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Digital Gaston County, North Carolina

Telling our stories in Gaston, an oral history project

This was part of a "public performance series featuring down-home folks and celebrating our greater Gaston history, heritage, community, and people - is presented by the Gaston County Public Library as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration honoring the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Gaston County's founding."

Telling our stories in Gaston, an oral history project Erwin Center Branch Library October 3, 1996. [videorecording] 126 Minutes. c1996. In this 1996 recording, Gastonians of the City of Gastonia, Gaston County, North Carolina recall the history of growing up in the Highland Community and the achievements of many of the graduates of Highland High School. Remembrances are in the form of a round table discussion. Master of ceremonies was Gastonia City Council member Walker E. Reid, now the City of Gastonia, N.C. Mayor (elected Mayor in 2017, re-elected in 2019) The event was held on Thursday, October 3, 1996 at 7:00 pm at the Erwin Center Branch Library (now the Ferguson Branch). Presenters: Cindy Moose, Walker Reid; Oral Historians: Glendell Brooks, Margaret Burris, James Ferguson, Peggie Ferguson, George Jaggers, Jr., Frenzola Moore, Ernest Pharr, Mae Adams Thomas, Lillian Williams.

Crafted with Pride project

Oral History Interviews conducted in 1985 as part of the Crafted with Pride project, which documented residents of Gaston County's mill village communities.
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Labe Abernathy, Jr. Oral History Interview [March 12, 1985] Labe Abernathy of Lowell, born in 1921, describes life as proprietor of a small-town country store. His father founded the store in the McAdenville, and Abernathy and his brothers all worked there.

Everett "Eb" Alexander Oral History Interview [February 28, 1985] Everett (Eb) Alexander of Belmont worked all his life at the McAdenville mills.

Juanita L. Bolin Oral History Interview [March 03, 1985] Juanita Bolin of Gastonia was born in the Clara Mill Village in 1919, as were all four of her siblings.

Virginia Cline Oral History Interview [February 21, 1985] Part 1 of 2 Virginia Cline (born 1914 in Clover, SC), a white woman, details her life as a mill worker at the Monarch, Clara, and McAdenville mills.

Virginia Cline Oral History Interview [February 21, 1985] Part 2 of 2 In the second part of Virginia Cline’s interview, unions and strikes at the Gastonia mills feature prominently.

Clyde J. Deitz Oral History Interview [May 09, 1985] Clyde Dietz, at the time of the interview Senior Vice President of the Belmont Heritage Corporation, worked at and for several Belmont-area mills over his 55-year career.

O. K. Dellinger Oral History Interview [February 18, 1985] O. K. Dellinger of Belmont talks about his life as a barber in Belmont during the ‘20s and ‘30s, catering to many of the millworkers in the local mills.

Ruby Eldridge Oral History Interview [March 07, 1985] Ruby Eldridge of East Gastonia describes life in several mill villages where she worked. At the Victory Mill village she attended the village’s four-year school, which she says gave everyone a good basic education, “enough to get by,” and where discipline was commendably strict.

Robert D. Harris Oral History Interview [March 1, 1985] Robert Harris, a white man, talks about his 47-year career as a worker at Imperial Mills.

Pearl P. Hartgrove Oral History Interview [March 05, 1985] Pearl Hartgrove of Belmont was born in 1912 in Union County near Monroe.

Walter B. Helms Oral History Interview [March 08, 1985] Walter B. Helms of Mount Holly was born in 1904. He did several kinds of jobs over the years for the American Yarn & Processing Company (later American & Efird) at their various mills, including helping set up the Madora Mill in 1922.

Webb Lineberger Oral History Interview [March 03, 1985] This interview features Webb Lineberger (born 1914 in Ellerbee) but includes supplementary material from his wife (name not on record). Both worked at the Hardin Mill and lived on their farm nearby, splitting their time between mill and farm work.

Lester D. McGinnis Oral History Interview [February 23, 1985] Lester McGinnis was born on a farm near Boger City in 1914. He discusses his life as a mill worker at High Shoals, which he first came to in 1929 when he was 15.

Madge E. McLean Oral History Interview [April 20, 1985] Madge McLain of Gaston County (born 1903) talks about her years teaching in mill village schools in Ranlo and Cramerton in the 1920s.

Grady Meeks Oral History Interview [March 14, 1985] Grady Meeks of Bessemer City provides an African American worker’s perspective on a lifetime of mill employment.

Sue A. Payseur Oral History Interview [March 11, 1985] Sue Payseur of Dallas (born 1915) remembers her life growing up in mill-owned housing.

Lottie Quinn Oral History Interview [March 09, 1985] Lottie Riley Quinn, born in 1907 near Morganton, was a lifelong mill worker starting at age 14. Her parents were also mill workers. Their family of ten lived in the Pinnacle mill village attached to Nelvin Mill and then went to Howell Mill.

Bertha Reeves Oral History Interview [March 14, 1985] Reeves talks about growing up in the country before moving to McAdenville.

