“Rebecca” Pitchers

October 25, 2009
1930s Rebecca Pitcher by Log Cabin Pottery (signed).  The tall narrow form identifies it; the handle is more practical than most, and would have fit into the kiln much better than the J.B. Cole-style tall looped handles..

1930s Rebecca Pitcher by Log Cabin Pottery (signed). The tall narrow shape and flared spout identifies it; the handle is more practical than most, and would have fit into the kiln much better than the J.B. Cole-style exaggerated loop handles..

The blog “Potters for the N.C. Pottery Center” has an interesting and useful new post about “Rebecca” pitchers, which were one of the most popular products of local potters during the “art pottery” era of the 1930s and 40s.  Go to their blog entry here.

The name comes from the Biblical story of Rebecca at the well of Nahor in Genesis, Chapter 24.   Isaac, son of Abraham, was old enough to marry, and Abraham sent a servant to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia to find a suitable young woman.  The servant arrived at the local well with ten of Abraham’s camels, and planned to ask the young women of the city for a drink of water.  Any one who not only gave him a drink, but poured water for the camels, would be the one sent by God for Isaac’s wife.

“Rebecca, who was born to Bethuel… came out with her pitcher on her shoulder… And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher… And the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.”  So she said, “Drink, my lord.”  Then she… let down her pitcher and gave him a drink.   And when she had finished… she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.”  then she hastened and emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew water for all his camels.  [verses 15-20]

Rebeccas from the 1940 JB Cole catalog.

Rebeccas from the 1940 JB Cole catalog.

The form was one of the most popular products of the J.B. Cole Pottery on the border between Randolph and Montgomery counties.  Their 1940 catalog displays many different sizes and several different forms of Rebecca pitcher (see the catalog here).   The children of J.B. Cole, Waymon and Nell, both lived in Randolph county and were familiar figures at the pottery for more than 60 years; they both made Rebecca pitchers large and small and in a myriad of different glaze colors.

Rebecca jugs were one of the first forms which were “just for show,” meaning that they had no day to day use.  The tall, narrow shape and impractical tall looped handle of the jugs were impractical for almost any method of dipping and carrying water in rural North Carolina.

Stoneware milk pitcher (signed), made by my great-grandfather W. Henry Chrisco.

Stoneware milk pitcher (signed), made by my great-grandfather W. Henry Chrisco.

The standard utilitarian forms were pitchers and jugs.  Pitchers were short and fat, with wide mouths, usually used to serve milk;

Stoneware jug made by the Taylor pottery in Petersburg, VA.

Stoneware jug made by the Taylor pottery in Petersburg, VA.

Jugs were round and bulbous with narrow mouths, usually used to store and transport liquor.

Islamic ewer from Iran, ca. 700 AD.  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Islamic ewer from Iran, ca. 700 AD. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The shape of a Rebecca pitcher is that of a “ewer,” an ancient ceremonial form with a single tall handle and a flaring spout.  This was definitely NOT a traditional North Carolina form, and was probably copied from Sunday School literature which illustrated archeological forms.

Modern Rebecca Pitcher by King's Pottery.

Modern Rebecca Pitcher by King's Pottery.

The form is still offered in some fashion by most of the Seagrove area potters.  Here’s one from King’s Pottery, which has their website here.


Carrara Glass

October 23, 2009

A lot has been happening lately that has gotten in the way of me writing here, so I’m posting this entry while I finish up some longer ones…

[Jones Dept. Store, 108 Sunset Ave; the building now houses Republican Headquarters. To its right is Baker’s Shoe Store.]

[The squares of black glass are striped with duct tape to prevent breaking.]

Late this summer as we moved back into my office at 19 S. Fayetteville Street, I found a workman removing the last pieces of broken tile from the entrance of the restaurant next door.

[Broken black Carrara glass, looking like a mirror.]

That wasn’t just any tile, however; it was a half-inch-thick reflective glass, technically called “pigmented structural glass” and called here locally “Carrara Glass”. Asheboro’s Sunset Avenue was once covered with the stuff. The photo at the head of this post shows Jones Department Store (probably taken in the early 1960s), and not only that store but the storefronts to both sides are covered in black Carrara Glass.

[The round dollops of glue visible on the back of the panel below kept the tile adhered to the brick wall.]

Pigmented structural glass seems to have been first produced in 1900 by the Marietta Manufacturing Company as a “substitute for marble.” Marietta’s product was called “Sani Onyx,” and was used as a hygienic lining for refrigerators. Penn-American Plate Glass Company rolled out a white and black product in 1906 they called “Carrara Glass,” named for the glass’s close resemblance to marble mined in the Carrara quarries of Italy. Before 1910 Libby-Owens-Ford Glass began production of their own version called “Vitrolite.” The first prominent interior use of pigmented structural glass was in New York’s 1913 Woolworth Building, where architect Cass Gilbert sheathed the restrooms with Carrara Glass.

Pigmented Structural Glass hit its popularity height during the 1920s and 30s, when it became synonymous with the streamlined Art Deco and Art Moderne architectural styles. From the sleek Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, to storefronts all across American Main Streets, Carrara Glass and its siblings fit the bill for slick, streamlined, shiny, materials suitable for interior and exterior use. Asheboro’s Belk Department Store, the largest commercial building built downtown in the 1930s, used Carrara glass exclusively on its façade (destroyed in a 1962 fire).

The many smaller Asheboro storefronts which exhibited Carrara Glass in various colors and shades (though Black and White were always the most popular) speak to the versatility of pigmented structural glass for updating older commercial buildings. By 1940 the commercial buildings in downtown Asheboro were all between 25 and 40 years old; as they were remodeled, each began to sport modernized street level facades using chrome, stainless steel, and Carrara Glass. This transformation was encouraged by New Deal programs from the Federal Housing Administration which granted low-interest insured business loans for remodeling, and structural glass veneers became synonymous with a desirable “modern look”. This uniform Art Deco “look” or design style grew out of a “Modernize Main Street” competition sponsored in 1935 by the Architectural Record magazine and Libby-Owens-Ford Glass, and judged in part by architect Albert Kahn.

Almost all of Asheboro Carrara glass has been lost in the last 20 years; those Art Deco/ New Deal remodeled facades have been been remodeled again and again. Though the original buildings have been preserved and reused, the “contemporary” style familiar to several generations of county residents has vanished.

For much more information, see the National Park Service Preservation Brief on “Preservation of Historic Pigmented Structural Glass” and “Our Vanishing Vitriolite”.

American Banjo Museum

September 21, 2009

This certainly isn’t in Randolph County, but it fits well with the previous two posts.

While the good people in Rockingham County may be working hard on the “National Banjo Center,” the citizens of Oklahoma City already have the American Banjo Museum. It moved last week from a temporary home in Guthrie, OK, to a 21,000-square foot, $5 million home in Oklahoma City’s “Bricktown” historic district.

The museum collection includes more than 300 instruments, from primitive African gourd contraptions to the banjos of modern Bluegrass legends. It also includes the “National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame.”

Here’s a link to a newspaper article on the opening from September 11th: http://www.newsok.com/article/3400062 .

And another: http://www.examiner.com/x-3814-Oklahoma-City-Day-Trips-Examiner~y2009m9d9-Grand-opening-of-the-American-Banjo-Museum-in-Oklahoma-City-Bricktown-September-11 .

And here’s a direct link to the TV news report http://feeds.newsok.tv/services/player/bcpid4659235001?bctid=38885403001 .

Maybe some day Randolph County will get its due mention one place or another.

Manly Reece

September 15, 2009

Manly Reece, circa 1855.

In my entry on Charlie Poole I mentioned the Charlie Poole Festival, which is held each year in Eden, NC, the combined town in Rockingham County formerly known as Leaksville, Draper and Spray. Charlie Poole lived and worked in Spray in the second half of his life, and now there is an effort to create the “National Banjo Center” on the Dan River there. The banjo museum would highlight Poole’s contributions to American musical history at or near the Spray Cotton Mill site, “ground zero” or “hallowed ground, as far as the music world is concerned,” said one of the promoters. (see March 26, 2009 article at http://www2.godanriver.com/gdr/news/local/rockingham_news/article/eden_strums_closer_to_housing_national_banjo_museum/9995/ ).

