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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Burlington in Alamance County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Neighbors Divided

 
 
Neighbors Divided Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
1. Neighbors Divided Marker
Inscription. Industrialization came to the South later than it had in the North. The first generation of mill workers were transplanted farmers who had no tradition of labor unions. The nature of the mill village also made organized labor difficult. The mill owner – like the patriarch of a great family – controlled nearly every aspect of his workers’ lives. Resistance within such a world was hard to imagine. Still, as times changed, members of southern textile mill communities faced difficult choices about how to make their voices heard.

Before the First World War, workers most commonly protested by quitting and moving. Since mills faced ongoing labor shortages, entire families could relocate and find work easily. During the War, demand for textiles grew and the industry prospered. To entice workers to meet ever growing demands, owners offered good hours, bonuses, and raises. When the War ended and demand for southern textiles dropped, mill owners cut pay, laid off workers, and forced those who remained to do more work for equal or less pay.

Losing their wartime gains, many mill workers became angry and dissatisfied. Some sought solidarity through labor unions. The decision whether or not to unionize was often difficult for workers. In so doing, they could work together to improve conditions in the mill, but joining
Neighbors Divided Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
2. Neighbors Divided Marker
a union could also cost them their jobs. Most southern states had few laws to protect workers, and government officials usually sided with influential mill owners.

There’s no charge to join up. We’ve got nothing to lose and maybe something to gain.
An Anonymous North Carolina mill worker


Folks can talk all they want to about their right to join a union but right don’t count much when money is against you.
Clara Williams, worker at Cone Mills, Greensboro, North Carolina


Neighbors who had relied on each other for mutual support and friendship, often found themselves at odds over whether or not to join a union. Those who became members had hard feelings toward those who continued working during strikes. Workers who decided not to join blamed those who did for causing upheaval and unrest.

In 1929, mill employees in Gastonia, North Carolina, expressed their worry and anger about layoffs by joining unions and going on strike. Over the spring and summer of that year, mill owners, aided by the state militia, evicted strikers from the mill villages. Confrontations between police and protesters mounted, and ultimately Police Chief Orville Aderholt and union organizer Ella May Wiggins were killed in strike-related violence. When no one was brought to justice for Wiggins’s murder, union members
Neighbors Divided Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
3. Neighbors Divided Marker
lost hope, and their efforts fizzled.

Worker unrest continued into the 1930’s although many saw great promise in President Roosevelt’s emerging New Deal programs. However, mill owners found ways to subvert measures like the new minimum wage, and the Great Depression showed no signs of relenting. Fueled by these injustices, 500,000 textile employees across the country took part in the General Strike of 1934. The strike lasted more than two months before the union finally relented. Workers who had participated soon found themselves unemployed, and organized labor never again mounted such a large campaign in the South. For the next half-century, mill workers spoke little of the events of 1929 and 1934, preferring to maintain their silence and keep their jobs.
 
Location. 36° 8.302′ N, 79° 25.667′ W. Marker is near Burlington, North Carolina, in Alamance County. Marker is on Glencoe Street, on the left when traveling west. Click for map. Glencoe Village is 3 miles north of Burlington, NC from NC Highway 62. Marker is in this post office area: Burlington NC 27215, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Living in a Mill-Centered World (here, next to this marker); Cotton Dust and Poverty (here, next to this marker); A Legacy of Community
Cover of the 1929 issue of Labor Defender. image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
4. Cover of the 1929 issue of Labor Defender.
(here, next to this marker); The Rise of the Textile Mill Communities (here, next to this marker); After the Whistle Blows (a few steps from this marker); Working the Shift (a few steps from this marker); Calling the Mill Village 'Home' (within shouting distance of this marker); Women in the Mill Village (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Burlington.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
 
Also see . . .
1. Glencoe Research Forum. This website provides information on historic Glencoe Mill and the restored mill village. (Submitted on July 20, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.) 

2. Glencoe Textile Heritage Museum. (Submitted on July 20, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.)
3. Ella Mae Wiggins. This webpage contains a biography of Wiggins, a photo and one of her textile strike ballads. (Submitted on July 30, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.) 

4. June 1929 - Strike at Loray Mill
Ella Mae Wiggins' children at her funeral. image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
5. Ella Mae Wiggins' children at her funeral.
. The Gastonia, NC strike, mentioned on the marker, was at the Loray Mill. (Submitted on August 31, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina.) 
 
Additional keywords. Alamance Cotton Mill, Glencoe, Fabric, Textiles, Company Shops, Holt,
 
Categories. 20th CenturyIndustry & CommerceLabor UnionsNotable Places
 
Group of Strikers in Gastonia, North Carolina image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
6. Group of Strikers in Gastonia, North Carolina
The sign above the door reads:
"Southern Division District Nine
National Textile Workers Union
'GASTONIA LOCALS'
Drawing from Labor Age, depicting Wiggins' death, October 1929. image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
7. Drawing from Labor Age, depicting Wiggins' death, October 1929.
Rhythm of the Factory Series of Markers - on Glencoe Mill image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
8. Rhythm of the Factory Series of Markers - on Glencoe Mill
Rhythm of the Factory Marker image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
9. Rhythm of the Factory Marker
Glencoe Mill image. Click for full size.
By Patrick G. Jordan, June 27, 2010
10. Glencoe Mill
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina. This page has been viewed 942 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on , by Patrick G. Jordan of Burlington, North Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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