In 1910 William Howard Taft was U. S. president, though it’s unlikely many Cliffsiders paid him much notice, for only about half the town’s population could read, there was no six o’clock news and the weekly newspaper contained mostly news of local interest. Furthermore, in those days the federal government had little, if any, impact on the society of an isolated southern mill town.
(North Carolina’s governor that year was William Walton Kitchin; its two senators were Furnifold M. Simmons and Lee S. Overman.)
The town had fewer streets and houses than we remember. There was no Shelby Highway, or at least no one lived on it. (Houses may have been under construction there, for the Company employed 16 carpenters to work on houses.) There was no Highland Street, at least by name; it may have been part of Cliffside Street. The River St. we remember was in 1910 called Riverview St. (Sometime later it would become Riverside St.) There was a West Riverview St., which was likely the one that came to be called “Bunker Hill,” now Island Ferry Rd.
For the most part, black folks lived on White Line St. and Railroad St. This may not be the same Railroad St. that existed in our time, but the one identified on the 1942 map as “Railroad Place,” an extension of White Line. In which case, the Railroad St. we remember did not exist, or had no houses, in 1910.
Most wives worked at home, not only to raise their small children but to carry out the enormous tasks of making, washing and mending the family’s clothing; cooking the meals; tending the garden; preserving the food; and somehow making ends meet.
Generally those in the household who did work were the father, most children older than seven or eight, and the boarders or kinfolks whom the family had taken in to augment its income. The mill ran one 12-hour shift every day except Sunday. Most very young mill workers were helpers, sweepers, spinners and doffers. The Company encouraged children to attend school, even if they also had jobs.
It would be nine years before women were allowed to vote, with the creation of the 19th Constitutional Amendment. Child labor reforms would come by mid-decade. The 40-hour work week didn’t come about until the late 1930s. Nationally, the life expectancy of a man was 48.4 years; of a woman, 51.8 years. The national average salary was $750 a year.
Raleigh Haynes was very much alive, and in full force. He had been working on his plans for Cliffside for about a dozen years now, and things were shaping up nicely. He would have a little more than six years to live. His dreams for the future included another cotton mill and a power generating plant down river in the Mt. Pleasant area. He planned to extend the railroad to those sites. (Upon his death those plans were abandoned; the mill and plant were never built, the tracks were stopped halfway there.)
Charles H. Haynes, 28, was head bookkeeper for the Company. His brother Grover was his assistant. His sister Eula was the Company’s only stenographer. The all lived with their father in the big new house on N. Main, along with a boarder, Calvin Camp, who was Mr. Haynes’ farm manager. (D. O. McBrayer was another bookkeeper on Mr. Charley’s staff.)
There were no automobiles to speak of. The only means of travel available to the average person, aside from the train to Avondale, was walking, or, in extreme cases, hiring a man at the livery stable to drive you on the rutted dirt streets in a horse-drawn buggy.
One stable, run by 30-year-old Zeno B. Hawkins, was toward the north end of Church Street, up near the cemetery. Possibly there were other stables, for both Calvin W. Melton and Patrick Harrill were listed as proprietors, or they may have been co-proprietors with Mr. Hawkins of the Church St. stable. Joseph Arrowood was a livery stable driver.
The families on farms outside of town tended to have larger families, partly to provide an ample force of field hands. A few of the farm family members worked in the mill. One wonders how someone way out on Gaffney or Spartanburg Rd. got to work.
Cordia Freeman was five years old, not yet old enough to work on the railroad, on which in a few years, with the nickname “Shine,” he would begin a lifelong career. He lived in his father Daniel’s house on Cliffside St., along with his 24-year-old cousin, Preston Freeman, the stone mason (who is featured prominently in The Tomb Builders in our History department).
Speaking of the railroad, these people worked on the CRR: Logan Jolley was an engineer; Alexander Wilson, Thomas Harrill and Albert Bristol were section hands; Plato Brooks was a laborer; Bisco Burgin‘s job was not defined. There may have been more who lived outside the Cliffside precinct.
Two of Mrs. Humphries’ boarders were John Reedy and Deck Wilson, both salesmen at the department store. George G. Avant was also a salesman at the store, as were Reuben McBrayer, John F. Scruggs, James McGinnis, J. P. Carpenter, Ella Sparks (saleslady), Claude Wilson and Talmadge Green. L. G. McFarland was cashier; May Whiteside was a milliner; Hampton White worked in the meat department; John Camp and William Hamrick were delivery men.
Vic Fortune, then 18, labored in the marble yard. His older sister Ina, who would marry Grover Haynes in December, was a clerk in the post office. (The Sun published a detailed article on the wedding.)
We who were growing up in Cliffside in, say, 1950, thought 1910 was some prehistoric time when man was still in search of fire. As we’ve come to realize, though, 40 years—if you’ve already lived them—isn’t so long ago. Being totally self-absorbed, we were unaware then we were living among some of Cliffside’s pioneers, the very people listed on these pages.