News Stories & Columns
Cliffside Busy Center of Industrial Development
By Stover Dunagan, Jr.
August 16, 1953
Cliffside, NC. (Special) —Fifty-four years ago, in June 1899, the building of Cliffside Mills and the town of Cliffside began.
Growth of the community has been slow but steady, until today, it is a thriving, busy, industrious town, clinging to the friendliness that engulfed small towns 50 years ago, yet proud of its progress and modern ideas.
The textile industry, as it is known today in Rutherford County, was begun in 1885 when Raleigh Rutherfordton Haynes, a native of High Shoals township in Rutherford County, conceived the idea of erecting a plant in this township. His first mill was erected in Henrietta, some three miles east (sic) of Cliffside. Later he erected a plant at Caroleen and in 1897 completed construction on the Florence Mills in Forest City.
The Cliffside community cannery is a project sponsored by Cliffside Mills for the use of their employees and families. During the summer months, some 1,700 cans per day are handled, and total 40,000 to 50,000 per summer. D. H. Huss, far right, operates the cannery and is assisted by Phillip Moore, Sammy Jackson and Donald Johnson (background), all high school students. In the foreground, H. H. Elmore and his mother prepare home grown tomatoes for canning. Mr. Huss is a teacher and coach at Cliffside school during the school year.
Then came the idea for a mill lower down on Second Broad river in a wilderness where once, as a small boy he had become lost and where there was a great volume of water running to waste. The water could be turned into power, the gently sloping lands could serve as a community and the flat, bottom-lands as a site for the mill, he thought. Thus, in the mind of one progressive citizen, the town of Cliffside was born. By the turn of the century, Cliffside Mills and a small community had sprung up from the barren waste of the lower High Shoals Township. R. R. Haynes was doing something more than building another industrial center in an established town. He was building a plant and around it, a community. At one time, Cliffside Mills was the largest gingham plant under one roof in the south. Before his death in 1917, Mr. Haynes had seen his dream of a new and growing community, centered around his mill, come true.
Selecting the site for the Cliffside Mills in virgin territory had its problems. The nearest railroad was some three miles away at Henrietta. Carrying the building materials for the large plant by wagon proved unsatisfactory. However, its method of transportation had to be used until after manufacturing operations had begun at Cliffside and until it became more and more apparent that operations could not expand further without railroad facilities. A railroad to serve Cliffside and the new industry became a necessity. It was in 1903 that the same men who had built Cliffside Mills and the town of Cliffside began to make definite plans for a railroad. By act of the General Assembly of North Carolina, Cliffside Railroad Co. was chartered and the first stockholders meeting was held June 5, 1905, six years after the mill and town were organized.
Construction on the railroad was done locally and upon completion the company purchased three second-hand Forney (Coffee Pot) locomotives. These locomotives were built in New York in the early 1890’s, and were very small, weighing only about 12-15 tons. Three second-hand passenger cars were also bought and passenger service was instituted between Cliffside and Cliffside junction, where connection was made with the Seaboard Air Line. In the early days, because of bad roads, passenger traffic on the new railroad was heavy. Because railroad employees were recruited from local personnel, smash-ups and wrecks were frequent. The story goes that about this time a young man applied to Mr. Haynes for a job as engineer and told at great length his qualifications for running a locomotive. Mr. Haynes told the man he didn’t need anyone to run the locomotives, but he could certainly use a man who could stop one. Although R. R. Haynes was founder of the Cliffside Mill, B. D. Heath was it first president, while Mr. Haynes served as vice president and treasurer. In 1910, Mr. Haynes was elected president , serving until his death on Feb. 6, 1917. Charles H. Haynes, son of R.R. Haynes, who had been secretary since organization of the cooperation was elected president in 1917 and served as head of the mill until his retirement in 1945. He was then named chairman of the board.
M. Hendrick served as president, Mr. Earle R. Stall is the present head of the organization. On Jan 1, 1952, Cliffside Mills became Cone Mills Corp – Cliffside Division. Some 875-900 employees work in the Cliffside Mill, which produces towels and wash cloths. The plant operated 683 looms and 25,024 spindles. Since Cliffside is not an incorporated town, it depends upon the leadership of the several officials of the mill and other citizens. Charles Haynes, although spending a lot of time at his second home at Lake Lure, is still Cliffside’s leading citizen. M. A. Bearden, general manager of the mill: Paul Bridges, superintendent of the mill: the Revs. T. S. Lawrence and G. C. Miller, pastors of the two leading churches; H. C. Beatty, principal of Cliffside School, are just a few of the men who, when gentle urging and patient prodding, help to keep Cliffside humble, friendly and progressive. The Cliffside Lions Club, with its many worth-while projects – aid to the blind, sponsorship of the local Boy Scout Troops – is a great factor in the growth of the community.
The local American Legion post, led by Bill Ingram, is working for a better and better Cliffside. The legion post has a fine Legion Hut. These men, from many walks of life, all hold a special individual pride in their undertaking. Six months ago, a Negro school building stood on a hill overlooking the river on one side and the community on the other side. Since the erection of a Negro high school in Spindale and the consolidation of the elementary school at Cliffside with the one in Forest City, the building at Cliffside had stood empty, a bleak memorial to progressive education in Rutherford county. Its landscaping was gutted by the weather, its three small rooms blackened by the use of coal stoves for many years, its floor cracking with old age. But the brick walls were sturdy and begging for occupation. Then the legionnaires took over. First, one of the room partitions was removed, placed some ten feet back and replaced, forming two rest rooms and an alcove for handling coats. This left a large middle room to serve as a meeting and dining room and the third one as kitchen and office. From the Haynes Memorial building, erected as a memorial to R. R. Haynes, to the new elevator donated to the large Baptist Church in Cliffside by Charles Haynes, the effect of the Haynes family is felt on all sides of the community. After all, had it not been for a dream of R. R. Haynes, that an enterprise and community could be developed in the wilderness of High Shoals township, Cliffside as one of the leading communities of Rutherford County would never have been born. As Bob Talbert, president of the Lions Club put it: “The wonderful people of Cliffside, without question the friendliest in the world, have but one purpose in mind; to live a fruitful life, sharing happiness with others, and making Cliffside a better place to live.” The friendliness captures the heart of everyone. Many people come to Cliffside, but no one moves away.
From the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Copy provided by Bill Ingram.