Henrietta, Caroleen and Avondale
He wrote of his life in a book titled My Memoirs, published in 1940. In it, he had a lot to say about Henrietta and Caroleen, including his early worship experiences there, and some of the people he knew. He told of getting his first bicycle in 1893, of learning to ride at a bicycle riding school in Baltimore, and of the exhilaration of riding over the dirt roads of Rutherford County. He told of his and S. B. Tanner’s fascination with a gramophone they saw on a trip to New York. He spanned the century, and told of the first automobiles.
The mills, too, saw changes. Around 1928, a large chain, the Martel Company bought Henrietta Mills No. 1 and 2, the Henrietta and Caroleen plants, and, with the purchase, their names. Consequently, many people, for a time, did not realize the company had changed hands.
When the Martel Company came into the county, it brought some new names to the textile community. Among the first to come to Caroleen were Frank B. Edwards and H. R. “Hub” Holland, the father of Mrs. Francis Spratt who still lives nearby. Mrs. Spratt remembers many of the names of supervisors and other employees including the President of the Martel Company, M. A. Huggins, and the General Manager, Herbert C. Dresser. She remembers Clark Harrill, Grover Hardin, C. H. Lockman, Scissero Wilson, Horace E. Spratt, David Lindsey, Charles DeBrule, Fred Rollins, Hill DeBrule, Newton James, Milo Hawkins, and Tom Bagwell. B. H. Lowe later joined the Martel Company.
Mr. Spratt remembers that M. A. Huggins was quite a philanthropist, and he and others with the Martel Company had, through the years, funded an excellent library above the Caroleen company store. And, she fondly remembers some of the black employees. John McKinney, who helped lay the brick at Caroleen in 1896, remained until retiring. Aaron Stewart, Dock Hull, Albert Moore, and his brother, Gene, James McDowell, and Will Rogers all made great contributions over the years.
The plants at Henrietta and Caroleen remained open throughout the Depression although they were forced to curtail their operations.
The management faced its greatest test during World War II when many of its ablest employees went to war, and the plant turned eighty-five per cent of its efforts into making gauze for the armed forces.
In 1957, Burlington Industries bought both plants of Henrietta Mills, though many of the Martel supervisors remained. Frank West and John King helped to bridge the gap during the change.
In 1958, Burlington Industries sold the mill houses at each plant, with employees having first choice. When the Henrietta Plant was closed in 1977, it came as quite a shock to residents. But, the Caroleen Plant is still in operation, making greige fabrics, fabrics in the unfinished state. This material is sent on to textile finishers, customers of Burlington, where the materials’ end use is apparel lining, tape backing, drapery lining, and print cloth.
Dr. Thomas C. Lovelace, of Henrietta, is one who felt a great loss with Henrietta Mills’ closing. Spry and alert at ninety-four years old, he remembers R. R. Haynes, S. B. Tanner, and J. B. Ivey, and he remembers box suppers and music provided by bands, a legacy of R. R. Haynes. Clarence Griffin, in his “History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties” wrote that the Henrietta Plant, when it was built, was the largest textile plant in North Carolina, and Dr. Lovelace remembers it being the largest advertiser in the Shelby newspapers.
Dr. Lovelace remembers, too, others in his own profession. Dr. Lawson Harrill, an early doctor, lived in a large house in Cooper Town, a part of Caroleen near Avondale. He sometimes used his home as a hospital, with patients staying overnight. Dr. Baxter Wiseman and his son, Dr. Perry Wiseman, practiced at Henrietta. Dr. Romeo Hicks had a drug store in North Henrietta where he sold patent medicines.
Dr. Lovelace, himself, has done a lot. He tells when as a child, he would come form his hometown of Mooresboro to visit his uncle, Dr. T. B. Lovelace in Henrietta. On one of these visits, T. C. Lovelace asked his cousins, four boys, why they were not planning to become doctors as their father. They replied that they “valued their sleep too well to become a doctor.”
Dr. Lovelace evidently did not value his sleep, because, after World War I, he came to Henrietta to practice medicine, and did so there for sixty-three years, working out of an office at the Henrietta Mill. During these years, he spent many hours in his office and made house calls, too. He delivered over five-thousand babies, some at home and some at Rutherford Hospital, and he remembers names of many. He delivered Dr. Charles (Buck) James, who himself a well-known doctor in the community. He delivered Dr. Hicks Hamrick, a Henrietta dentist, and he delivered Fred Arrowood, a local educator, now at Chase High School.
Jean Greene Tisdale, of Ellenboro, tells that she and a brother and sister, Jack and Eleanor, were sick in bed with scarlet fever for almost two months, and Dr. Lovelace made house calls to check on them almost every day for the two months.
Dr. Lovelace saw many changes. When he started coming to visit his uncle, a covered bridge spanned the Second Broad near where his office would be. By the time he began practice, the bridge was gone. He remembers his uncle driving a horse and buggy to make his rounds, and he remembers many of the people later with the Martel Company.
Charlie B. Arrowood and his wife, Muriel Robbins Arrowood, of Caroleen, remember a lot about the mill and mill village there. He started work in the summer in the Caroleen Plant as a sweeper at the age of eleven. He worked barefooted from daylight to dark at fifty cents a day. The next summer, he worked for fifty-five cents a day, still barefooted. In those years, the five cents’ raise was across the board to supervisor and mill-hand alike, regardless of position, and given each year.
Charlie Arrowood knew the mechanical aspects of the mill. The entire power for the plant once came from water and steam. Floodgates regulated the amount of water behind the dam. A long, threaded metal screw, more like a metal rod, extended downward through a hole in a section of the dam, with an upright baseboard attached at the bottom to serve as the floodgate. Three or four men would insert boards as handles into receptacles on the top of the screw where it extended above the top of the dam, and they would walk in unison on a platform in the same circular direction to turn the screw up, raising the board into a slot, and letting the water flow through a hole in the bottom of the dam, or to tighten the screw, making the board go downward and covering the hole, hold more water behind the dam.
Water was diverted into a “race”, a small canal leading from the dam to the mill’s water wheel, and then back into the river at the “tail race.” There was a platform over the race just before where the water reached the wheel, and, underneath, debris was trapped by a kind of grate before reaching the wheel, and would be raked out.
Before there was electricity in the mill, employees worked by lantern light, and for many years, there was no running water in the mill, either. Mr. Arrowood remembers when all the drinking water was pumped into the mill by hand from a nearby well. The water was collected in buckets, and everyone drank from a common dipper. Later, the water was run into an ice cooler, with ice from the company’s own ice plant.
Mrs. Arrowood worked at the Caroleen Mill also, starting at sixteen. She said, that at one time, she thought she knew everyone in Caroleen.