Gower, Mills & Co. was founded in 1872 by the partnership of Greenville businessmen Thomas C. Gower, Otis P. Mills, Hiram I. McBrayer and George Heldman. Gower, Mills & Co. were manufacturers and dealers in men’s, boy’s and women’s shoes, and were located in Greenville’s West End at the corner of Augusta and Pendleton Streets.
The larger ledger stamped with “GC&M” was probably Gower, Cox & Markley, a wagon and carriage factory owned in part by Thomas C. Gower, founded in 1835 by his brother Ebenezer Gower, and eventually joined by T.M. Cox of Charleston and H.C. Markley.
Newspaper accounts indicate Gower, Mills & Co. dissolved in 1878; the firm was sold to two of the original partners, Otis P. Mills and Hiram I. McBrayer, who had been in partnership for some years under the company name Mills & McBrayer. The Greenville City directory for 1876-1877 contains an advertisement for Gower, Mills & Co. as well as Mills & McBrayer, both located at the corner of Augusta and Pendleton Streets. Mills & McBrayer, dealers in general merchandise, are listed in the 1880-1881 Greenville Business Directory under multiple categories including Dry Goods, Groceries and Provisions, Clothiers, Fertilizers, and Boots and Shoes.
In this same 1880-1881 directory the company of Briggs & Hammond is listed, located at the junction of Augusta and Pendleton Street. This was Henry Briggs, who after working as bookkeeper for Mills & McBrayer formed a partnership in 1876 with Frank Hammond under the name Briggs & Hammond. In 1884, he formed a partnership with his brother, George Briggs, and O.P. Mills, and bought out and consolidated the business of Briggs & Hammond and Mills & McBrayer.