Not to take anything away from Charlie Poole or the economic development activities of Rockingham County, but southern banjo history- even North Carolina banjo history- has a much wider sweep and deeper pull than is found just along the Dan River. Here locally, Charlie Poole’s teacher and mentor Daner Johnson (mentioned in the previous article) not only taught Charlie but a generation of other local banjo pickers. No recordings of Johnson are known, but his Randolph County pupils Kelly Sears and and Glenn Davis are both featured on “The North Carolina Banjo Collection,” musician/ folklorist Bob Carlin’s excellent 1998 Rounder double-album which demonstrates the evolution of banjo-picking through 20th-century recording history.

However, the history of the banjo didn’t start with Charlie Poole or Daner Johnson. The roots of the instrument are agreed to be found in Africa and the transplanted traditions of African-American enslaved people in the antebellum American South. Less certain is how the instrument made its way into white southern culture. Joel Sweeny (1810-1860) of Appomattox County, Virginia, is the earliest documented white banjo player, and popularized the instrument in New York with his group of blackface minstrels at least by April 1839 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Sweeney ).

Sweeny’s tour of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1843-44 is credited with introducing the banjo to Europe. (Bob Carlin recently wrote a book about Joel Sweeney, too- http://www.minstrelbanjo.com/SWEENEYindex.html ).

But in Randolph County, the roots of the banjo can be traced to Manly Reece (1830-1864), a native of the area between Franklinville and Liberty. For almost everything I know about Manly Reece I must give credit up front to Andy Cahan, musician, historian, antiquarian bookseller and former Chapel Hill resident.  Andy came South from New York where he had been a featured artist (along with Bob Carlin) on the influential Kicking Mule album “Melodic Clawhammer Banjo” (http://www.amazon.com/Melodic-Clawhammer-Sapoznick-Carlin-Perlman/dp/B001HGPTNY ). As a young music historian and grad student Andy conducted oral history interviews around Galax in the 1980s on Manly Reece that led him directly back to Randolph County. His research paper “Adam Manly Reece: An Early Banjo Player of Grayson County, Virginia” was written for a class at UNC in 1987, and I am much obliged to Andy for sharing the paper and accompanying photographs with me. [It is one of the most valuable works of Randolph County and southern banjo history that has never been officially published, and I hope that is remedied soon!]

Banjo built by Manly Reece ca. 1848.

Through born in Randolph County, Manly Reece introduced the banjo to the Galax, Virginia area. His father George Reece, a blacksmith, was one of the twelve children of William Reece and Elizabeth Lane, who are buried in the Sandy Creek Baptist Church cemetery (see the church’s prior entry). George’s sister Agnes was the second wife of Elisha Coffin, underground railroad conductor, builder of my house and the 1838 cotton mill in Franklinville (see his prior entry), making her the aunt and Elisha the step-uncle of Manly (all history is genealogy!).

Detail of Manly Reece banjo- the back of the neck.

George Reece is remembered by his descendants to have played the fiddle, and Manly is said to have learned to play the banjo while just a boy. Manly’s own banjo, which is still in the possession of family members, is said to have been built by him before the family moved to Virginia between 1846 and 1848. Once settled in Galax, Manly played with the legendary fiddler Greenberry Leonard (1810-1892), who trained Emmet Lundy, one of the earliest recorded fiddlers in the area.  Manly’s banjo originally had 4 strings, but before he went into the army he’d converted it to 5 strings.  The family remembers that Manly played first in the clawhammer style, and later learned to fingerpick.  He could play many Stephen Foster songs, so Andy theorizes that Manly could have learned from a passing minstrel show (though I’ve found no references to those playing the Randolph County area).  Andy believes that Manly introduced the banjo to the Galax area, partly based on letters written to Manly after he went into service with the Confederate Army, where women write that they miss him and haven’t heard the banjo played since he left. His banjo was returned to his family after Manly was killed in March, 1864, while riding on top of a troop train in the Petersburg area.

Julia Reece Green and unknown fiddle player (original from Kahle Brewer)

Manly’s sister Julia Reece Green (1842-1911) learned to play the banjo from Manly, and passed the skill to her grandson Kahle Brewer. Kahle Brewer was a well-known old-time musician in Galax of the 1970s and 80s, and became a mentor to Andy Cahan and other expatriate students of southern musicology.

L-R: Allen Hart (banjo); Wayne Martin (fiddle); Kahle Brewer (fiddle); Alice Gerard (guitar); at Brewer house in Galax, VA, August 1988.

[From Kerry Blech website, http://home.comcast.net/~blechfam/gallery3.html .]

Andy Cahan’s initial research is still the last academic look into the antebellum roots of Randolph County music.  We’re missing fifty years or more from the story of 19th century music in the county, and perhaps some day that link can be uncovered. Between the time the Reeces moved to Galax in 1848 and the time a young Daner Johnson began to play circa 1890, at least a generation or two of musicians passed their banjo knowledge along. Whoever that was-–Daner Johnson’s teacher and mentor– is currently unknown. But Manly Reece, Daner Johnson and Charlie Poole were all born in northeastern Randolph, within a 5-mile radius of each other, so it is obvious that “ground zero” for the Johnson-Poole banjo tradition rightfully can be located somewhere just north of Franklinville, in Randolph County.

Charlie Poole

August 23, 2009

[Charlie Poole- in his early twenties.]

The last week has seen a flurry of news and reviews that concern the man who may be Randolph County’s most famous native musician. All the publicity arises over the release of Loudon Wainwright III’s excellent new album, “High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.”

I first read the story in the Washington Post [Charting the Deep Waters of Old-Timer Charlie Poole], and then heard a really great interview with the singer by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=13 ].

Courtesy of my friend Tom Hanchett, music historian and a curator at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, here are a couple of more story links: Rogue State: High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project and I [from the Washington City Paper]; Loudon Wainwright III leads salute to bluegrass legend Charlie Poole [New York Daily News]; Loudon Wainwright dives into country music’s past [The Tennessean ].

But this story is new only in that Loudon Wainwright’s double-CD album is new. Back in 2005 the excellent 4-disc box set “You Ain’t Talkin’ to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music” (Legacy/Columbia Records) was produced by old-time banjo player Henry “Hank” Sapoznik, and Charlie Poole was the subject of symposium at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is also remembered annually at the Charlie Poole Music Festival in Eden (www.charlie-poole.com), so it appears that we’re in the midst of a full-blown Poole revival.

On September 28, 1985, the first (and only) Mill Village Music Festival was held in Franklinville, as part of the Franklinville Fire Protection Association’s annual “Fun Day.” (That was something volunteer fire departments used to do before tax support meant they didn’t need to raise money the hard way anymore). Local musician Gary Lewis produced the show, which had a number of bluegrass and old time musicians playing, including Poole biographer Kinney Rorrer’s group the Sweet Sunny South String Band. (Rorrer’s 1982 book Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole is the definitive biography.)

[Bob Johnson of Millboro showing the Poole house to a Greensboro News and Record photographer in 1984).

The reason I engineered this special event in Franklinville was to call attention to the fact that Charles Cleveland Poole was born March 22, 1892, in Millboro, part of Franklinville Township, in a tiny house still standing on the south side of the road from Millboro to Worthville.   Poole’s Wikipedia entry [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Poole ] is actually incorrect on this point, but his Dictionary of North Carolina Biography entry [ http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/movingday/bio.html ] gets it right.

With all this awesome documentation available, I won’t run through his whole life story, but I will sum up the significance of Charlie Poole like this:

Charlie Poole (L) and The North Carolina Ramblers.

After Poole and his band “The North Carolina Ramblers” went to New York in 1925 and recorded “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues” for Columbia Records, American popular music was never the same. At a time when there were no more than 600,000 record players in the south, their recording sold 102,000 copies—five times more than any other record that year. Up until that time, “hillbilly music” had never sold more than 20,000 records, and Poole’s success led the music industry to seek out new performers such as Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family. Poole didn’t write his own songs, but combined elements of ragtime, blues, Victorian parlor songs, and even the old minstrel music popular before the Civil War, with his own unique three-fingered style of banjo picking.

[The Charlie Poole bithplace in Millboro, Randolph County, 2009.]

Poole is identified with the mill village of Spray in Rockingham County, where his family moved in 1916, but his formative years were without doubt spent in Randolph County. Both his father Philip Poole and mother Betty Johnson Poole had been mill workers at Haw River in Alamance County, and their relocation around 1890 put the family in the center of the Deep River mill villages.  The house is more or less equidistant between the Worthville mill to the west (with the Randleman mills another 2 mills west) and the Cedar Falls mill to the southeast (with the Franklinville mills another 2 miles east).

