Satisfied employees at Tanner Group of Cotton Mills
From The Charlotte News
Special Textile Industrial Edition
February 21, 1917
Provided by Gene Shuford.
Mr. S.B. Tanner of Charlotte is one of the best known of the southern cotton manufacturers. He has held official positions in the state association and in addition was once president of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association. The string of mills with which he is officially connected are modern plants in every respect. Every mill building is of standard mill construction.
Mr. Tanner is a gentleman. He take a very vital interest in the welfare of those whom he employs and as a result of this bent of mind there has been wrought in his mill villages much good and lasting work. His mills have been successful in other things besides making money. They have been successful in spreading comfort and happiness among the large groups of individuals employed by them. In answer to a question of mine as the length of service of operatives he stated that a good percentage of his mill hands had been with the mills since their establishment. Native help, composed principally of industrious, honest and efficient mountain people, make up the bulk of persons employed in his mills.
To the credit of a sympathetic and thoughtful management it may be said that through the years past there has been practically no trouble of any nature in any of the Tanner mills. Everything possible for a mill management to do to foster morality has been done. Everything possible for a management to do to stir an interest in home beautification, in home life, has been done. The consequences, is when one goes into one of these mill communities he comes into contact with a clean, right-living, industrious and highly intelligent class of people. Much stress has been laid upon the importance of home beautification and at this end all the mills offer each year valuable prizes for best-kept premises, valuable prizes for the best flowers produced by operatives and valuable prizes for the best vegetables produced by operative. The lots on which the cottages in the various mills are built are larger than the ordinary running from 150 to 200 feet and upwards. This means ample garden space and with the mill constantly preaching the doctrine of good flowers and good gardens it is not strange that garden products turned out by hundreds of these employes are far above the average in perfection. The item of vegetables, too, thereby saved to the mill families goes far to reduce the grocers bill and cut the high cost of living. Hogs are not allowed and the reason for this rule is to promote good health and sanitation.
I may say here that these mills are given the greatest attention to matters of health and sanitation. Most of the mills are located in what may be termed small towns and while modern systems of city sewage disposal are not always possible, these mills are solving the problem in an entirely effective manner. Surface closets are provided at all of the cottages in all of the mills, so arranged as to make possible daily cleaning away by the sanitary squad employed by the mills. In most of these mills these closets are daily visited and the result is a long contribution to that fine state of good health which is ever existed among employes of the mills.
Another thing worthy of note in this connection is the fact that in the case of most of the mills there are bored wells, offering the best of water at every cottage. In the case of the newest mill of the group—the Spencer—running water is supplied the cottages by a system of water piping.
Another progressive step being taken by the management of all of the mills is installation of electric lights in all the cottages of employes. These cottages, by the way, are modern and comfortably construction. They run from three to five rooms. In case of some of the earlier constructed cottages, a general system of remodeling has been undertaken and the result will give an up to date appearance to the village at all of the mills.
Incidentally it may be remarked that the mills are changing to the electric drive, the Southern Power Company furnishing the mills with power and also current for lighting the mills, cottages, etc.
With this general view of the situation at these mills I will take each mill, mentioning point of more particular interest
What I am referring to as the Tanner mills are as follows: The Henrietta and Caroleen, located at Caroleen; the Florence Mill at Forest City; the Cleghorn at Rutherfordton; the Spencer, the newest of the group, now building, is at Rutherfordton, and the Green River at Tuxedo.
The two mills at Henrietta have a total capital stock of $1,500,000. They employ thirteen hundred operatives. These mills make heavy and medium sheetings and course yarns, print cloths and shade cloths.
The output of these mills, and of the rest of the Tanner mills, are sold through New York agencies.
The houses in the village at Henrietta run from three to six rooms each. They are painted and comfortably constructed. Bored wells supply all the cottages and a sewerage disposal system, such as described above, is maintained in both mill villages. Just now electric lights are being installed in these cottages.
Educational facilities in these mill communities are all that may be desired. The county school runs through four months of the year and the mill, at its own expense, supplements this period from two to four months each year. There are four churches in reach of all operatives, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Protestant.
No hogs are allowed on any of the mill premises or in the community. Everything possible to be done to keep the village clean and healthful has been done. The prizes offered for best premises, flowers and vegetable have been a great incentive in stirring up friendly rivalry among employes and great work has been done towards home beautification.
The management has established at each mill a modern school library, well-equipped with books and these institutions, kept up at the expense of the mills, are liberally patronized by the employes.
The officers of these two mills are as follows: President and treasurer, S.B. Tanner; vice president, W.E. Holt; secretary, D. H. Jenkins; and W.M. Sherrard, general superintendent.
There will not be found in the State a group of finer or more useful citizens than the promising sons of R.P. Scruggs, known to his friends here as Pink Scruggs, and himself a self-made man who began at the bottom of the ladder and worked himself up to the enviable position of overseer of 48,000 spindles and assistant superintendent of the plant in which he worked for 25 years. His oldest son, Marvin, while serving in New York hospitals, was known as one of the most skillful young surgeons of the city and is now house surgeon at the Rutherford Hospital, while Dr. Henry Norris is with the North Carolina troops at the border. His next son, Wilbur, is one of Charlotte’s finest young dentists. Bobo Scruggs, the next in age, has been superintendent of some of the State’s best graded schools, and Boyce, next in order, is a pharmacy student at the State University now temporarily serving at the border with the Hospital Corps of his native county. When asked how he accounted for the uniform success and fine character of his boys, Mr. Scruggs replied simply that it was his iron rule never to allow his boys to loaf in idleness. He kept them in school during school hours but after hours and during vacation they were always to be found at work in the mill or elsewhere, and he believes in the cotton mill as one of the finest schools of work for the young boy. Many others could be enumerated who are prominent preachers and honored citizens in almost every vocation in the state.
