After his 1701 journey through North Carolina, John Lawson, one of the first Europeans to to write about the countryside around Saxapahaw, described it as " the flower of Carolina" and looking at the river bank declared, "No man that will be content within the Bounds of reason, can have any reason to dislike it."
The river that had drawn the Sissipahaw Indians and other native tribes to the area soon attracted new immigrants and new technology in the form of gristmills. In 1829, John Newlin, a Quaker from Snow Camp, purchased one of these gristmills and an adjoining 150 acres.
Newlin and his sons, started construction of a cotton mill in 1844 and opened the Saxapahaw Cotton Factory in 1848 using water from the Haw river to drive the machinery. The slaves who dug the millrace and their families were freed by John Newlin and in 1850 taken to new homes in Ohio, a free state.
The cotton mill went through numerous expansions and owners, including Alamance County industrialist Edwin M. Holt and U.S. Senator for North Carolina B. Everett Jordon. Saxapahaw grew heartily along with the mill.
Waterpower became hydroelectric power in 1938 when Sellers Manufacturing built a new dam over an existing dam and added a power plant, and original structures were replaced with the brick buildings which are still on site today.
While still an unincorporated village, Saxapahaw continues to thrive with the revitalization of the mill buildings and mill houses to beautiful homes and vibrant businesses. The historic village works to protect the river and surroundings with a focus on local and sustainable practices and a strong engaged community.