The Haynes Letters
June 25, 1893
One way to learn about a man is from his own words. Here are several of the many letters R. R. Haynes wrote to his children, about his expectations for their attitudes and behavior, and their responsibilities to each other and to others. One of them gives an outline of his many accomplishments and an insight into what they meant to him (and, by inference, what the accomplishments ought to mean to the children).
June 25, 1893
Ferry, N. C.
Florence, Bob, Charley and Sallie.
First of all, I want you to be prepared for the last day, and then try to do all you can to improve your talents, and prepare yourselves for life’s battles. You can be cheerful if you try, and by trying it will become natural with you.
It is your duty, being the four oldest, to try all you can to make our home pleasant, and make it pleasant for the other children, and all that are with us at any time, servants or company, and by so doing it will be much more pleasant for each of you and all of us.
Nothing can please me more now than to see you children well and good and happy. Some time, we can’t tell when, we will have to be separated, and let us all so live and try to make our home happy so that when one is gone, those of us that remain can look back to the pleasant days that a loving father and eight dear children spent together. It will be so with me, if I should be the one that remains after either of you are gone. If we should all live long we may have to be separated on account of business, schools or something else.
We have plenty of the comforts of life, and you children are all, so far, blessed with good health, all of which we ought to be thankful for. You children have not such sore and lasting troubles as I have, and ought to be cheerful and happy.
Try to be kind and polite to all with whom you come in contact, and at all times if you do not know what is right to do, ask me and I will tell you as best I know. The younger children will follow your footsteps, and it is very important that you lay a good example in many ways by being polite to each other and kind too, also to every one else.
Try to cultivate a disposition to try to do all you can for others and not to expect too much of others for yourselves. Some people seem to always be expecting others to show friendship and do little deeds of kindness, and never thing of it being their duty to do the same for others.
Try to be polite and kind to all, let them be ever so humble and by so doing you will always have friends.
All of you read this, and try to remember every word I have written.
From your loving father,
R. R. Haynes
July 20, 1908
July 20, 1908
To my children:
I have just been listening to some men talking of the change and progress in developing and building up the town they live in, in the last 20 years, and naturally it carried me back over what I have done in the past 20 years.
About 23 years ago, I bought the old High Shoals land in almost a wilderness of vines, thorn bushes, bamboo briars, etc. I spent considerable of my time the next two years clearing off the farm, building tenements, and clearing off the river bank in preparatory to building a mill of some kind, I hardly knew what.
Twenty-one years ago, just about this time of year we began the work of building the mills there. I did a large part of getting everything in shape and in constructing tenements, mill, etc. This took 5 or 6 years. Then in about 8 years from the time we began at High Shoals (Henrietta) we began to build a mill at Caroleen. In this I did a great deal in getting the options on the land needed, had the surveys of the power all made, and built the first hundred tenements, started up the store and other things.
Then, probably about four years later I brought up the necessary land and built the mill at Forest City. Was about 1-1/2 years doing that. Then in 1901 I got up all the titles, had the surveys all made and began the building of the Cliffside Mills. Now in 1908 we have one of the largest, yes the largest gingham mill in the south completed. So in the last twenty years I helped largely to build Henrietta and Caroleen Mills, built both the Florence at Forest City and the Cliffside Mills and town entirely.
Besides this I have done hundreds of other things a great deal of which you can remember. Such as building all the buildings I have at Henrietta, building farm houses, developing farms, merchandising, and hundreds I might say of other things.
So, I am sure you will all agree with me that I ought to get out for a few days rest and treatment any time I can.
When I go over in my mind what I have done and gone though with in twenty-eight years, I wonder how I did it all. But I am glad I did and hope what I have done will prove a blessing and not a curse to all of you, and be a blessing to hundreds of others and to the country.
R. R. Haynes
September 20, 1913
The Langren Hotel
Asheville, N. C.
September 20, 1913
To my children, one and all:
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Then try to do all the good in the world you can in every way, and you will have done well.
Your loving papa,
R. R. Haynes
Sometimes people ask why did I succeed. That is easy enough; I endeavored to be truthful, honest, and pay every cent I owed, always keep at something, have plenty of energy, not give up, and then most of all not engage in anything that I could not go to God and ask him to help me and I did not since I joined the church and I have gone to him often for help and I found it.
I never engaged in anything that I could not go to God and ask him to prosper that business as He thought best, and my advice to all is not to engage in anything and not be willing to ask God’s help.
Wrote this on train with my Testament open 300 miles from home.
December 25, 1916
On Christmas 1916 R. R. Haynes wrote two letters to his family. In both he displayed a preoccupation with the possibility of his imminent death. He died about a month later, on February 6, 1917 at his vacation home in St. Petersburg, Florida. More than 3000 people attended his funeral at the Cliffside Baptist Church.
Christmas Night 1916
To my children and grandchildren and other loved ones;
Was glad to have you all with me today, and while I am not all well, the day has been pleasant to me and I hope it has been so to each of you.
As I said today, we may be spared to each other many days yet, but in all probability we may not all be spared to spend another Christmas together in this world. May God bless us all, and bless you all.
Your loving father and grandfather,
R. R. Haynes.
Cliffside N. C.
Christmas Night, 1916
I just want to say that I know full well that some of these days I shall have to give up this life. All of us will have to, how soon none of us can tell, and it is no doubt best that we do not know.
I want to say in this connection that I feel that I have done my duty to my family and loved ones and to my country. It is true that I have had many obstacles, but I have discharged my duty as best I could, all things considered.
My conscience is clear so far as my treatment of my fellowman, and in every way, I hope my country will not be any the worse by my having lived as long as I have in this world.
I hope too, that the undeveloped plans I have laid may all some day be complete and the country be blessed and benefited by them, and that my friends and loved ones be blessed in many ways, and that they be better men and women and that they too can and will serve their country as best they can, and serve each other in a way that is right, and we all may meet by and by up yonder where we can live as an unbroken family in Heaven.
There are many more things I would like to say or write but probably it is just as well to only say this much.
If they should outlive me, I would like that at least the following persons be allowed to speak of what they know of my life and character at my burial in the hope that it might do some good to at least some of the young boys that will have to take the places of us that will have to pass away sooner:
Judge J. L. Webb
Dr. T. B. Lovelace
Rev. Mr. Swofford
J. F. Alexander
Clyde R. Hoey
Judge M. H. Justice
W. L. Packard
R. L. Ryburn
and any others that care to or will.
With love to all,
R. R. Haynes
From the book “Raleigh Rutherford Haynes: A History of His Life and Achievements” by Mrs. Grover C. Haynes, Sr., 1954. Reprinted with permission from Hazel Haynes Bridges.