One of the reasons I started this blog is that, having collected information on Randolph County history for more than 40 years now, I find that I’ve reached the point where I can’t remember everything I’ve found out. I have have files I haven’t opened in a quarter century, and while I vaguely remember things people have told me over the years, I forget the specifics. Here is an example.
In preparing the next post here, on mill village boating, I knew that at some point the Worth Manufacturing Company, owners of the mills in Worthville and Central Falls, operated a cotton barge on the river between the two mills. But how did I know that? Where did I find that out?
Happily my son Vlad has been helping me reshelve and clean out my office, which has gradually become the place where all the stuff goes when I won’t let him throw something away. Able to open the farthest file cabinet again, I found a file labeled “Allred, Denver (Worthville).” Inside was a surprise, an affidavit I made for Denver in 1985, which I had completely forgotten.
I was in law school at the time, not yet a lawyer but already a notary, and as part of an investigation into the “navigability” of Deep River, I was asked by Ed Bunch (already a lawyer, and in solo practice) to interview Denver Allred about this question. [The legal question was whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had jurisdiction over Deep River; federal law says that they regulate electricity produced on “navigable” waters. FERC prevailed; that’s why the Randleman Dam Authority has to pay the low-head hydro operators along the river for the 8 million gallons a day diminution of the flow of the river.]
This is a lesson in itself regarding history, when the historian himself can’t remember the daily details of his own life 29 years later.
Here is the document. Afterwards, I’ve added from my notes in the file the parts of my conversations with Denver on other topics, who was a wealth of information. [He was the father of Worthville historian Becky Bowman, and I use her book on Worthville regularly. Maybe she could add a lot here!] I don’t think I ever tape recorded my conversations with Denver, but I might have, and have forgotten even that. I have a lot of tapes stored away that I haven’t fully transcribed, especially if they weren’t all about Franklinville.
According to my notes, I spoke with Denver Allred on February 1, 1985, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.
He told me he was “the oldest man in Worthville.” He was born in Gray’s Chapel, but his family moved here in 1903. He said he went to work in the mill when he was ten years old, carrying drinking water to the hands in the spinning and carding room. He did lots of other jobs, for every company that ever owned the mill. More women worked in the mill than men; women were weavers and spinners, and the men’s did maintenance work, heavy work.
He started working for Hal Worth, when Hal Worth lived in a house at the ballfield. He worked for J.D. Williamson, who bought the mill from the receivers after the bankruptcy. He worked for Wiley Ward, who took over after the Depression, when the town was in bad shape, he said he’d take up the financial slack if the town would dis-incorporate. He worked for Fieldcrest, until they made him retire at 65. Then he worked some for Baxter-Kelly-Foust after they bought from Fieldcrest. He was an electrician, a fixer, a bricklayer, and worked once for Simon Varner, a contractor.
The Worth house was torn down and rebuilt into a house near the cemetery, near the house Cicero Hammer lived in. The second house across the road from the cemetery. His wife’s father built the house we were talking in- had it built, by Cicero Hammer’s father, in 1885. Cicero Hammer, the congressman, was raised in Worthville. His father was a preacher, and built houses.
He said the mill in Worthville ran on two turbine water wheels and a Corliss steam engine with more than a hundred horsepower. It had an eight-foot flywheel and ran the shafts with a 30” leather belt. He ran the Worthville turbines until they shut it all down. They were still using the same old turbines. The belts didn’t work as well as electricity, but it worked.
The mill back then mainly made “Hickory” sheeting and cottonade; most of it went to South America. They made some seamless bags from waste cotton- sweepings and etc. The bag looms would weave the bottom in them when they were through; that was sort of a curiosity. A gadget would flip up, weave the bottom, and flip down. The bottom was like a selvage, where they could cut the bags apart. Most of the looms were Stafford looms; Draper looms came later.
[The standard Stafford looms were installed in July, 1915 (Bowman, p. 90) and junked and replaced with automatic Draper looms in August 1937. See Bowman, p. 166. These first Stafford loom replaced in part the seamless bag looms that had been used since the 1880s. The Franklinville factory was the first to manufacture seamless bags in North Carolina, starting in 1872. Their looms were made by the Lewiston Machine Company, Lewiston, Maine, as were the original ones at Worthville. Stafford also made bag looms, as seen here, but I believe Worthville was out of the bag business by the time they installed Staffords.]
J.A. Williamson was Secretary-Treasurer of the mill after Ervin Cox bought it from the receiver. Mr. Williamson put in Stafford Automatic Looms; that was a curiosity too. They used 6 or 8 shuttles stacked up in there; the loom would stop and change shuttles all by itself. That was the curiosity. People would come see that work. Before that, the weaver had to change shuttles, start the loom up by hand. The weaver had to put in a new quill and restart it. The filling yarn was on the quills.