Millboro had just been created in 1889 when the “Factory Branch” of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway had reached that point from Climax.

[The last remaining early store in Millboro]

For several years while construction of the line continued towards Franklinville and Ramseur, Millboro served as the shipping point for all the mills in the area, and a number of stores and boarding houses grew up in the area.

The Halliday hunting lodge in Millboro was a prominent draw for sportsmen, and featured its own shingle-style water tank above the tracks (see entry FT:10 in my book, p. 93).

By all accounts, Charlie Poole was already playing the banjo before 1900.  Poole’s first wife said she once had a photograph of him as a child, playing a banjo made out of a gourd. Only after Poole began work in one of the mills could he buy himself a real banjo for $1.50.

One story has Poole’s distinctive banjo-picking style growing out of a childhood accident where Poole caught a baseball bare-handed, breaking his thumb and permanently deforming his dexterity and grip.

Daner Johnson

But another story, from Homer Johnson and Loray Allred of Randleman, says that their uncle Daner Johnson taught Charlie Poole to play the banjo in Johnson’s own distinctive style.

Daner Johnson and his brother “Nep” (Napoleon P.) Johnson were first cousins to Poole’s mother, and Daner Johnson was 13 years older than Poole. According to Homer Johnson, Daner Johnson told Charlie Poole to “throw away them finger picks—anybody who has to use a pick can’t play a banjo.”

Daner Johnson popularized banjo-picking not just in Randolph County, but all over the region.  It was said that at age 25 Johnson won a gold-plated banjo by beating banjo recording star Fred Van Eps in a competition at the 1904 World’s Fair (officially, the “Louisiana Purchase Exposition”) in St. Louis. (As an aside, the St. Louis World’s Fair created the 20th century American diet: among the foods first popularized at the Fair were hamburgers, hot dogs, the ice cream cone, peanut butter, cotton candy, Dr. Pepper and iced tea!)

Daner Johnson must have been a major influence on Charlie Poole’s ability to play their shared favorite instrument. Johnson and Poole continued to play together as adults, on visits to Poole’s sister’s home in Spray, or Johnson’s brother’s home in Draper.

[Daner Johnson tombstone at Melanchthon Church, Liberty, NC.]

Daner Johnson was almost as much a “rambling man” as Charlie Poole; he never remarried after the death of his second wife Pearl from pneumonia, and wandered from friend to friend, playing music, doing farm work and drinking heavily. He died in 1955 and is buried in the cemetery at Melancthon Lutheran Church near Liberty.

[Addendum:  I’m indebted to a post at banjohangout.org [http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=155578 ] for a reference to Patrick Huber’s book “Linthead Stomp,” which features Charlie Poole’s photo on the cover.  Says Barnes and Noble, “Linthead Stomp celebrates the Piedmont millhand fiddlers, guitarists, and banjo pickers who combined the collective memories of the rural countryside with the upheavals of urban-industrial life to create a distinctive American music that spoke to the changing social realities of the twentieth-century South.”   Huber explores how the culture of industrial work and mill village life contributed to the music of Poole, Fiddlin’ John Carson, the Dixon Brothers, and other pioneers of the mis-named “hillbilly music.”  Finding the roots of old time string bands in mill village culture fits right in with Randolph County’s pioneer contributions to cotton mill village life.]

Addendum:  Reading through the local columns of The Courier, the local Randolph County newspaper, for 11 August 1927, I discovered this note:

“A reunion of the Poole family will be held at Nixon’s Pond, Sandy Creek, on State highway 62, Thursday August 11.  A picnic dinner will be served.  All relatives and friends of the family are urged to attend.  Charlie Poole, of near Leaksville, promises to have his string band at the reunion.  Mr. Poole’s band has recently been playing for records for the Edison Phonograph Company, and have been in New York City for some time on this mission.”

McCrary Eagles II

July 30, 2009

Sometimes when I try to put everything I know into one post, it gets w-a-y t-o-o l-o-n-g (See textile processes, above.)

So last time I refrained from putting in those photos I mentioned of the 1935 Eagles game in Randleman.

The seven pictures I have came with the three Bud Scarboro photos, which all seem to date from 1934 or 1935.

Dates are written on the backs of the photos, but are confusing. For example, the photo above is captioned “Clark Thornburg catching; Bright Holland batting, made at Randleman, N.C. 1934”

But the photo is all but identical to this one, captioned “Press Burge in action, 1935.” The tin roof over the dugout, the wooden cage protecting the crowd from foul balls, the women in white dresses behind the catcher, the boys in overalls- all appear to be the same, though labeled a year apart.

The owner wrote “Jack Cox, 1935” on this view.

This one just says, “Monk Davis, 1935”. Monk Davis was the uncle of J.B. Davis, the current CEO of Asheboro furniture manufacturer Klaussner Furniture Industries.

Here is the only photo of a pitcher in action, labeled “Grant- Pitcher, 1935;” behind him in the outfield distance is the scoreboard.

And the scoreboard is shown in detail here, the most visually-interesting photo, and of course it’s the only one where the subject is not identified. But the 1935 chalk board/ scoreboard couldn’t be much different from modern Major League electronic scoreboards… The Home Team evidently won this game 3-1, so given this McCrary Eagle’s happy aspect- looking for all the world like he hit a game-winning home run- this scoreboard may not have been in Randleman. Unless, that is, the Eagles at the time played their home games where ever they could find an empty ball park- a problem not unknown to new teams.

The last photo is the only one in the collection of a non-Eagle. The Oak Ridge player is captioned on the back of the photo “J.O. Scarborough- Oak Ridge Left fielder. He, leading his club in batting in 1925 [sic- 1935?], batted .439 with five homeruns. Miller- at bat; Bruton- catching.” I assume that the name refers to the Oak Ridge Military Academy, located in northwest Guilford County, NC [www.oakridgemilitary.com]. FYI, in one of the many ironic paradoxes of Piedmont history, Oak Ridge Institute was founded in 1852 as a Quaker boarding school. During World War I, the ROTC came to campus, and by 1929 the school had been transformed into a full-fledged military academy- since 1991 the “Official Military Academy of North Carolina.” The paradox, for those who are still stopped a few phrases back, is that Quakers historically have fervently held to the so-called “Peace Testimony,” putting them on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from war and the military. For further information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_Ridge_Military_Academy , since the school’s own history link doesn’t appear to be working. They have been nearly sunk by financial troubles this summer, after all.

McCrary Eagles Baseball

July 29, 2009

It has been too long since I posted here- both because of the length of my textile processes posts, and because it has been the height of summer, and the yard, the garden, vacations and birthdays have taken up my time. Sorry!

In line with both textiles and summer is the topic of baseball; particularly the textile league team of Asheboro’s Acme-McCrary hosiery mill. The 1937 McCrary Eagles team is pictured above, because in that year the team won the North Carolina semi-pro state title and went to the national championships in Wichita, KS (they lost there). Pictured above are (left to right, and front to back): Pat Short, Hayes Harrington, Sam Lankford and Jack Underwood (bat boy); Mal Craver, Guy Clodfelter, Neely Hunter (Manager), John Griffin, Jack Cox and Bob McFayden; Paul Cheek, Lester Burge, Hal Johnson, Mike Briggs, Gates Smith, Hooks Calloway, Tom Burnett, Red Norris and Charlie Barnes (Trainer).

Baseball goes back a long way in Randolph County—Trinity College was playing UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State as early as the 1880s. The Deep River textile communities joined in the “Deep River League” at least by the turn-of-the-century, and the games between those communities were cut-throat contests for community pride and pecking order.

The McCrary Eagles baseball team was assembled starting in 1933 or 1934; by the 1940s there was also an Eagles basketball team. I’m being vaguer than usual on these dates because I’m really writing here about a group of artifacts, not the team as a whole.

In May of 2007 I met a very nice guy from Troy, Jerry Parsons, who played American Legion baseball in Asheboro on the fabled teams of 1967-1970, with players who were legends at the time- Jimmy Dollyhigh, Scott Rush, Mike Voncannon, Keith Green, Larry Hollingsworth, and Tommy Raines. Jerry walked into my office and offered to sell me a virtually complete McCrary Eagles uniform. He had bid it in at the estate auction of Bud Scarboro in the 1980s. Bud was the long-time operator of the Gulf Service Station in Wadeville, NC, and had been born in Mt. Gilead.