Ann Wiley Oral History Interview [March 14, 1985] Ann Wiley grew up in a mill village in Gastonia, North Carolina, as her parents were both working at Firestone starting in 1932.

Documenting the American South

Oral History Interview with George Miller, January 19, 1991. Interview M-0015. "George Miller, a former principal in Wilkes County, North Carolina, discusses the importance of knowing the day-to-day inner life of the public school system." Mr. George Miller of Gastonia, North Carolina, came back from A & T College to his hometown and started teaching. He stayed at Highland High School for 20 years, 1941-1961.

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Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, November 5, 1974. Interview G-0005. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007). "Again, Anderson returns to the discussion about Communism. Anderson explains the potency Communism had for labor unions in destroying workers' organization efforts in mill strikes in Gastonia, North Carolina, and Marion, Virginia."

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Oral History Interview with Mareda Sigmon Cobb and Carrie Sigmon Yelton, June 16 and 18, 1979. Interview H-0115. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007). "According to Cobb, Earl Armstrong's evangelistic meetings figured prominently in the lives of Gastonia's mill workers during the mid-twentieth century." "Though Cobb was not in Gastonia during the 1929 strike, she did know key figures such as Police Chief Orville F. Aderholt."

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Oral History Interview with George R. Elmore, March 11, 1976. Interview H-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007). "George Elmore lived most of his life near Gastonia, North Carolina. In this interview, he reveals why he exemplifies some of the changes that took place in North Carolina in the first half of the twentieth century, including the move from farming to industry and the rise of a managerial class."

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Oral History Interview with Paul Green, May 30, 1975. Interview B-0005-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).  "Green remembers Fred Beal, a labor organizer who fled to Russia after a second-degree murder conviction in the death of a law enforcement officer during the violent Gastonia Mills strike in 1929."

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Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007). Herring describes her response to efforts at organization in Gastonia, probably in 1929.


Oral History Interview with Broadus Mitchell, August 14 and 15, 1977. Interview B-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007). Mitchell describes at length the process by which the cotton textile industry was established in the South following the Civil War." (including Gastonia)

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Oral History Interview with Don West, January 22, 1975. Interview E-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
Activist, leftist, poet, and ordained minister Don West remembers a lifetime of union and civil rights activism in this interview. West worked his way through his undergraduate and graduate education, earning a doctoral degree in divinity from Vanderbilt University while acting as a labor organizer in high-profile strikes, including the 1929 cotton mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolina, and the coal strike in Wilder, Tennessee.

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Goldmine Digital Collection

Goldmine is the home for digital primary source materials from J. Murrey Atkins Library’s Special Collections and University Archives, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, that relate to Charlotte regional history. Includes collections of oral history interviews.
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Helen Babington oral history interview, 1979 May 25 Helen Babington was a 69-year-old woman at the time of interview, which took place in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was born in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1910. She was employed at Gaston College as a receptionist and as a trustee and vice-president of the Gaston County Museum of Art & History.


Brenda Beam oral history interview, 1979 October 23 Brenda Beam was a 69-year-old woman at the time of interview. She was born in Cherryville, North Carolina in 1910. She was educated at King's Business College and was employed by Southern Bell as a stenographer.


Patsy Bolin oral history interview, 1992 October 15 Patsy Bolin was a 51-year-old woman at the time of interview. She was born in Gaston County, North Carolina in 1941. She was employed as a bookkeeper at the YMCA in Belmont, North Carolina.


Sister Mary Michel Boulus oral history interview, 1993 June 28 Sister Mary Michel Boulus was a 66-year-old woman at the time of interview, which took place in the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse in Belmont, North Carolina. She was born in China Grove, North Carolina in 1926. She was educated at UNC Greensboro and John Carroll University, and was employed as a high school teacher, and math instructor, treasurer, and president of Sacred Heart College.


Waitsell Ensley oral history interview, 2006 March 22 Waitsell Ensley was a 70-year-old man at the time of interview. He was born in Cramerton, North Carolina in 1936. He graduated from Lowell High School and was employed as a manager in the textiles industry. Textiles industry manager Waitsell Ensley discusses his life and his family. He describes his unexpected birth and his childhood growing up in small mill towns in Gaston County, North Carolina. In particular, Mr. Ensley talks about rationing during World War II and his experiences attending Ranlo Grammar School and Lowell High School, including corporal punishment.


Jeanne G. Rauch and Marshall Rauch oral history interview, 1995 March 5 Jeanne and Marshall Rauch discuss the Jewish experience during the twentieth century in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, mainly in Gastonia and Bessemer City. A native of Gaston County, Mrs. Rauch remembers her parents' civic participation and involvement in building the first synagogue in Gastonia, Temple Emanuel.


Patricia A. Skinner oral history interview, 2013 February 20 Patricia A. Skinner’s interview took place in her office at Gaston College in Dallas, North Carolina. She was born in Michigan and educated at Lake Michigan College, Western Michigan University, and The Ohio State University and was employed as President of Gaston College since 1994.


