D. Camp and Company, a lumber business, in 1877. The brothers bought R.J. Neely's sawmill in 1886 and established Camp Manufacturing Company in 1887. The original Franklin mill was steam powered and lay on a ten-acre tract adjoining both the Blackwater River and the Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad. The company developed a reputation for quality and grew steadily throughout its history. Camp enlarged its plant and added smooth-dressed lumber to its product line in 1891. The Camps bought additional mills and woodlands from 1896 to 1907. Though shaken by the Panic of 1907, Camp Manufacturing recovered and bought more mills and timberland in Virginia and the Carolinas. The largest employer in Franklin, Camp maintained its timber operations during the depression and opened a pulp and paper plant in 1937. During the 40's the company, now a publicly held corporation, started making grocery bags and waterproof paper. In 1951 Camp built a white paper plant and merged with a New York firm to create Union Bag - Camp Paper in 1956. Traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the company changed its name to Union Camp Corporation in 1966 and continued to expand. International Paper bought Union Camp in 1999.
"The Camp Family has influenced the City of Franklin and Southampton County more than any other one family.Not only has the Camp's mill provided employment for numerous citizens in Southampton County, but the Camp family has and does give generously of its time and money as the city and county's civic, charitable, and political leaders."
Daniel T. Balfour, 1989
1928 - The Albemarle Steam Navigation Company goes out of business.
1929 - The Great Depression begins.
1937 - The Chesapeake - Camp Corporation builds a pulp and paper plant next to the Camp sawmill.
1941 - The Franklin Municipal Airport is dedicated. The United States enters World War II and Navy pilots are trained at the airport.
1942 - Franklin Charities, Inc. (The Camp Foundation) is created.
1945 - World War II ends.
1951 - Franklin builds one of Virginia's first modern sewage plants. The public library gets its own building.
1954 - The Supreme Courts rules segregated schools are unequal. Chain stores begin to replace locally owned stores downtown.
1956 - Camp Manufacturing Company merges with Union Bag and Paper Corporation of New York.