By Phillip White
The area of Rutherford County known as Cliffside is located 1.5 miles west of the Cleveland County line and 4 miles north of the South Carolina line and was selected for the construction of a cotton mill because of the excellent water power site found at the horseshoe bend of the Second Broad River. Prior to building of the textile plant, the surrounding land was described as undeveloped, barren, and covered with rough surface rocks and trees. Not even a road wound through this desolate area, not a bridge spanned the stream and the nearest house was some distance away. Early use of the land had been as hunting grounds by the Catawba Indians with little evidence of permanent village sites. One of the earliest families to settle in the area was the Richard Scruggs family.
Raleigh Rutherford Haynes, a resident of the Ferry Community of Rutherford County, realized the potential of the water power site the water power site going to waste at the present site of Cliffside. As a small boy his grandmother sent him on an errand which would carry him into the section now known as Cliiffside, but in the veritable wilderness that he had to go through he got lost and couldn’t find his destination. This experience stayed with him and he was impressed with this section of Second Broad River.
Raleigh Rutherford Haynes, one of the fathers of the textile industry in Rutherford County, was born in High Shoals Township, Rutherford County, June 30, 1851. (His birthplace has been moved to the residence of Janice Bridges Shirley in Cliffside where it is undergoing restoration.)
His father was Charles H. Haynes, a farmer, deputy sheriff and neighborhood teacher. His mother was Sarah, a daughter of Elijah Walker, of Ellenboro. R. R. Haynes’ grandfather was John Haynes (died June 20, 1844). Eight children were born to Charles H. Haynes and his wife, Raleigh being the fourth child and eldest son. When he was eight years of age, in 1859, his father died. Mrs. Haynes, possessed of practical nature, trained her children with wisdom and foresight. Raleigh remained on the farm assisting his mother until he was twenty years of age, when he went to Union County, S.C., to learn how to cultivate cotton. After two years he returned to his home at Ferry, and added to his farming operations both a store and saw mill. He was successful from the start; he planned thoughtfully and acted prudently and wisely. His mother had counseled him “never to go security, never act as guardian, nor hold office,” and observing her injunctions, he avoided pitfalls, and while interested in public matters, he was not led by them away from his business. He married on January 29, 1874, Amanda Carpenter, a daughter of Tennessee Carpenter, a well known citizen of the county. To them were born eight children, and on her death in 1890 he became both father and mother to them. Later, he married Litia Kelly, who, however, died childless in about a year.
Mr. Haynes continued to prosper as his farming and business interests expanded. He invested in land until he became one of the largest landowners in Rutherford County. Having acquired valuable timber land and a fine water power site at the High Shoals on Second Broad River, R.R. Haynes and associates S.B. Tanner, Sr. and J.S. Spencer of Charlotte began development of Henrietta Mills in 1887. Henrietta Mills and village grew and prospered, and about eight years later Henrietta No. 2 plant was built and named Caroleen. In addition, in 1897 R.R. Haynes bought the necessary land and built the Florence Mills at Forest City.
R.R. Haynes had the desire to build a mill and village in a locationand a design that would provide an ideal setting for manufacturing and people alike. He saw the rare possibilities of the river location at the horseshoe bend, and then and there determined to lay the foundation of a great enterprise.
Kelly Moore, a lifelong friend and man of tireless energy, had worked with Mr. Haynes in building his other businesses and textile mills and was called on to serve as chief building engineer in developing Cliffside.
Many hardships were endured during that first winter. In October of 1899 the foundation of the mill was started. The road that had been cut through the forest could be traveled fairly well in favorable weather. Before a road was made, walking from the nearby town of Henrietta or riding horseback were the only means of reaching the place. The operations progressed slowly at first, due to a cold, rough winter with creeks and streams swollen by heavy rains. However, with the opening of spring and better weather, the work was begun in earnest. By March 1900, the work of laying the brick for part of the mill had been started. The rest of that year and through 1901 building went steadily on.
An old friend, Dr. T.B. Lovelace, was associated with him from the beginning, and later on B.D. Heath of Charlotte was associated with them. R.R. Haynes had the surveys of power made, and as the town of Cliffside took shape, many details had to be planned and carried out, such as building houses for the employees, the laying off of streets, digging wells, establishing a store, building a warehouse for cotton, etc.
Machinery for the manufacture of gingham was bought and installed, and in 1902 the mill was put into operation. Getting the machinery to Cliffside was a major undertaking. This was shipped via S.A.L. [Seaboard Air Line] Railway and unloaded at a point where Cliffside Junction is now located. Then it was loaded and hauled on mule-drawn wagons to Cliffside. The boilers and heavier machinery were moved in the same way.
The charter for Cliffside Mills was issued on February 4, 1901 with the following as charter stockholders: R.R. Haynes, Dr. T.B. Lovelace, L.A. Holland, Dr. J.F. Whisnant, Gaither Kennedy and Henry Jenkins.
Later, Moses H. and Caesar Cone of Greensboro, N.C. as well as other friends of R.R. Haynes became stockholders in the corporation.
In the building of Cliffside Mills and the town of Cliffside, there was ever in the heart of R.R. Haynes a vital interest and concern for the welfare of the employees. He encourage them to take pride in keeping their premises clean and attractive. “Not only is the moral tone of the village clean and sure but its whole aspect is inviting and attractive…streets are laid out with such taste and the pretty cottages flanking them are as neat as a pin. Flowers too grow in profusion…Mr. Haynes has annually offered substantial prizes (1 to 15 dollars) for the best kept premises and flower gardens.”