This mill is located in the thriving little town of Forest City. It has a capital stock of $450,000 and employs about 350 operatives. The mill manufactures cotton flannels and chambrays. In this mill village the same good substantial, and comfortable houses exist. Some of the first cottages built when the mill was established have been remodeled and put in up-to-date shape. There is here the same system of sewerage disposal; the same means for securing good water; the same prizes offered for flowers, etc. referred to at the Henrietta mills. Electric Lights are being installed in these cottages and the electrical current from the Southern Power Co. has been contracted to run this mill, as well as the Henrietta Mills. The cottages are built on large lots and they are well laid off in neat streets so arranged as to make each as near the mill as possible.
The employees of this mill have the privilege of attending the graded schools of Forest City and they also are in close touch with the various city churches.
It may be noted here that it has always been the policy of the mill to aid in every way possible in such matters as church and school building. In this case the mill aided liberally in building the churches here and being one of the largest taxpayers it aids materially in the cost of maintaining the schools.
Mr. S. B. Tanner is secretary and treasurer of this mill. Mr. Charles E. Sampson is president. K. S. Tanner is assistant secretary and treasurer and general manager, and Mr. J. B. Covington is Superintendent.
The Cleghorn Mill is located very near to Rutherfordton, and the employes of the mill have access not only to the modern schools of this thriving little city but to its numerous churches.
The Cleghorn is capitalized at $150,000 and employ about 250 operatives. S.B. Tanner is president and treasurer of the mill. J.R. Gilliam is vice president and Kenneth Tanner is secretary and treasurer and general manager.
At this mill one will find the same good type of cottages, built on large lots, the same methods of effecting good sanitation, the same means of securing good water, the same system of offering prizes for superior attainments in the part of employes in cultivating flowers, in beautifying grounds and premises, etc., as apply in the mills before described. The Cleghorn makes 40’s and 50’s combed yarns.
John Burrell came from the mountains of Yancey county, penniless and with a large family, ignorant of cotton mill machinery and work. He secured places for himself and four girls who were of legal age. With the characteristic mountaineer’s shrewdness and a commendable spirit of thrift he soon began a promising savings fund, and at the same time managed to keep in constant attendance at the public schools three younger children who were of school age. In three years he had enough money ahead to buy a forty-acre tract of land in his native county, and with later earnings bought more. He is now the proud owner of a fine mountain farm, well stocked, and without encumbrance. Any one with a knowledge of mountain conditions can easily picture the condition John Burrell would now be in except for the opportunities offered at the Cleghorn mill.
There are other such instances too numerous to mention. Often these people are in such condition when they leave their mountain homes that the mills have to advance money to the drayman for hauling their meager belongings to the mill village.
Green River Mfg. Co.
The Green River Mill is located at Tuxedo in Henderson county. The capitalization of the mill is $225,000. Three hundred employes work in this mill. S.B. Tanner is president and treasurer. J.A. Durham is vice president and J.O. Bell is secretary and treasurer and general manager.
One finds here the same type of cottages and the same neat and attractive grounds about mill houses and mill properties.
Just now a magnificent school building is being erected by the joint effort and by joint expense of the mill management and the school officials of Henderson county. The mill management and the mill employes are also just now erecting a splendid church building, cost of which is being borne by the employes aided by the mill management.
This mill makes fine combed yarns, counts 60’s to 100’s. It has its own electrical power plant.
This is the newest mill of the group, building at the time of this writing. It is located near Rutherfordton and makes 50’s to 70’s combed yarns. It is capitalized at $100,000 and employs 250 operatives. By joint effort of the mill management and mill employees a church and a fine school building are now being constructed.
This mill community, when the details are all carried out, will be unquestionably one of the most striking to be found anywhere in the country. The cottages are all being built of the very latest improved types. Bored wells are provided and the surface closets on the lots are daily visited by the sanitary force. Water is being pumped to each of the houses and each one is being equipped with electric lights. The very latest machinery for the manufacture of fine yarns is being installed in this mill and when all is complete it will be one of the best equipped plants in the entire south.
Officers of this mill are Kenneth Tanner, president and treasurer; J.R. Gilliam, vice president; W.L. Horn, Secretary; and Jake Moore, superintendent.
This mill settlement, in the arrangement of mill building, cottages and grounds, is a model within itself and neither time nor money has been spared in making it as nearly perfect as it is possible to make a modern industrial layout.
Especial attention has been paid in this mill to the conditioning of the atmosphere, a large fan, air washer and heating equipment having been installed in the basement, with a distributing duct down the center of the mill, providing in the winter time an abundance of warm, moist air, taken from out of doors, and so distributed that all parts of the mill are kept at uniform temperature and humidity. Likewise, in the summertime, this apparatus handles over 40,000 cubic feet of fresh outside air each minute, all of which is thoroughly washed and cooled so that the inside temperature of the mill can be kept much cooler in the hot weather than is usually the case. Furthermore, the temperature and humidity is all automatically controlled so that the mill never gets too warm or too cold in the wintertime, and in the summertime never gets oppressive through an excess of either temperature or humidity.
Read more about S. B. Tanner.
Photo and illustration from Cliffside Historical Society archives.