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The History of the Textile Industry in Cherryville
By Clyde Hayes

 

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Mike Jones
Copyright © 1996-2006 Cherryville.com
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Before the turn of this century textiles were fast becoming the predominant industry in this area. Several factors favored this phenomena. First, a plentiful water supply to furnish the electricity needed to run the machines. Secondly, the ready availability of a good supply of cotton. Thirdly, the advent of railroads to get the finished products to market, but the most important factor was the potentially excellent labor force to run the frames, starting with the raw material, and turning out a finished product.

These laborers, or mill hands as they were called, were decendants of our early pioneers. Many were hardy mountain people who had been struggling to survive as farmers, trappers, hunters, fishermen, etc., in the foothills or in the 1ess accessible parts of the mountains. During the cold winters they suffered many hardships. Many also came from the farmlands of South Carolina.

Seeking better living conditions, plus the surety of a set weekly wage, a great number of these moved to Gaston and surrounding Counties where new textile plants had been built. Mill owners offered housing, utilities and jobs to practically all who applied. These were mainly of Pennsylvania Dutch, German or Scotch Irish descent. Intelligent and quick to grasp the quirks of the intricate machinery they operated, these people worked long hours for a small wage. They were satisfied in knowing they were doing a good job. They really took pride in their work, often competing for speedily finishing a job, to show their adeptness . A number of workers had the reputation of being the best doffers, the best spinners, the best weavers, etc. In some of the smaller municipalities they were the local heroes, so to speak.

These were God fearing, church going people who became the pillars in a number of the various denominational churches of the area. Because of their religious background, and their zeal in teaching the ways of Christian beliefs to their children, this section of the country is still referred to as the "Bible Belt".

These industrious people used this opportunity of steady employment to better their lot by learning the textile business from the "ground up". Using this knowledge they moved up the ladder to Section Hands, Master Mechanics, Overseers, Assistant Superintendents, and Superintendents. Some were even successful in organizing and operating their own mills.

Many of Gaston County's more prominent family members owe their success to textiles. Cherryville is not without such families. Names that nurtured the growth of a number of the thirteen textile plants, would have to include Mauney, Rhyne, Rudisill, Houser, Ballard, Rhodes, George, Aderholt, Carpenter, Howell, Huss, Kiser, Kendrick, Farris, Self, Stroup, Boyles, Dalton, Dellinger, Putnam and Blackwelder. These are some of the older names but there are many more who played a great part in the development of the industry, thereby adding to the progress of the City of Cherryville as well.

In attempting to name these, naturally many will likely be omitted. This will not be purposly done but due to the enormity of such a task. Practically all of the women workers are left out, but a great number of the wives of these men were also pioneers in the mill industry. No attempt is being made to relate whose daughter married whose son, etc. but these marriages and their progeny make up the better part of our population today. A great number are deceased. This is not mentioned because errors could easily be made that would prove embarrassing. Some have titles, and they will be named when known. It is impossible to keep any sequence, as a chronolog of years would indicate, without much more research. Too, in the names given the same person's name may appear more than once. This is due to a member moving from one mill job to another, as a better opportunity for advancement presented itself. There is much honor in honest work and this is an attempt to raise these up who participated, and are participating, in this vital employment. The accompanying Chronolog names the organizers or Incorporators. These are not repeated unless it is of additional value.