The Worths here paid the best on the river. Ramseur was a good town and all, but they just didn’t pay the money that they did up the river here. Weavers were paid by the cut, by the length of cloth on the roll. They’d fold the cloth up in bolts, put a big sticker on it- a Big Game Rooster. Put it in big packing boxes lined with waterproof paper. There was a big cheat in that. They’d fill the bolts full of clay and tallow to make it weigh more. Clay and tallow put on by a finishing machine.
Cotton came to Randleman or Millboro on the railroad. They sent it to Central Falls to have it dyed; they dyed the raw cotton; dyed it every color of the rainbow. Dyed it for yarn for shirting, checks and plaids, and cottonades (that was like gingham).
It was Mr. Williamson’s idea to run the cotton barge between Mill #1 and Mill#2. It took the raw cotton down, and the dyed cotton back up. Then they’d spin it in Worthville. Williamson brought the idea from Roanoke Rapids, where he was from. The barge stopped before the first world war. It quit when the mill company went broke.
[From Deed Book 159, Page 11: The Worth Manufacturing Company was duly adjudged bankrupt by U.S. District Court on OCtober 30, 1913. The auction of valuable assets held at Worthville on December 9, 1913 listed “one motor boat.” C.J.Cox was the high bidder for the property, Mill #1, 57 “tenement houses,” all the machinery and cotton in process.]
The park was “down below the cemetery”, with a concession stand that made and sold ice cream and rented row boats by the hour. There was a motor boat for rent, too. But the cotton barge landing was down the river from the park, below the dam and covered bridge. There was a foot walk across the river until the covered bridge washed out in 1910 or ‘11. He saw the old covered bridge wash away. Hopper’s Ford was where the foot bridge was, and that’s where the new bridge is now.
[The Worthville covered bridge washed away in the storm of March 15, 1912. G.E. Hill recalled when a new concrete bridge was under construction in 1939 that he left the mill that morning for his home on the opposite side of Deep River. “An early spring rain had caused the river to rise to such an extent it appeared dangerous… Mr. Hill was on the bridge when it washed from the piers and when the the structure broke in the middle, Mr. Hill… was dragged from the waters before it was too late…” Bowman, p. 201.]
The Central Falls dam backed water up to the site of the new bridge. The barge landed just about where the bridge is. There was a dock built on a canal, about a hundred feet from the river. It was a flat-bottomed barge run by a gasoline engine. There was a cab with a man on top to steer- two men operated it. They’d run excursions on Sundays, so we could ride to Central Falls and back for a dime. It was a big Sunday attraction. One time some courting couples were on it, and a gar fish jumped out at them and scared everybody.
When the river was up, the water was swift. The boat would get away from them, and run onto the back. Once it ran on the rocks and stuck. They got men from the mill to pull it off on a long rope; Williamson was the boss, directing the operation. The rope broke and everybody fell except one man. “Why didn’t you fall, too?” Williamson said. It was ‘cause he wasn’t putting out!
Mr. Williamson had the first car in town- a big old Buick side-cranker. When he drove it they’d wear dusters, goggles and hats. Williamson got the telephone lines laid from Millboro to Worthville and into Randleman. He was a big man. So was Hal Worth. Ervin Cox, who bought the mill from the court. He owned both places, Worthville and Central Falls; lived at Central Falls. He built Cox’s Dam, between there and Cedar Falls. Whoever ran the mill- their politics would sway a lot of people.
The superintendent lived in that big house on the hill. The first post office was in the Boarding House, below the standpipe- the two-story house on the right. There was a mail slot in the door to the basement. The Dowdys lived in the house across from him. They later went to High Point, started Mann Drugs. The school was where the Methodist Church is now. The Union Church was near the office and the store, and the mill. The Madison Williamson house was right there, too. It burned in the early 1900s. There was one big boarding house up behind the stand pipe. There were three or four others at first. During the first war, a Dorsett ran a boarding house, ran 3 shifts. They’d change the sheets on the beds, and another shift would come in and sleep.
There was lots of entertainment. Joe Giles, a farmer, would have big corn shuckings, and have all grades of stuff to eat- pie, cakes, chicken stews. If you shucked a red ear, that meant you could kiss the girl beside you. He had four children, one boy. He lived at Franklinville, married and lived at the Fentress place- his wife was a Fentress. He was a slasher man, put the starch and sizing on the warp. The Slasher Man was paid most of any machine operator- that was a big responsibility. His brother Reuben also worked up here; was the Master Mechanic at Worthville. John Bray was another Master Mechanic; he was a powerful fiddler.
Lots of people played music then. Charlie Ward; he was a powerful fiddler and guitar player. He’s 90; he’s in Asheboro in the rest home. Mark Johnson, he was a Worthville banjo picker, and a farmer. He was some relation to Daner Johnson, the banjo man. It was a special treat to hear Daner Johnson play. He played anywhere and any time he took a notion. Nep Johnson was his brother; lived up on the edge of Randleman; was a farmer and auto mechanic.