Fifty years before his death, Bud Scarboro played on the 1934 and 1935 McCrary Eagles teams. Like many southern boys of the time, baseball ran in his blood, and in his family. His brothers Ray and Junior also played for the Eagles at some point, and his cousin Ray Scarboro pitched for the White Sox and for the Yankees in the 1952 World Series.

Along with the uniform came eight snapshots processed by the “Flying Film Company Inc.” of San Antonio Texas. They were apparently taken in 1934 or 1935 (both dates are written on the photos) at a game played in Randleman between the Eagles and a team from Oak Ridge.

In the first group of three, Bud Scarboro poses for the camera in his Eagles uniform, the same one I bought from Jerry Parsons. I have everything shown except the cap, the belt and the shoes, and what the real thing best illustrates is how much black and white photographs bleed the vivid life out of the scene.

The actual uniform is a surprisingly thick, scratchy cream-colored wool; the lettering, stockings and Eagle arm patch add vivid blue and red accents to the ensemble.

(The stockings I received are obviously not the solid blue or red ones worn by the team in all their pictures, but these have been well worn all the same.)

The uniforms were top quality- made by Spalding, supplier of Major League uniforms. Bud was a size 42- large even by modern standards, but positively chunky by the measure of Depression-era scrawny Southern boys.

4 Not pictured in any of the action photos, but being worn in Wichita by Mal Craver and Hooks Calloway is the warm-up jacket, a heavy weight wool jersey with brown trim and an elaborate blue eagle on a red circle.

The eagle clutches gear and lightning bolt symbols which show that it was modeled, if not stolen outright, from the National Recovery Administration Blue Eagle. The NRA was a New Deal Agency created by one of President Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.  It was led by Hugh Samuel Johnson, a retired US Army general and businessman, who saw the NRA as a national crusade to increase employment, reduce “destructive competition,” and regenerate industrial production. The program was ruled unconstitutional in 1935 by the US Supreme Court, but most of it reappeared later that year in the National Labor Relations Act.

The NRA was popular with workers because it set the first minimum wage laws. The Blue Eagle (said to be a stylized Art Deco version of the tribal American Thunderbird) was part of a successful publicity campaign which made “voluntary” membership in the NRA effectively mandatory. Since any business that supported the NRA could put the symbol on shop windows and packages, businesses that didn’t were often boycotted. Branding its baseball team with the name and symbol was obviously meant to show that Acme-McCrary was a big supporter of the NRA!

Cotton Textile Manufacturing Processes

June 23, 2009

What follows is an illustrated outline of the stages and processes involved in manufacturing cotton textiles. I worked it up to support a lecture I’m giving to the N.C. Humanities Council Teacher Institute in Chapel Hill, which is this year studying the theme “The Culture of Textiles in North Carolina.” All of the historic photographs illustrating the processes were taken in Randolph County; most of them in the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. George Russell, the superintendent of that mill from 1905 to 1925, created a remarkable album of his own amateur photographs in and around the mill, circa 1916.

Raw Material: Cotton Agriculture.

Randolph County has long been known as the foremost county in the state for wheat production, while its tobacco and cotton crops have always been minimal. It is ironic therefore, that this iconic postcard photograph of North Carolina cotton agriculture illustrates a farm near Asheboro. The photograph was taken by the state’s best known female photographer of the early 20th century.


FMC Teamsters, 1915. Mule teams were the usual choice to draw heavy loads such as these 500-lb. Bales of cotton. The Randolph Mfg. Co. on the east side of Franklinville used oxen instead.

The Cotton Gin .

The cotton Gin, whether located near the cotton field or the cotton mill, was the beginning point in processing the cotton boll into cotton cloth. Farmers brought their cotton to the gin, where the seeds were pulled from the fiber by the teeth of tiny “saws,” and the cotton fiber then pressed into five hundred pound bales. The gins were located in the upper floor of the two-story frame building at left; wagons bringing cotton from the fields unloaded sacks underneath, and the ginned cotton was baled at an adjacent screw press. This photo is probably not of the original gin, which was located beside Elisha Coffin’s grist and saw mill. The cotton gin also operated at a site on the head race east of the dam near the ox barn and and horse stables, and this may be a photo of that operation. In the early twentieth century the gin was moved to a location behind the new company store on Main Street, now the site of the Franklinville Volunteer Fire Department.

The Cotton Warehouse.

Before the factory was in operation, farmers hauled the bales to larger cities for sale; later the cotton bales were stored in a cotton warehouse until needed by the factory or until transport by railroad to some other factory. Until the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway opened service to Staley in May 1884, raw cotton and finished products had been carried to Greensboro by wagon. On November 15, 1886, the shipping point was changed to Millboro, northwest of Cedar Falls; by May 17, 1890, regular rail freight and passenger service was available in Franklinville. Frame cotton houses were used throughout the nineteenth century, until the pictured brick warehouse was built in the summer of 1900.

The Opening Room/ Picker or Lapper House.

The ties binding a bale of cotton were cut in the Opening Room, and cotton from several different bales mixed together in the middle of the floor, as shown. Handfulls of cotton were then thrown into the hopper of a Opener-Feeder, where large metal teeth shredded the compressed cotton and fans blew out some of the leaf fragments and trash. A moving belt then fed the cotton into the Picker, or Lapper, which created a flat lap, or roll of cotton. These rolled laps were taken off the end of the picker and hung on racks, ready to be rolled into the Card Room.


Carding Engines.

These are the Saco-Pettee revolving flat top cards installed in 1907. In the background the gear end of a set of slubbers is visible, with cast lettering that says “Saco-Pettee/ 1911.” Examples of both of these machines survive in the mill today. The laps were cleaned and condensed on the carding machines and twisted into “sliver” or ‘roving’ (about the size and shape of rope) that was coiled into the roving cans shown.

Drawing frames.

The cans were next taken to “Drawing Frames” (pictured above) where sliver from multiple cans were twisted together and coiled into another can, which was then taken to Roving Frames, starting with Slubbers (shown below) where multiple cans were again twisted into roving, about the size of a pencil, and wound onto large wooden bobbins. The roving bobbins would be carried to the spinning room by the card room hands.


The Card Room Hands (1915).

As shown, all the card room hands were men and boys. The work was mostly heavy lifting.

The Spinning Room.

In the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company of circa-1910, the Weave Room (and separate Opening Room and Slasher Room) was on the first floor, the Card Room was on the second, and the Spinning Room was on the third floor. Two types of spinning frames were required, one set to produce coarse warp yarn, and another to produce finer filling yarns. Warp yarns were spun onto stubby wooden bobbins, which could then be transferred to larger packages in the warper creel, taken to the dye room for dyeing, or spooled off and warped into skeins for sale as bundle yarn, or twisted together to make packing twine. Finning yarns were spun directly on to the pointed “quills” which snapped into the Draper filling battery on a loom.

The Spinning Room, Franklinsville Mfg. Co., before 1915.

The Spinning Room

Most spinners were women, although the supervisors were male, and “Bobbin Boys” “doffed” the full bobbins, throwing them into waiting buggies for transport to the next stage.

The Warper Room and Drawing-in Room. The woman is standing beside the warper and warping creel. To the far left may be a drawing-in stand, or it may be part of a warp-tying machine, which was a later advance on drawing-in a pattern by hand. Filling yarns were “drawn in” to the desired pattern through reed and harnesses in the “Drawing-in” Room; the loom’s entire “tackle” could be taken to the weave room to change the pattern on a loom. In the foreground are full warp beams waiting to be taken to the weave room.

The Drawing-In Hands, 1915.

The Dye House.

Colored cloth could be made by weaving with colored yarns or by dyeing natural cotton finished cloth by the yard. Colored yarn could be made either by dyeing the raw cotton before it was spun (often the method of choice for denim production), or by dyeing the natural yarn after spinning. In the 19th century only the signature red, blue or brown stripes in seamless bags needed to be dyed, so the dye house was a small addition to the back of the boiler room. In the 20th century, a bleachery was built at the Lower mill and flannel was dyed and printed in multi-colored patterns. Plaids were woven in many other Deep River and Alamance County mills, but never in Franklinville. A very simple one or two-color check could be woven on a plain or Draper loom, but multi-color plaids required a “box” loom with multiple shuttles carrying the different colors. Crompton and Knowles, or “C&K,” made the most popular American box looms.