The health of the community was looked after by competent physicians. Dr. Baxter Haynes, nephew of R.R. Haynes, was one of the first doctors to live in Cliffside and worked among the people for many years. Other doctors who had long service on the years following were: Dr. J.M. Allhands, Dr. Bobo Scruggs, Dr. G.O. Moss, Dr. G.F. Becknell, Dr. Young, Dr. Weir, Dr. H.L. Radford, Dr. Craig Jones, Dr. C.N. James, Dr. Phillips, Dr. M.O. Elizondo, Dr. Chastain, Dr. Lampley, Dr. Boone, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Sanders. At one time Cliffside Mills employed a welfare nurse who gave her entire time to visiting and ministering to the sick in the town.
The education of its youth is the first concern of any town. When Cliffside Mills was built, one end of the mill was set aside for space for a school. Before long the school had grown until the mill space was too small. In the meantime the store building was being erected and on its completion, its upper floor was given over to the school, where it remained until a schoolhouse was built. Its location was very nearly where the Rescue Squad cabin now stands. As time passed this building was enlarged as the needs of the school demanded, until it, too, became too small. In 1922 the present school was completed. Rev. D.J. Hunt was among the first to be principal of Cliffside School. In past years the following have served as principals: Clyde A. Erwin, Barron P. Caldwell, J.J. Tarleton, R.L. Leary, H.C. Beatty, and Phillip P. White is presently the principal.
Several fine churches were established and great has been their influence.
Cliffside Baptist Church — pastors: R.A. Hedgepeth, 1903-05; B.M. Bridges, 1905-07; N.R. Stone, 1908; C.W. Payseur, 1908-11; F.B. Raymond, 1911-12; A.L. Stoudenmire, 1912-14; D.J. Hunt, 1914-21; W.K. Collins, 1921-23; Charles H. Stevens, 1923-25; Roscoe C. Smith, 1926-29; J.A. Hunnicut, 1930-38; W.V. Tarleton, 1938-44; O.D. Moore, 1944-45; Tom Lawrence, 1946-58; John Lucas, 1959-73; W.A. Stroud, 1974-.
Cliffside Methodist — pastors: J.B. Carpenter, 1903-05; S.E. Richardson, 1905-09; A.C. Swofford, 1910-11; R.M. Hoyle, 1912-17; A.J. Burrus, 1918-20; John C. Keever, 1921-24; M.W. Heckard, 1924-27; E.L. Kirk. After this Cliffside Methodist Church was made a station appointment with the following pastorate of E.L. Kirk, 1941-45; then followed by R.M. Laughlin, E.W. Needham, Rev. Wolf Gilbert Miller, L.B. Laye, R.L. Young, Doyle Freeman, J.W. Crawley, M.J. Byers, Harry Sellers, Clay Morgan and Dean Kelly.
Haynes Grove Baptist Church — pastors: Rev. Hopper, Rev. White, Rev. McBrayer, Rev. Norris, Rev. Dills, Rev. Hargrow, Rev. Clayton, Rev. Smith, Rev. Bonner, Rev. E.V. Brantley.
A Presbyterian Church was chartered in 1910 but was later removed.
R.R. Haynes died unexpectedly on Feb. 6, 1917. Even though much of Mr. Haynes’ dream of building and progressing had been realized there were still ideas to be developed. Raleigh’s son Charles H. Haynes following in his father’s footsteps and continued to accomplish much in building the community and contributing to the progress of Rutherford County. The R.R. Haynes Memorial Building was built and dedicated to the citizens of Cliffside on June 24, 1922. A fine modern school facility was built and dedicated on April 22, 1922.
The building as it stands represents an expenditure of a quarter of a million dollars, and every dollar of the cost of the building itself was borne outright by the company, there is no heavy bond issue to burden the people for a generation to come. There are no heavy special taxes to be paid. It is distinctly a gift, and as a gift is representative of the fine spirit of consideration which Cliffside Mills has for its employees.
Charles H. Haynes continued to be a great influence on development and activities in the village until his death on April 26, 1958.
The power site owned by R.R. Haynes was not completed but was sold to Duke Power Company, and in 1940 a steam electrical generating plant came on line. The Duke village for employees of the power plant was also constructed and contained approximately 58 houses and a fine community clubhouse. Many of the new residents coming to live in Duke village came from other areas of North and South Carolina. This influx of hardworking progressive people complemented the existing group of “operatives” and their families assembled in the Cliffside textile village.
The textile market continued to change and in the 1930s Cliffside converted gingham production to the making of terry cloth to be made into towels and bath cloths. Cliffside Mills became part of the Cone Mills Corporation on July 1, 1948. In 1976 a new ultramodern weave plant was built on property north of the old plant. This plant manufactures denim in one of the most sophisticated weave plants in the world.
Cliffside had been conceived, planned, built and developed during the golden age of industrial development in the United States. Many type of industries had their villages. The system had been called “benevolent feudalism” and was successful in helping workers and industrialists move the United States from an agrarian to an industrial society. Changing social forces and corporate consolidation changed village life forever. In the early 1960s Cliffside village, along with other villages in industrial communities, was systematically removed. Houses were torn down; a highway by-pass was completed leaving the downtown area a dead-end street. A few houses were sold but the majority were removed. All the downtown store buildings, mill office, R.R. Haynes Memorial Building, and the dry cleaners were also demolished.
The people of Cliffside have a fond memory of the people and times and in the words of Earl Owensby, movie producer, businessman and former Cliffside resident, “I can never leave Cliffside or it leave me; it’s in my heart.”
Skyland Magazine, 1913
History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties, 1730-1936, by Clarence W. Griffith
Raleigh Rutherford Haynes: A History of His Life and Achievements, by Mrs. Grover C. Haynes, Sr.
Charlotte News “Special Textile Edition,” Feb. 1917
From The Heritage of Rutherford County, North Carolina
Editor, William B. Bynum. et al, 1984. Reprinted with permission