George Kelly Moore
Once upon a time, paying tribute to a deserving individual was more important than the bottom line in the financial ledger. Such was the case when Cliffside Mills shut down for the afternoon on the day they buried G.K. Moore. It was on Wednesday, January 8, 1930, and “one of the largest crowds in the history of Rutherford County” gathered at Cliffside Baptist Church. Moore was a member of the smaller Methodist church; the services may have been moved to accommodate the thousands who were expected to attend.
He died at Rutherford Hospital the previous Monday morning at 9:30, as a result of injuries received when the Chrysler car in which he and Mr. Lox Harrill, enroute to Forest City, was run into by a drunken driver in a Ford roadster. The wreck occurred at Sandy Mush. The Ford car, driven by Walter Branch, of Henrietta, was headed toward Caroleen. Mr. Moore was rushed to Rutherford Hospital but never regained consciousness.
From accounts of his funeral we learn that Mr. Moore was born in Burnt Chimney (later Forest City) on October 31, 1856. His first schooling was in a log cabin, then he went to the schools at Boiling Springs and Nebo. He taught in rural schools to enable him to go on with his education. He married Miss Maggie Dean on Christmas Eve, 1891, in the first ceremony to be held in Forest City’s First Methodist Church.
In the late 1890s, Moore was the first master mechanic at Florence Mill in Forest City. After a couple of years he moved to the Levi Mill in Rutherfordton in the same position and, in January, 1900, he came with Raleigh Haynes to what is now Cliffside. He ordered the first load of lumber to arrive in Cliffside, and, over the next 30 years supervised the construction of practically every structure in town, including the massive cotton mill, and the Cliffside Railroad.
The year of his death was within the era when grown men were not embarrassed to say, in public, kind and loving words about a fallen comrade, and there were several at his funeral who opened their hearts to Kelly and his family.
Charles H. Haynes: “Cliffside has lost its pioneer citizen and I have lost one of my best friends…He was always loyal to the town he helped to build. His going has made a vacancy not easy to fill and the entire town mourns a loss that cannot be estimated.”
Z.O. Jenkins: “Kelly was the same every time and on every occasion that we would meet, absolutely truthful, honest, industrial, broad-minded and always considerate. He looked to the interest and welfare of others, and in doing so, he even sacrificed his own comforts and feelings.”
Maurice Hendrick: “In all communities, there are a few outstanding men who tower above their fellows. Some stand out as financial leaders, others are intellectually superior; some are loved for their gentle and goodness of spirit, others are great builders, towers of energy and of strength, and full of fire and ambition. Of this latter type was Kelly Moore.
“He was a builder, in the fullest sense of the word. He was easily the outstanding builder of this section of the country. The products of his brain and his skill represented by some of the greatest industrial plants and buildings in this county stand up for him as monuments to his memory. But great as these monuments are, he has a still greater one, which is the love and admiration enshrined in the hearts of his friends and co-workers.
“For twenty years or more I have been intimately associated with him in his work connected with Cliffside, and each year has added to my love for him and to my respect for his judgment and counsel.
“Kelley Moore was the type of man whom men admired. His body housed an enormous strength and rugged constitution. He never shirked from any duty no matter how unpleasant. He was a born leader of men and had the sternness necessary to command obedience from the men with whom he worked and at the same time extended to him their love, loyalty, and admiration. With his manly qualities was combined a heart as tender as a woman’s and a disposition to always help the unfortunate no matter whether black or white.
“His untimely going marks the passing of this community’s outstanding and most beloved grand old man.”
In Kelly Moore’s 72 years he had an enormous impact on the spirit and success of Cliffside and Rutherford County.
He was buried at Pleasant Grove Methodist Church.
The wreck’s aftermath
In the wreck that killed Kelly Moore, Walter Branch of Henrietta was the driver of the fast-moving Ford. In the car with Branch was his brother, Woodrow Branch and Miss Virginia Roach of Avondale.
Lox Harrill, in the Moore car, suffered a fractured knee and other minor injuries.
From the Rutherford County Sun’s accounts: “Liquor was the cause of the wreck and death of Mr. Moore. A total of 3 ½ gallons was in the Ford just before the wreck, it is reported. Both the Branch men were under the influence of whiskey, it is reported, when the accident occurred. They had been off to get a supply of whiskey and were hurrying home.
“Mr. Walter Branch, who got away after the wreck voluntarily give up Wednesday norming early. A friend of his telephoned Sheriff Hardin Tuesday night that he (Branch) would be in Rutherfordton early Wednesday morning to give up. Branch had been hiding in the woods between Henrietta and Cliffside since the wreck. He suffered a cut on his knee, bruised chin, several front teeth knocked out and a scar on his face, in the wreck. He had nothing to eat from Monday morning until Tuesday night. He jumped into Second Broad River twice Monday night, he told Sheriff Hardin here yesterday, but it was so cold and deep that he could not swim across and came back on the North side each time.”
Woodrow Branch ran, but was caught in a barbed wire fence by Mr. John Womack and Officer James Marlowe. The Branch brothers and Miss Roach were held in jail here awaiting a hearing as soon as Harrill was able to attend.
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This article originally appeared in the Jul-Aug 2007 issue of the Cliffside Historical Society newsletter.