The photograph above shows a view of the Central Falls Manufacturing Company dye house around 1900. Raw cotton is being forked out of the dye kettle; it would next have to dry completely before it could be picked, carded and spun. The blue indigo yarn used in Denim twill was usually “dyed in the raw” like this because the twill weave also used a natural white filling yarn; dyeing the denim after weaving would have colored both warp and weft yarns blue.

The second photograph shows a different dyeing process about 40 years later. Women’s hosiery at Acme-McCrary corporation in Asheboro was dyed after the knitting process was complete but before inspection and packing.

The Slasher Room.

Even coarse cotton warp yarn was too delicate to weave on mechanical looms without special treatment. Each individual warp thread was strengthened by dipping it into a vat of hot starch, or “sizing,” and then pulling it around a steam-heated copper drum to dry, before wrapping it onto a warp beam. The Franklinville mills used two circa-1900 Lowell Machine Shop slashers when they closed; the machines were perhaps the oldest then in use in any American factory. Because of their size (each the size of a tractor trailer) they could not be easily salvaged when the lower mill was demolished. Slasher room hand was one of the heaviest, hottest and stickiest jobs in the mill. From here the iron beam of warp yarn could be taken to the floor of the weave room and tied directly onto a working loom, or stored for future use.


The Weave Room (1915). The bag looms used in the Franklinsville mill throughout the nineteenth century were made by the Lewiston Machine Works of Lewiston, Maine. The first bag was woven in 1872 by Kate Russell, the daughter of Weave Room Overseer J.B. Russell. Most weavers were women. Men who learned to weave usually did so to learn how to repair the looms, and ultimately became “fixers” and supervisors. Weavers and Fixers were the most skilled and highly-paid floor employees in the mill. The bag looms used in the Franklinsville mill throughout the nineteenth century were made by the Lewiston Machine Works of Lewiston, Maine. Before 1915, weavers were paid by the number of bags that were woven on each machine per day. After the change to sheeting production, weavers were paid by the “cut”, or number of yards woven per day. In 1909 four bag looms were purchased from the Draper Company of Hopedale, Mass., because the company’s “Northrup battery” was revolutionizing the process of weaving. Draper’s innovative battery (the revolver-like cylinders shown to the right) automatically replaced empty bobbins in the shuttle with a new bobbin full of yarn. This automated one of a weaver’s most time-consuming tasks, and made it possible for a worker to double, triple or quadruple the number of looms he or she could operate. Labor activists later referred to this as “the Speed-Up.” When the changeover to sheeting manufacture was made in 1916, all 160 new looms were purchased from the Draper Company. The Draper “E” model looms shown were introduced in 1898 and became the workhorse of the southern textile industry. They were made in various sizes up to 1930. The standard width of cloth woven in 1915 was just 28 inches; forty inches or more in width was considered a ‘wide’ loom. A dozen 40″ or 42″ looms remain at the mill in Franklinville.

The Weave Room Hands, 1915.

(Hugh Buie, Weave Room Boss, 4th from left).

Parks-Cramer Humidifier, or “Air Conditioner”

The Parks-Cramer Company involved one of the outstanding figures in the development of the southern textile industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Charlottean Stuart Warren Cramer. The company was founded in 1918, when the G.M. Parks Company, manufacturers of industrial piping, heating, and ventilation systems based in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, purchased Cramer’s business interests. The new company established business operations in Fitchburg, Boston, and Charlotte. Stuart Warren Cramer was one of the principal inventors and entrepreneurs promoting the growth of southern cotton textiles. Born in 1868 in Thomasville, North Carolina, he attended the United States Naval Academy and the Columbia University School of Mines. In the early 1890s Cramer was chief engineer and manager of the D. A. Tompkins Company in Charlotte, the South’s foremost distributors of cotton-mill machinery and supplies. Its owner, Daniel Augustus Tompkins, was a major builder of cotton mills and a leader of New South industrialization. Cramer soon established his own textile engineering and contracting firm in Charlotte.

Cramer’s specialty in industrial engineering was in the humidification systems for textile factories, and it is said that Cramer coined the term “air conditioning”. In 1904, he introduced an electrically operated heat and humidity control mechanism, and in 1905, an automatic hygrometer. These instruments were predecessors of the Psychrostat, a humidifier control instrument, which injected a fine mist of water into the air, to moisten and “condition” the cotton fibers. Cramer’s best known patent was for the “Cramer System of Air Conditioning,” not just a method of cooling air, but automatically regulating temperature and humidity (high humidity static electricity and made cotton fibers adhere together and spin better).

The Cloth Room.

The Bushnell Baling Press is in the left foreground. In the center background is an automatic cloth folding machine. Sheeting is being packaged for sale here, although seamless bags were baled up and shipped in a similar fashion. From the cloth room, bales would be taken to the warehouse for storage until shipping out on the railroad.

The same Bushnell Press, in the ruins of the Columbia Factory, 2004.

Seamless Bags.

From 1872 to 1915, the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company made woven tubular “seamless” bags. The process of weaving a tube was invented by Cyrus Baldwin, a supervisor in the Amoskeag Machine Shop, and the bags were first woven in the huge Amoskeag Company mills of Manchester, NH. The Franklinsville mill was one of the first factories in the south to import the technology after the Civil War. By 1890 several dozen mills in the US were weaving the bags, which were widely used for shipping flour, corn, seeds, and frozen meat on railroad and steamships. Their popularity was due to their strength (no side or bottom seams to burst) and their durability (seamless cotton bags were returned to the processer, washed, and reused many times). The product suffered a precipitous decline after 1934, when the Pure Food and Drug Act prohibited re-use of food product packaging. Some mills retooled to produce a revised product, “pillow tubing”—actually seamless bags made of much lighter count yarn, and used for craft embroidery of decorative designs. The Franklinville mill retooled in 1915 to switch production to sheeting and other plain weave products. The last seamless bag was woven in the mid-1970s in Alabama by the Bemis Company.

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company: A Pictorial History

June 22, 2009
Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

(This was partially written years ago as part of a walking-tour brochure of Franklinville, but I revised it recently to put a better face on the rather sad present condition of this historic factory, which is now Randolph County’s 3rd designated historic landmark.)

The 140-year story of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company has one of the best-documented visual histories of any North Carolina cotton textile factory.  Portrait photographs of stockholders are known dating from the mid-1850s, the same time a professional artist, David L. Clark, lived in the community and left an extensive written account (although none of his sketches have been found).  A daguerreotypist is listed in the 1860 census, and F.L. Ellison operated a photography business in the community during the latter 1800s.  At the turn of the century, both Hugh Parks, Jr., the mill owner, and George Russell, the mill superintendent, were amateur photographers.  Their work is now indistinguishable, as the oldest Franklinville photographs all descended among members of the Parks and Makepeace families, who were related to both Parks and Russell.  Approximately the time of the 1923 sale of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company to Randolph Mills, Inc., George Russell compiled a an extensive written and photographic history of the mill in identical scrapbooks, one kept by him and one given to Hugh Parks, Jr.  The Parks scrapbook descended to Carrie Parks Stamey, the middle daughter of Hugh Parks, Jr., and was copied in 1985.  Mrs. Stamey also possessed a number of unique individual photographs, which were also copied at that time.  The George Russell scrapbook descended to Margaret Williams of Franklinville, and was given to Mac Whatley in 1987.  Most of the following pictures come from those scrapbooks, although various individual views are used from other sources now found in the Whatley collection.  The quoted passages are taken from the written history of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company as found in the scrapbooks and compiled from the original corporate records, the location of which are now unknown.

Faith Rock. The power of water falling over a series of stone ledges in the path of Deep River is the whole reason manufacturing grew up at the place which became known as Franklinsville. As the river flows from Guilford County through Randolph County its level drops some five hundred feet. As it reaches Franklinville it strikes a huge stone outcropping known as Faith Rock and turns, creating a dogleg bend in the river. In 1782 Faith Rock was the site of a Revolutionary War confrontation between the pro-British Colonel David Fanning, who chased the Whig Andrew Hunter along the ridge and into the river. Soon after the spot was recognized for its industrial potential, and several speculative owners purchased land around the falls before the site was developed as a mill seat.

