A Life In A Cardboard Box
By Reno Bailey
A Charlotte man, Dirk Allman by name, collects anything and everything. His house is filled with all manner of things he's acquired over the years: old 78 rpm records, radios, games, army uniforms, hats, medicine bottles, magazines, postcards, a pump organ, old letters, an ice box, musical instruments, and on and on.
He generally adds to his collection from flea markets and expos, but he's not too proud to stop and poke through trash left beside the curb. One day, on a street side near his home, he came upon a cardboard box containing file folders and loose papers. He took the box home and inspected the contents, but the people and places named on the papers meant nothing to him so he thought no more about it.
Sometime later, Allman discovered Remember Cliffside, and was so impressed with it, he says, he created his own site, the Carolina History Project. On it, he posts information and artifacts from his collection. One night he called me and informed me of his on-line efforts, and said he had a page devoted to some old WWI-era letters and paraphernalia he'd purchased at a flea market. They had once belonged to a doughboy named Thomas E. Ruppe, who lived somewhere near Gaffney, S.C. Some of the letters, he told me, mentioned Cliffside.
I went to his site, read the letters, and saw we were among home folks: "The mill at Cliffsides has shut down this week, Beulah is at Atkisson's, Lafar has not come yet." The Ruppes and Atkinsons are Joyce Hunter's people! I emailed Joyce and she and her cousin Howard Parris were ecstatic to learn that Allman had dozens of 1918 letters to and from their relative. Joyce has transcribed copies of all the letters and is sharing them with her kin.
Now, back to that box Allman found.
He remembered the papers within also had referred to Cliffside, and went back for another look. It contained a birth certificate, a death certificate, a last will and testament, a 1952 certificate from Cliffside Baptist Church's Cradle Roll Department, a receipt and agreement (1956) from Cone Mills Corporation for a lot in Cliffside Cemetery, various Social Security documents and others from the Rutherford County tax assessor and, finally, the statement for services rendered and the memory book from the undertaker, McKinney-Landreth Funeral Home.
The artifacts belonged to Cora Alma Wilson Hill, widow of the late Tom Hill. Cora was born in Chimney Rock, on November 25, 1900, the daughter of Greenberry and Rebecca Horn Wilson. She worked in the spinning room at Cliffside Mill for many years. She died February 18, 2000, at age 99.
This box, found near the house in which one of Cora's sons had lived, may have contained all the remaining physical evidence telling us that Cora Hill had been on this Earth. Thanks to a curious collector, her effects were saved from the landfill.
Upon hearing of all this, Phillip White contacted Cora's granddaughter, Crystal Shires, who lives near Cliffside. She was thrilled to hear of our find, and within a few days she and the precious artifacts were united.
Please, don't let your effects wind up out by the road. Leave your photos, artifacts and documents to the Historical Society. We will preserve them.
For more on the Gaffney letters go to:
To learn about the curious collector, Dirk Allman, watch the video at:
A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of The Cliffside Chimes.