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The Way They Were...

By Virginia Rucker
Daily Courier Associate Editor

The Daily Courier, January 15, 1992
See related article

A Look at Cliffside in 1910

Cliffside—When Mary McCraw went to work as a helper in the mill, she may have looked back wistfully at her dolls and envied other children who were able to spend long, lazy summer days playing outdoors.

She was seven years old.

In the 1910 census she was the youngest of the children employed in the mill; her 10-year-old brother, James, was a sweeper there.

This was back when mill hands often worked 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Other employees included an eight-year-old helper, a nine-year-old spinner, seven 10-year-olds, 13 11-year-olds and 27 12-year-old children.

Of the 34 doffers listed in the census, the average age was 14.

They may have worked with a 75-year-old sweeper and a 74-year-old Confederate veteran.

Absenteeism was unheard of. No employee was listed as out of work a week or more in 1910.

The census showed a population of 2,118 in Cliffside precinct, with 1,800 of those living in houses owned by the mill. Two rental conditions were no dogs and no alcohol.

Raleigh Haynes, who started the mill in 1902, was listed as the only home-owner in town; other homeowners listed lived on farms.

In a similar town today most homes would be occupied by a husband, wife and two or three children. On one page in the census three couples listed six children each, another had seven and another had eight, and ten children wasn't unusual. Only young couples had fewer.

One house was occupied by a couple, three children and seven boarders. That, too, was not uncommon.

A 46-year-old widow, whose father was bom in Ireland, listed her occupation as "boarding-house keeper;" her 14-year-old daughter was a weaver, her 12-year-old son did odd jobs. The four single males and one female border worked in the mill.

One house had a couple, five daughters, two sons, and six boarders.

The census shows 944 white females, 991 white males; 76 black females 92 black males; 10 mulatto females, 5 mulatto males.

In addition to the mill occupations, the census showed an engineer, three firemen, three mail carriers, one meat market worker, one merchant, one milliner, one miner, three ministers, one music teacher, one peddler, one photographer, one physician, three proprietors, two sales-ladies, 12 salesmen, 18 section railroad hands, one stenographer, six teachers, two tailors, one wagon driver, nine washer-women, two well diggers, and two wood choppers.

The Crows tallied up occupations, used graphs, and even counted the number of names: Scruggs had 60, the highest number, followed by 57 Greens. 56 Padgetts. 43 Watkinses and 43 Jollys. And. like many family names. Jolly was spelled two ways.

Other common names were Hamrick, Wall, Hames, Moore, Harris, Bland and Bridges.

Given names were good, sturdy names—nothing fancy. There were 66 Marys, followed by Sarah, Annie, Fannie, Lillie, Carrie, Ethel, Julia and Minnie. Men had 64 Johns, 43 Jameses, then William, Thomas, Joseph, Robert, George, Charles, Clarence, and Henry.

With careful reading, the book tells a story of the people, the place and times of that particular area of Rutherford County.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright owned by The Daily Courier.