Coffin’s Mill on Deep River. Flour milling is Franklinville’s oldest activity. Tradition credits construction of the first mill to Christian Moretz (or Morris) in 1801. The 2 ½-story frame building shown here was about 30 x 30 feet in plan, and housed a wooden water wheel that powered three mill stones and a minimum of flour-processing machinery. By 1802 Morris was being taxed for the operation of a large cotton gin, and he also operated a saw mill and wool carding machine. The availability of such a variety of products and services led to the formation of a lively rural trading community even before Elisha Coffin bought the property in 1821. Much if not all of the building pictured must dated from the time of Coffin’s ownership, as the oversized twelve-over-twelve window sash are appropriate to the 1830s. The southern wall of the Boiler House is visible in the left background. In 1912 the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced the antique grist mill with a greatly-expanded modern operation which used steel rollers instead of stones to grind the grain. That three-story “Roller Mill” opened in 1913, operated until 1990, and burned in 1992.

Elisha Coffin (b. 11-23-1779, d. 5-22-1870). Elisha Coffin was born in the New Garden section (now Guilford College) of Guilford County. He was the son of Quaker emigrants from the island of Nantucket who moved to North Carolina in the late 1760s and early 1770s, and both his father and grandfather had served as crew members on whaling voyages to the Arctic. Elisha Coffin learned the trade of a miller and millwright, buying and building a number grist mills in Guilford and Randolph. For 60 years Coffin’s family of Nantucket Quakers served as the liberal backbone and conscience of Piedmont North Carolina, spearheading the fight against slavery. The very year Elisha Coffin purchased the mill on Deep River, he and his father assisted nephew and first cousin Levi Coffin, “the President of the Underground Railroad,” in transporting escaped slave Jack Barnes to freedom in Indiana. Coffin ran the various mills on Deep River until 1838, when he allowed the new Randolph Manufacturing Company corporation to purchase the operation as an adjunct to textile manufacturing.

Island Ford Manufacturing Company, built 1846. No photograph or drawing of the original Randolph Manufacturing Company mill is known, but the Island Ford mill half a mile downriver was built 7 years later by Elisha Coffin, George Makepeace and a very similar group of investors. The two mills probably looked much alike, although the Island Ford mill was built of wood while the Franklinsville factory was of brick. (The two-story weave shed in the foreground was added to the Island Ford mill in the 1850s.) Construction began on the Franklinsville factory in the summer of 1838, and spinning and weaving operations started in March, 1840. The monitor roof effectively gave the mill four usable floors; in the Franklinsville factory it appears that this was used as the “dressing room,” where hot starch was applied to warp yarns. It was there that the fire started which destroyed the building on April 18, 1851.

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. 1874. Samuel Walker, Agent. The west side of the mill, with all the employees lined up for the camera. A ladder leans against the gable roof. A Greek Revival-style bell cupola covers the northern gable peak, while a chimney stack rises from the southern end. Lighter-colored brick are clearly visible up to the level of the second floor joists, marked by cast iron tie-rod ends; this indicates where the original 1838 walls were found to be solid enough to build upon. There are at least forty workers posing on the ground, three on the tall ladder, and one sitting in a third-floor window. From March 21, 1859, the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company had been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Cedar Falls Company, under the supervision of George Makepeace. Ten looms designed to weave seamless cotton bags were installed in April, 1872, and ten more were installed in July, 1874. George Makepeace having died in December, 1872, the mill was now under the management of Samuel Walker.

George Makepeace (b. 9-19-1799, d. 10-9-1872). Makepeace learned the textile industry in small mills around Wrentham, Massachusetts, on the Rhode Island border not far from the birthplace of the textile industry in Pawtucket. Makepeace was hired by the Franklinsville company to install the machinery and train the workers. He was en route to Randolph County on December 25, 1839, when his daughter Lucy was born in Petersburg, Virginia. For many years Makepeace was one of the region’s only skilled experts in textile manufacturing, consulting with mills all around the Piedmont and training the next generation of North Carolina’s textile management. During the Civil War the Cedar Falls Company under Makepeace’s management was the largest integrated textile manufacturing operation in the state, processing raw cotton into yarn, cloth, and clothing. In 1862 he reported that the Company “had been furnishing the State Government for the past year with a large amount of its manufactures for the use of the Army and is now under contract to supply fifty thousand shirts and drawers for the army.”

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1876). Taken from the northwest, with the northern gable end clearly visible, although the sun reflecting off what appears to be a metal roof is hiding the bell cupola in its glare. The lighter-colored brick of the original first floor is still visible, as are the two chimneys at the south end. Wooden board sidewalks are provided across gulleys and muddy tracks. There are approximately 35 people posing on the ground, and at least two looking out of third-floor windows. The factory had undergone three ownership changes in the previous two years. The Cedar Falls Company had sold the mill to the Randleman Manufacturing Company on July 28, 1875, but less than a year later, on the Centennial day of July 4, 1876, the partners Hugh Parks, Benj. Moffitt and Eli N. Moffitt bought the property for $24,500. Hugh Parks was then the Mayor of Franklinsville and the primary owner of the Island Ford mill downstream. “At this time the mill was a three-story brick building, 40 x 80 feet, with picker room, 34 x 40 feet, built of stone and some distance from the main building. The mill was then equipped with twenty looms for weaving seamless bags, and the necessary preparatory machinery. The only bag made then was a 16 ounce bag, branded ‘Franklinsville,’ which had both double warp and double filling. Hugh Parks and Benj. Moffitt took charge of this mill at once, keeping James F. Carter, Overseer of Carding; Nathan A. Fergerson, Overseer of Spinning; and Jesse P. Arledge, Overseer of Weaving. It was only a short time until Hugh Parks put in Matthew Sumner [as] Superintendent, who was also Superintendent of the Island Ford Manufacturing Company.”

Stockholders of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, 1876. On January 26, 1877, the three partners formed a corporation, contributing $30,000 of capital in shares valued at $500 each. The first stockholders meeting was held March 28, 1877, at which Hugh Parks was elected President, Benj. Moffit Secretary- Treasurer, and Eli N. Moffitt, director. The new capital was used to modernize the mill’s equipment.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1883). Hugh Parks, Sr., Pres. Benj. Moffitt, Sec. & Treas. Baling Room Completed. The factory has undertaken a major expansion in the intervening 7 years. In July 1879 the old throstle spinning frames were replaced with ring spinning frames purchased from and erected by the Lowell Machine Shop. A spooler was installed at the same time. In February, 1880, new railway heads, drawing frames and speeders were erected, and in December 1880 and January 1881 a new picker and eighteen cards were installed. A two-story addition was built to the mill in July 1882. Called the Wheel House or Engine House, this wing was much more elaborate architecturally than the old mill, having brick quoins at each corner and gothic-style hood moldings over doors and windows. The wing provided space for a new water wheel and the first steam boilers and engine, which were installed and started for the first time on November 24, 1882. The smokestack for the boilers is visible at the south end of the Wheel House. At some undisclosed time the 1850’s gable roof was replaced by a flat roof with paneled brick parapets. This was undoubtedly done to qualify for insurance protection by one of the Factory Mutual insurance companies based in New England. The Factory Mutual companies had determined that the wooden trusses of gable roofs were fire hazards, and promoted replacement by flat roofs built with “slow-burn,” or solid tongue-and groove decking, construction. The one-story Baling Room housed the printing, sewing, baling and shipping operations of the mill. The Baling Press was operated by the rope-drive pulleys punched through the walls of the mill and separate Baling Room wing. A new picker, eight more cards, a spooler, a warper, and ten more looms were also installed at this time. This new equipment heralded the weaving of the first 14-ounce bags, having a double warp and single filling. The new product was branded “Parks,” in honor of the company’s President, Hugh Parks.

