It was a historic day in Canton as the end of an era comes to pass.
Hundreds of people gathered in Sorrels Park on Wednesday to witness the last day of the Pactiv Evergreen mill's iconic shift whistle as it sounded off for the final time around noon.
The whistle was installed in 1908 to signal mill workers that it was time to go to work, take a lunch break or go home.
"It is with a heavy heart, that I can announce, that confirmation from Evergreen, that the last mill whistle sounded at 12 noon on Wednesday," Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers wrote online earlier this week.
Smathers said the town had been preparing for this day for months, but, now that the final whistle has sounded, the reality of losing the mill is starting to set in.
“I just got a pit in my stomach," Smathers said. "So, even for someone who has tried to prepare himself for wednesday, to see it really triggered some really just feelings of just, you know, sadness.”
It was announced March 6, 2023 that Pactiv Evergreen planned to close the Canton paper mill. The plant, which has been in operation for more than 100 years, employs about 1,100 people and is one of the largest employers in Haywood County, Smathers said.
A helpline is available for those impacted by the mill's closure.
Those seeking help with employment, training, health insurance, healthcare and financial assistance/guidance are encouraged to call the Haywood County Resource Center telephone helpline at 828-356-2023. The helpline will operate between the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and is intended to assist callers with both Health and Human Services and Community Resources.
STORY & PHOTO COURTESY OF ABC 13 WLOSWATCH: After more than 100 years, Canton paper mill blows final whistle | WLOS