Near Burlington in Alamance County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Cotton Dust and Poverty
Different jobs within the mill brought their own unique hazards. In the opening and card rooms, cotton dust and lint circulated through the air continuously. For many employees, this brought coughing and lung irritation, which over time led to “brown lung” disease, or byssinosis. Women and men who worked in the weave room faced constant humidity and heat. Consequently, many workers contracted tuberculosis and other respiratory disorders.
Textile machines also proved dangerous. Hands or arms caught in the machine’s belts were easily skinned or broken. Carl Thompson remembers one harrowing incident, “There was one man, his shirt or something or other caught in that belt, and that
It’s hard to believe, but in them days along about Christmas time the yard men would come in the mill with their shovels and actually scrape up piles of filth where the help had spit all the year long and no attention at all being paid to it. Yessir, plenty of cotton mill folks had TB’s in them days and no wonder.
Wesley Renn West Durham, 1938.
Just as working in the mill could prove dangerous, living in the mill village presented a host of health issues. Lacking indoor plumbing and running water, most residents shared wells and outhouses. While farm families used these too, the sheer numbers of villagers crowded into small areas could create sanitation problems. Flies swarmed around outhouses in hot weather and spread diseases like typhoid and dysentery. Diets lacking important vitamins and minerals also caused problems. Due to protein deficiencies, many people contracted pellagra. This disease caused scaly red patches on the skin, diarrhea, fatigue, nervous disorders, and eventually death. In 1916, pellagra affected 16% of mill village households, but was a common problem throughout the South.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Civil Rights • Industry & Commerce • Science & Medicine • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1938.
Location. 36° 8.301′ N, 79° 25.665′ W. Marker is near Burlington, North Carolina, in Alamance County. Marker is on Glencoe Street, on the left when traveling west. Glencoe Village is 3 miles north of Burlington, NC from NC Highway 62. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Burlington NC 27215, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Legacy of Community (here, next to this marker); Neighbors Divided (here, next to this marker); Living in a Mill-Centered World (here, next to this marker); After the Whistle Blows (here, next to this marker); The Rise of the Textile Mill Communities (a few steps from this marker); Working the Shift (a few steps from this marker); Calling the Mill Village 'Home' (a few steps from this marker); Women in the Mill Village (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map 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.
Additional keywords. Alamance Cotton Mill, Glencoe, Fabric, Textiles, Company Shops, Holt
Credits. This page was last revised on November 30, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 19, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Graham, North Carolina. This page has been viewed 942 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on July 19, 2010, by Patrick G. Jordan of Graham, North Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.