Group Employee Picture, Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, ca. 1885. The group is assembled in the mill yard between the oil or waste house and the mill, facing the company store, where the photographer stands. Oil for lubrication and lamps was housed in a separate building from the factory, as were rags and cotton waste used for cleaning.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1886). Taken from the southeast, with the 1838 stone Picker House in the foreground. The Wheel and Engine Houses are still just two stories, and it is obvious that the boilers are fired with wood. Four different weights of seamless bags were now made in the mill, the increase having been made possible by the addition of a slasher, which made lighter weights of yarn suitable for weaving by strengthening them with starch. “In February 1884 the first slasher was put in, which was known as a hot air slasher and was made here in the mill. It was in March of the same year when the first single warp bags were made. They were a 12 ½ ounce bag branded ‘Chapman,’ and an 11 ounce bag branded ‘Dover.'” These products proved popular, and increased the demand for bags beyond the mill’s capacity to spin lower counts of yarn. Therefore, in 1887, a 17×40 foot addition was made on the west side of the Picker House, “and five new Lowell spinning frames and a new spooler were added, and the manufacturing of Chain Warp began, by use of the Circular Mill.” In October 1888 the Baling Room was expanded and the first cylinder slasher was installed. By 1893 the demand for seamless bags was such that ten more looms were installed, and in 1894, as the orders for single warp bags increased and those for double warp bags lessened, it became necessary to add two more cylinders to the slasher. The first self-feeder and opener was installed in the Picker House in February, 1896.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1892) Hugh Parks, Sr., Pres.; Benj. Moffitt, Sec. & Treas. Tower Completed. The most obvious new feature is the brick tower positioned at the northeast corner of the original building. “Up until 1892 all the roving and yarn were carried in bags, up and down the steps, by boys; but after the tower was built and the elevator installed, the task was made much lighter.” A separate tower for stairs was another requirement of the Factory Mutual companies, as the old open stairways inside the mill could act as chimneys during a fire. Besides new stairs and an elevator, the tower also supported a wooden water tank feeding the new sprinkler system. Even though the scrapbook label clearly states that the above picture dates to 1892, when the tower was completed, it appears that it actually dates to 1895, as a third story is obviously present atop the 1882 Wheel and Engine House. “In 1895 the third story was built on the engine room; and two new Hopedale twisters were put in, replacing the old ones, for making selvage for bags and twine for hemming.”

Employee Group Picture, ca. 1895. The employees are assembled in front of the stair tower, facing the company store.

Smoke Stack. Built 1897. “In October 1896 J.E. Duval started the first dynamo in this mill, and then tallow candles and kerosene lamps became a thing of the past.” But the boilers and draft stack of 1882 proved inadequate to handle both the increased production of the mill and the new technology of the 1890s. “In 1897 a new engine room, 19×36 feet, an addition to the boiler room and a new smoke stack were built, and a new boiler and engine were installed and started on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1897, by Benajah T. Lockwood of Providence, R.I.” The double door under the shed roof led into the boiler room. The steam engine was located in the wing to the left of the door. The dynamo was evidently a D.C. generator, as the subsequent 1920 turbine boiler powered the first AC generator. “The old No. 1 Keeler boiler was sold and delivered to Kersey-Carr Company on February 23, 1921.”

1897 Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Corliss-type steam engine. The original steam engine installed by the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company in 1882 had been purchased from the William A. Harris Company of Providence, Rhode Island. Harris had worked with the original George Corliss company before starting his own factory, and specialized in large mill engines using the highly-efficient Corliss valve gear. The original engine had a 14″ diameter piston with a 36″ stroke; its flywheel was 11 feet in diameter. On July 29, 1897, the Franklinsville company ordered a new engine having an 18″ piston, 42″ stroke, and 13-foot flywheel designed to carry a 24″ leather belt to power the mill’s lineshafting. After installation the engine was used continuously until December 23, 1920, after which the mill was renovated for electrical drive. On July 21, 1921 the engine was sold and removed to C.R. Preddy of Builder’s Sash and Door Company of Rocky Mount, N.C. On April 5, 1933, it was again sold and moved to Williams Lumber Company of Wilson, N.C. Williams Lumber was bought out by Stevenson Millwork in 1965, and the engine operated until that business was liquidated in 1972. It was disassembled and stored in a field in Smithfield until 1977, when it was purchased by Shell Williams of Godwin, N.C. Williams moved the engine to his home on U.S. 301 in northeast Cumberland County and re-erected it on a concrete block foundation. It was located there in 1995, and identified from the original W.A. Harris records now in the possession of the New England Museum of Wireless and Steam. Inside the upper half of the flywheel is faintly visible, in red paint, “Franklinsville Mfg. Co., Franklinsville, N.C.”

Unloading Water Wheel (1909). The mill’s original power undoubtedly came from one or more wooden water wheels, probably of the breast (or “pitch-back”) type. The type of “new” water wheel installed in 1882 is unknown. In the major expansion of the mill of 1899, a 44-inch Leffel turbine wheel was installed and started August 14, 1899. The dynamo which provided lighting in the mill was run by this wheel until 1901, when a separate steam engine was installed for that purpose. In 1909 the old water wheel and water house was torn out, and a 285-horse power horizontal turbine wheel was installed by D.J. Heiston and Jake Lindemuth of the S. Morgan Smith Company of York, Pa. After conversion of the mill to electric drive in 1920, the turbine was used as back-up power for emergency pumps until about 1940. The wheel housing visible on the railroad car still exists in place under the mill, although the runner wheel appears to have been removed.

Seamless Bags made by Franklinsville Mfg. Co., 1901. “The double warp bags were discontinued this year, as the demand was for a single warp and single filling bag; this required more slashing, and a new two cylinder slasher was installed in August, 1901. This year the brands were changed; the 16 ounce bag was branded “Atlantic;” and the 14 ounce bag, “Lone Star.” In 1915 the corporate secretary wrote, “Some months ago Hugh Parks, Jr., saw the destiny of seamless bags, and after visiting Baltimore and New York, decided that the best thing to do was to make a complete change and to manufacture sheetings instead of bags. It was decided to build an addition (52×73) to the weave room and install 160 looms, for weaving sheetings, and the necessary preparatory machinery. In January, 1916, all the bag looms were thrown out; and the last bag was woven by Arthur Ellison on January 30, 1916. Arthur Ellison gave up his position in the weaving room January 30, 1916; when Hugh B. Buie was put in charge of the room. The last bags (22 bales) were shipped November 16, 1917 for the account of Amon Green & Co., Baltimore, Md., to Carleton Dry Goods Co., St. Louis, Mo. These bags were sold April 19, 1915.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1913). Benj. Moffitt, Pres. Hugh Parks, Jr., Sec.-Treas. Taken from one of the wooden bridges which crossed the head race, this view looks northeast toward the south sides of (from left to right) the Picker House (now two stories); the Baling House (in the center, now also two stories and housing the slasher, the drawing-in room, the warper room, and spooling); the main mill; the Wheel House (now three stories); the Engine House (one story); the Boiler Room (one story, but having a gable roof with clerestory). The shed porch on the far right belongs to the new Roller Mill, out of sight.

The Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Roller Mill, circa 1920. Built in 1912 and put into operation in 1913, the roller mill made Excelsior brand flour. Later the Excelsior brand was limited just to whole wheat flour, and the new Dainty Biscuit brand was given to more refined white flours. Its drive wheel shared the head race water with the cotton mill until conversion to electric drive.

Construction of the Feed Mill, 1936. This is a detail taken from a larger view from Faith Rock across Deep River, looking northeast. A major expansion of the roller mill operation in the late 1930s provided for increased sales of chicken, rabbit, horse, mule, goat and hog feeds. The terra cotta tile silos were built for wheat storage. The three-story 1899 wing of the cotton mill and the one-story 1915 weave shed are visible in the center of the picture.

Expansion of the Card Room, circa 1944. During World War II John W. Clark received special permission for extensive remodeling and repair of the 100-year-old facility. Steel girders and I-beams recycled from other buildings were used to create a new support structure for the mill, completely independent of the exterior brick walls. The Opening, Picker and Card Rooms were expanded into the court yard between the old wings by bulldozing the intervening hills.

The “Upper Mill” area of Randolph Mills, Inc., circa 1950. Taken by Aero-Pix of Raleigh, this aerial photograph shows the entire complex of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. The original mill, as expanded in 1899, is at left center; the Baling Room wing to its right and the Picker House just about that. Across the road is the 1884 Company Store, then serving as the machine shop. Directly above it is the 1919 Power House and Smokestack (125 feet, 2 ¾ inches of radial brick on a fifteen-foot-deep foundation of crushed stone and concrete, demolished about 1975). Heading west from the Power House is a house used by the company as a hotel, now the site of the company garage. From there to the dam was the original location of the company stables and barn, and the cotton gin. On the opposite side of the head race just below the dam is the Peanut House; across the road from there is the Chicken Hatchery; adjoining it is the antebellum residence of the President of the Company; then the Feed Mill and Roller Mill.

