Articles with Lost Towns of North Georgia

Sample Chapter of “Lost Mill Towns of North Georgia”

Sample Chapter of “Lost Mill Towns of North Georgia”

I hear them. And I want you to hear them too. We ignore them or just half listen to their stories. We drive by their homes in the mill villages before decay has hidden its history. If you stop long enough, you might notice them. Repurpose or decay hides the mill village towns of North Georgia.

Driving along and you might see a lonely stack or two, and down the road
you look into the past. You might see a neat row of similar yet dissimilar
homes still teeming with life next to a long-abandoned textile mill. A heavy pall surrounds the mill towns of North Georgia because the southern textile mill is dead.

The textile mill era, with accompanying mill villages, is over. What
started in the late nineteenth century slowly dissipated after World War II, ending before the twenty-first century. The communities built around the company have disappeared. No longer does the local manufacturer supply and maintain low-rent housing, medical facilities, sporting events and a company store. For a time, paternalism made sense, but the world changed.
The southern “Daddy” had to let the children go.

Chapter 1 tells the story of the textile mill era in North Georgia. This
summary is the big picture, the puzzle all put together. The other chapters
are the puzzle pieces. This is a micro-focus on each county with mill villages.

The mill towns included in this book had to meet specific criteria. It would have been impossible to include every mill in North Georgia in this book. The focus is the mills with accompanying towns. In most cases, the town and the mill are one entity. Some mill villages remain silent because the records could not be found.

Fulton and Greene Counties were originally included here but were
removed for space reasons and because they were different that the mills in
the true North Georgia area. I placed some of these chapters on my website,
along with interactive maps of the mill locations.

The South came to the Industrial Revolution party a little late, but North
Georgia mills worked hard and contributed to industrial growth. When it
was quitting time, and the silent whistle blew, the worker went home to start something new. Instead of allowing the mills to melt into the ground and disappear, some are creating new spaces from the rusty past and fading paint of old mill buildings.

The past is calling out to us. The mill workers want to tell their stories.
They have so much to say. They can teach us about perseverance and
struggle. We learn that management lost that fatherly feeling to stretch and wring out their laborers until they cried out. Can you hear them?

I can hear them. Listen. They punctuate their southern accents with
mispronunciations and colloquialisms. What some would call uneducated,
I call North Georgia culture—I respect that. Hear the stories of hardship.
The North Georgia farmers and sharecroppers went to the mills for a steady
paycheck. They were weary of the hardscrabble farm living.

Listen to the children speaking in the images of a social photographer.
Early photographs gave voice to the little ones working in the dangerous
mills—sad stories of children working as young as eight to add pennies to
the family till.

Cheer for the local teams of the Southern Textile League, supported by
most of the mills in North Georgia. A baseball game on a Saturday afternoon
generated community and good will. All the single ladies dressed in their
best, with their eyes on the prize of a textile ballplayer.

Notice the sounds of silence. The clackety-clack stops as the mill shuts down in the midst of union strikes. At some mills, you will hear gunshots in the uprising of 1934. You hear a governor’s command call out the National Guard to quiet the uprising. They go unheard and back to work. They lost, but paternalism crumbles nonetheless, and the community of the mill villages fades away.

As the world changed in the 1960s, so did the textile industry. The shaky
world of mill paternalism fell apart, and mill owners dumped the villages
as world economies shifted. Textiles could be made cheaper somewhere
else. The door slammed on the southern cotton industries, and the industry
outsourced their legacy to other countries.

My purpose is simple. I want to tell the story of this unique period in
the voices of the people who lived and worked in the textile mills of North
Georgia. The backstory is important, but the microphone is open to hear the
mill people themselves.

Please connect with me:

Lost Mill Towns of North Georgia

Coming April 13, 2020

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Labor Day? What does it mean anymore?

Norman Hall told the company he was 12, but he was in fact younger.
Norman Hall told the company he was 12, but he was probably 8 years old.

End of summer? Cook-outs? Sales? Politics?
Maybe Labor Day is about all of these things but at the same time  none of these things. Last week a student asked me the meaning of Labor Day. I realized that we have lost the original meaning of this day off.

My father, a hard-working man, used to say that the laborers are the only ones to have to work on Labor Day. I guess if you worked today, you understand. Watch this mini-history lesson from History channel: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day. It explains the origins of Labor Day with cinematic skill.

What is not mentioned in this History clip is the North Georgia connection. Lindale, Georgia – a once bustling town and productive member of Georgia’s industrial society – now crumbles into the past. Today, Lindale residents proudly embrace its and for good reason. Lindale played an important role in child labor laws that would end abusive conditions for all American children.

In my book, Lost Towns of North Georgia, I write about this lost mill town in Floyd County, Georgia – Lindale and its impact on child labor laws. Here is an excerpt:

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.”–Lewis Wickes Hine

Norman walked with dread toward the stacks. Each step took him away from his mill home on Park Avenue in Lindale and away from school – his only way out of the mill. Each reluctant stride took a ten-year-old wrinkled boy to work. Work was the lint choked spinning floor of the Massachusetts Mills. On this bright April day in 1913, Norman noticed a commotion. Just outside of the mill fence, the other doffers were talking to a man out of place. The bespectacled man was taking pictures and notes. Lewis Hine was busy setting up his tripod camera when Norman walked by with eyes focused downward. Hine called out to him.

“Can I take your picture?” Hine asked. Norman looked up. Hine knew he did not have the words to tell this boy’s story when he looked in his disheveled eyes. Hine would have to let his camera lens do its job.

Lewis Hine photographed children in dangerous working conditions. These photographs influenced Washington Law makers to write Child Labor Law. Lindale played a role in that change.
Lewis Hine photographed children in dangerous working conditions. These photographs influenced Washington Law makers to write Child Labor Law. Lindale played a role in that change.

Norman was dirty before he got to work and the sun was hurting his eyes, so he squinted as Lewis Hine focused his camera. The explosion of the ancient camera froze Norman Hall in time – dirt and all. The dirt lines highlighted the lines on his face that belonged to a middle-aged man, not a ten-year-old boy. Hine asked Norman his name and age and Norman replied, “Norman Hall, and I’m 12.” Hine expected the standard lie and made a mental note to check the insurance papers. Hine could measure the height of a child by the buttons on his vest and determine their age. He also could talk his way into the mill office and the mill floor.

Norman told Hine that his father and brothers also worked in the plant and that he wanted to contribute. He said, “My parents said work never hurt a kid and I want to do my part. Plus we get to live in the company mill house, if we all work there.”

Lewis Hine not only photographed the children who worked in the mill, but he captured the mill homes. He would comment about the housing conditions, “Not a thing neglected, except the child.”

Hine’s images would haunt the nation. In 1913, he worked with the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) presenting the images to Congress.  This led to solid legislation in 1938. The government began enforcing strict child labor laws.

The loss of child labor was neither the end nor the beginning of Lindale, it was just part of the story.

Lewis Hine made a difference. Today, Lindale appears to be lost in helpless restoration, but it is found in its history. Lewis Hine and the images of the Lindale children – adds another layer of meaning to Labor day.

The meaning of Labor Day is lost. Labor laws have made us forget the insignificant laborers who rose up and organized. History has overlooked the unknown man who came from the North to photograph children like Norman Hall. The idea of children working in dangerous mills today is incomprehensible, but it not for Hines and places like Lindale, we might remember what Labor Day is really all about.

Read more about Lewis Hine in this informative article in the Huffington Post.

Read more about Lindale and other Lost Towns of North Georgia. Available at Amazon.com.