Mabel Bridges Cargill
Mabel Anne Bridges was born on October 11, 1908 at 10 Reservoir Street in Cliffside, North Carolina, to Doctor Samuel Boyce and Retter Daves Bridges. Mabel had two older siblings, Robert and Ruby, who died as young children. Her younger siblings were Paul, Inez, Wytle, and Boyce Bridges, Jr. Her family later moved to Main Street and lived in the house beside the school. She grew up in this town in Rutherford County and graduated as Valedictorian of her Cliffside High School class in 1924. She graduated when she was fifteen years old because she had skipped a grade. Her further education was at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina, and at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina.
Mabel married John Edwin Cargill of Piedmont, South Carolina, on June 29, 1927. Their wedding was held in her family home on Main Street. While Edd worked for Huntington & Guerry Electrical Company, they lived in Ninety-Six and Marietta, South Carolina, and in Durham, North Carolina. In 1931 they returned to Rutherford County and lived for the next twenty-one years in Henrietta, where Edd was Master Mechanic for Henrietta Mills. They had four children: Eleanor, John, Anne, and Paula. In the summer of 1948 Mabel was trained at Finley’s School of Floral Designs in Greenville, South Carolina. On her fortieth birthday, October 11, 1948, she opened Cargill’s Flower Shop in Cliffside and operated the business until 1971. She became a florist because of her love of flowers and her desire to have an outlet for her creativity. In 1952 the family moved into their new home located between Cliffside and Six Points at the top of Luckadoo Hill.
Mabel was always an active church member. She became a Sunbeam at the age of five and remained in organizations of Woman’s Missionary Union for her lifetime. She was baptized into the fellowship of Cliffside Baptist Church when she was a young girl. In 1941, along with Edd and Eleanor, she was a charter member of Temple Baptist Church in Henrietta. Mabel taught Sunday School classes for more than fifty years and was a choir member and church pianist. She served as WMU president at Cliffside Baptist Church, as well as at other churches where she was a member. She represented Cliffside Baptist Church in leadership positions in the Sandy Run Association and served nine years as Director of the Sandy Run Baptist Association’s WMU. In 1962 she was asked to write a history of the Sandy Run Woman’sMissionary Union. In 1982 the minutes of the Sandy Run Association were dedicated to Mabel for her leadership. Mabel served for six years as a member of the North Carolina WMU Executive Board.
Mabel served as president of the Tri-Community Woman’s Club and later of the Cliffside Woman’s Club, which she helped to organize when she moved back to Cliffside. The club’s mission was the betterment of the community. She represented the local clubs by serving as District President, District Department Chairman, State Chairman of the International Affairs Department, and State Corresponding Secretary. She was honored by the Cliffside Woman’s Club in 1960 with the presentation of their first “Woman of the Year” award. She received the same award in 1974 from the Tri-Community Club. Mabel was listed in the l975-76 Bicentennial Edition of Personalities of the South.
Mabel was active in local Parent Teachers Associations, serving as president. For six years, she served as a member of the Rutherford County Social Service Board, part of this time as chairman. She was organist for the Melba Chapter of the Eastern Star of which she was a member. She earned her 35-year pin for service to the American Red Cross. She was a member of the first county committee of the North Carolina Symphony and served on the county board for the Vocational Workshop. She was a charter member of the Lucille Wall Music Club, in which she held several offices including president, and was honored with the dedication of their yearbook in 1979-80.
In 1972-73 Mabel became a charter member of the Fountain Club of Limestone College. She served as president of the Limestone-Rutherford County Council. She later was a member of the Limestone-Greenville Chapter. In 1991 the college honored Mabel by naming her the Alumna of the Year for her lifetime of service.
On October 22,1961, the new post office building in Cliffside was dedicated, and Mabel wrote the dedication hymn for the occasion. She is listed with the North Carolina Women Composers of Music. Mabel was a strong advocate for saving the R.R. Haynes Memorial Building and the R.R. Haynes home from demolition. She voiced her opinions to Cone officials, but her efforts failed. She was forever saddened because those two historic landmarks were removed from her beloved hometown.
In October 1976, Mabel and Edd moved to Greenville, South Carolina, to live with Anne and Paula. Mabel became active in church and her community club. She served four years as the Baptist Women’s Director in the Greenville Baptist Association.
As a creative writer, Mabel wrote numerous plays and skits for special occasions. Her play “The Christmas Story from Ben Hur” has been performed for churches and civic organizations. She wrote many poems which have been compiled into a booklet for the family. In the summer of 1982, she recounted her childhood memories of Cliffside for her daughter Paula to submit for a project in her postgraduate studies to become a specialist in gerontology. The oral history was later published in book form and was entitled I REMEMBER. Paula had originally intended to record conversations between her mother and Uncle Paul as they reminisced, but he died suddenly in June 1982.
Quadruple heart bypass surgery in August 1985 and a stroke in January 1993 forced Mabel to curtail her activities. She continued to enjoy her pastimes of crossword puzzles, crocheting and knitting. One of her philosophies of life was “All that I can ask of life is to be given an opportunity to show what I am made of.” She was thankful that when the opportunities came along, she was able to take advantage of them. “She hath done what she could.” Mark 14:8a
Mabel Bridges Cargill’s long life of service and creativity ended on August 20, 1999. Her funeral service was held on August 22 in the Cliffside Baptist Church, a few feet from the site of her birthplace, and she was buried in the Cliffside Cemetery.
You can read Mabel’s memoir here.