Naomi Wise

June 3, 2009

Tomorrow is my 22nd annual walk and talk on Randolph County history for the Asheboro-Randolph Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber’s “Leadership Randolph” program was the whole reason I started this blog several years ago, and the reason I developed the Randolph County Chronology and Bibliography that are attached to the blog. In my attempt to get things down in writing that I’ve spoken to the class about for years, I’ve written more here this year than in all the other years combined. Some major topics I have avoided, however, because they really need a modern, in-depth treatment—more than I can usually justify on this site.

Naomi Wise is one of those topics. The nutshell version is that Naomi Wise, an unmarried Randolph County girl, was supposedly drowned by her lover, Jonathan Lewis, in a lover’s quarrel in April 1807. Beyond that, details vary, but over the years the story was set to song, and became very popular. The song is now considered the oldest American murder ballad, and its music is actually the living landmark of the event.

The murder on which the song is based really happened in Randolph County more than two hundred years ago, yet sadly, little physical evidence remains. The tombstone shown above is located in the graveyard at Providence Friends Meeting, on Providence Church Road west of New Salem Road in Providence Township, Although a hundred or more years old, the stone is not original; it moreover bears an inaccurate date of her death. Perhaps that makes it the perfect emblem of the story of Naomi Wise.

I’ve told the story for Leadership Randolph, and lately in the computerized multimedia age I’ve played the 60s Doc Watson version on CD through my Jeep speakers. Here’s the 21st-century equivalent, the embedded YouTube video of the Doc Watson recording-

Doc Watson is just the most contemporary artist who has sung a version of this song. Folkorists such as Bascom Lamar Lunsford and others have collected and recorded other versions, with widely-varying lyrics. As discussed at length in the most recent publication on the subject [NAOMI WISE: Creation, Re-Creation and Continuity in an American Ballad Tradition,” by Eleanor R. Long-Wilgus (Chapel Hill: The Chapel Hill Press, 2003)], the many versions of the ballad occurred as a lost original version was gradually passed down from singer to singer since the actual events occurred.

(a copy of the ballad of Naomi Wise in the handwriting of Miss Laura Worth, on a 1920s voter registration form)

The “standard” version of the ballad is the one attached to the 1851 narrative story by Braxton Craven entitled “Naomi Wise: Or, The Wrongs of a Beautiful Girl.” Craven, the headmaster at that time of the Normal College, soon to be Trinity College and ultimately Duke University, romanticized the story so as to make Naomi Wise an innocent victim and heroine of the story in a fashion that is still familiar with the Lifetime movie channel, Nancy Grace and Greta van Susteren on cable TV. In Craven’s story, the innocent virginal 18-year-old orphan girl was lured to her doom by a dastardly sexual predator who was ultimately caught and punished for his crime. That’s the version perpetuated in the ballad text printed by Craven, and in its numerous reprintings and transfigurations over the years. It’s a version that was probably written to conform with the age-old English song tradition of “Murdered Girl” ballads.

A story I’ll tell you

About Naomi Wise,

How she was deluded

By John Lewis’ lies….

He promised to meet me

At Adams’ springs;

He promised me marriage

And many fine things…

I got up behind him

And straightway did go

To the banks of Deep River,

Where the water did flow…

“No pity, no pity,”

The monster did cry;

“In Deep River’s bottom

your body shall lie.”

The wretch them did choke her,

As we understand,

And threw her in the river,

below the mill dam….

(The Story of Naomi Wise was once considered the signature event of the Randleman area, and for several years high school students acted it out in a spring pageant on the riverside. But the bicentennial of the event in 2007 passed without notice.)

As Eleanor Long-Wilgus discusses briefly in her much longer analysis of the ballad lyrics, the true story is, as usual, much less black and white. A detailed analysis of the history behind the ballad can also be found in “Omie Wise: The Ballad as History,” by Molly Stouten, published in Spring 1997 issue of The Old-Time Herald magazine. Hal Pugh, owner and operator with his wife Eleanor of the New Salem Pottery, are modern Randolph County’s guardians of this story, and have done more research than anyone else I know about Naomi Wise (publish! Publish!) In recent years an early 19th century document has been discovered in the Special Collections of the UCLA Library which is the only contemporary account of the event. Entitled “A true account of Nayomy Wise,” it is a lengthy poem found in a penmanship copybook belonging to Mary Woody and her brother Robert Woody.

“To Such as here [hear] and Wants to Know

A Woman Came Some years ago

Then from a Cuntry named by hide [Hyde County, in eastern NC?]

In Randolph after did reside

And by Some person was defil’d

And So brought forth a bastard Child

She Told her name neomy Wise

Her carnal Conduct Some did despise

It was not long till She’d another

That might be Call’d a basturd’s Brother…”

The actual story appears to be that unmarried Naomi Wise was in 1807 already the mother of Nancy (b. 1799) and Henry Wise (b. 1804), and was probably pregnant by Jonathan Lewis, a well-to-do store clerk employed by Benjamin Elliott, the Clerk of Superior Court and future owner of the Cedar Falls cotton factory. The “Bastardy Bonds” for Nancy and Henry can be found in the Randolph County papers at the NC State Archives (for years they were hidden by local historian Laura Worth, who disapproved of the facts). Following the child support law of the time, Naomi charged each father with “begetting a child on her body;” each man then posted a bond publicly insuring that the county would never have to pay to support their children.

(Cost sheet from November 1810 term of Superior Court, showing the expenses of arresting and holding Jonathan Lewis for trial.)

Apparently the argument between Naomi Wise and Jonathan Lewis arose when she revealed her pregnancy, but demanded that Lewis marry her rather than post a Bastardy Bond. Lewis was in fact charged with her murder, jailed after the inquest, but escaped before trial. He fled to Elk Creek Indiana, where he was eventually re-arrested and extradicted back to Randolph County. Jonathan Lewis was tried and acquitted for the murder of Naomi Wise in 1811 (all of these court records are in the state Archives).

What physical evidence remains beyond the site of her grave?

“He promised to meet me at Adams’ Springs” — Adams’ Spring is located on the west side of Brown Oaks Road, about a hundred yards south of the Woolen House (NS:11, p. 116 of my architecture book) which fronts on New Salem Road.

The local school was once located near the spring, which was for many years marked by a gazebo. Nothing marks the spot now, save oral tradition.

To the left of the shed in the grainy newspaper photograph above is a piece of paper tacked to an almost-invisible stump—the very one, it was said, used as a mounting block for Naomi Wise to mount Jonathan Lewis’ horse and ride to her death. This is the kind of local landmark once a common part of every historic site, but gradually lost to the passage of time and the deaths of all those with first, second or third-hand knowledge of the event. Compare the open landscape of the early-20th-century photo with the modern view of trees, weeds, scrub pines and brambles…

Finally, the site of the murder survives: Naomi Falls, taken near dusk from the Naomi bridge over Deep River. The camera position is just west of the site of the remodeled Peter Dicks Mill (see that entry), and the distant rocks in the center water mark the site of the falls and ford once covered by the dam impounding water to power the 1881 Naomi Cotton Mill. Here it is in daylight….

And here, a hundred years ago- Victorian picnickers at the site of the murder….

(from the historical photograph collection of the Randolph Room, in the Asheboro Public Library.)

There you have it—Randolph County’s most famous murder.  Both more, and less, than local history recognizes.


Here’s the wikipedia link:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omie_Wise .  The article perpetuates some errors but includes a good general overview of the topic.

Here’s an internet transcription of the classic Manley Wade Wellman retelling of the tale in his book Dead and Gone; it is by far the most readable version of the story:  http://www.allredfamily.org/naomiwise.htm .

Local historian Calvin Hinshaw says that he was told back in the 1950s by New Salem resident George Newman Hinshaw that the narrative poem first printed by Braxton Craven was written by Levi Beeson and his mother soon after the event.  The format of the poem copies a traditional “ballad of experience,” which always begins with a call to the audience (“Come all ye-“) and then proceeds to explain the sad story of the subject victim.

There are MANY different versions and printings of the original Craven story, and even more versions of the ballad.  The original ballad, reconstructed by Eleanor Long-Wilgus, was said to have been sung to the hymn tune “How Firm a Foundation,” composed in the 18th century by Anne Steele (It works- try it with the Craven ballad transcription).   Two of the most recent singers to try out the ballad are Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello- quite a journey from the banks of Deep River in 1807!