Donnie R. Thrower oral history interview, 1994 October 4 Donnie Thrower was a 65-year-old woman at the time of interview, which took place in her home in Belmont, North Carolina. She was born in McAdenville, North Carolina in 1929. She completed tenth grade and received college secretarial course credits, and was employed as a textile mill worker and a secretary.


Ralph S. Underwood oral history interview, 1979 May 23 Ralph S. Underwood was a 90-year-old man at the time of interview, which took place in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was born in Gaston County, North Carolina in 1889. He completed grade school and was employed as an accountant for the Duke Power Company.


Gladys Worthy oral history interview, 1993 May 6 Gladys Worthy was a 62-year-old woman at the time of interview, which took place in Gastonia, North Carolina. She was born in 1931. She was educated at Highland High School and Central Piedmont Community College, and was employed as a nurse. Gladys Worthy, a former basketball player for Highland High School in Gastonia, North Carolina during the 1948-1950 seasons, recalls her sports career. She reflects on the many advantages high school basketball afforded her, including the chance to travel, recognition from her community, respect from classmates, and a bolstered self-esteem. In contrast to the positives, Ms. Worthy also discusses the limitations race and gender conventions placed upon her and her teammates. As an African American girl during segregation in Gastonia, Ms. Worthy could play basketball in school but didn't have the same opportunities for college scholarships or recreational play as white boys. She reminisces about her role in a championship basketball game and discusses the strategy her team employed on the court. Ms. Worthy speaks more generally about parenting issues such as discipline. She briefly talks about her sons, including James Worthy who was a professional basketball player in the NBA, and the impact his fame had on the Gaston County community.

Goldmine Digital Collection: Stanley Creek, Gaston County, N.C.

Digital Collection Series Title: Stanley Creek from the J. Murrey Atkins Library, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Interviews and project recordings relating to the Stanley Creek region, located in Gaston County, North Carolina. (Digital Collection Title: Catawba Lands Conservancy Perspectives on Land Project)
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Joyce Burt, Roger Burt, and Joyce's brother, Danny Wallace, recount the history of the land and the community in Gaston County, North Carolina. They broadly talk about the land and natural environment in their region, including wildlife within the area such as blue herons, paths that they created and maintain in the woods, land conservancy, and cultivating the land on their property for flowers.

Walter Cavin discusses moving to Stanley, North Carolina as a child in 1936 and the natural environment of the region. He talks about his father's work as a postmaster, with various banks, and his service in the Army during both World Wars. Mr. Cavin discusses land use and development in Stanley, including at Stanley Creek and Hoover Pond, and the families who have lived in the area over time.

Mamie Allison Cole recounts her family’s history in Mount Holly, North Carolina and what life was like growing up in the area during the 1920s and 1930s. Mrs. Cole discusses the chores she had to do, her father’s farm, the parties her family would have with the neighbors, and cotton and other crops that her family would grow. Other topics discussed include working in textile mills during World War II, wildflowers on her property, and changes to the Mount Holly community over the years.

Beth Douglas describes what she likes about living in Gaston County, North Carolina, where she moved to in 2000. Mrs. Douglas discusses the importance of recycling, protecting the environment, local wildlife, and how she would like to see the county remain natural. She criticizes land developers for clearing out large sections of trees for housing developments.

James Forrester and Mary Frances Forrester recount their lives in Stanley, North Carolina, where they first moved so Dr. Forrester could work as a physician through a rural doctor program. Topics discussed include their appreciation for the land, pollution, nature, the growth within Stanley, and the animals they see on their property such as deer.

Tommy Michael "Mickey" Gilmore and Lynn Gilmore discuss their home in Stanley, North Carolina and their relationship with the land and environment. The Gilmores describe their historic home, which was built by William Rankin in the late 1700s. They discuss land conservancy, animals in the area such as coyotes and black snakes, hunting, recycling at the county dump, and the differences between legal hunting and poaching.

Ida Hoover discusses her family and their relationship to the land in Gaston County, North Carolina throughout the twentieth century. Mrs. Hoover talks about her in-laws' creamery business, the crops her family raised, the neighbors in the community, threats to streams from sewage runoff, and their former turkey business.

Married couple Robert McCorkle and Margaret McCorkle recall their family's history and changes to the land and environment in Gaston County, North Carolina. Topics discussed include home remedies, animals in the area such as doves, activities that Mr. McCorkle does in his free time such as hunting rabbits, and how Mr. McCorkle worked on his dad's farm when he was younger. The McCorkles talk about the new housing communities that are being built in the area and how they do not think that new development is necessarily bad for the community, but they do not want rapid growth to change the nature of the area.

Richard Rankin discusses the history of the surrounding area in Stanley Creek and his experiences growing up in Stanley, Gaston County, North Carolina. He talks about the history between the Rankin and Rhyne family within the Stanley Creek area, the conservation of the land, and the plants and animals in the area. Other topics include hunting and how he believes that there used to be a stronger sense of community in the Stanley Creek area than at the time of the interview.

Alfred Rhyne discusses his family's long history in Stanley, North Carolina and his relationship with the land. He talks about how one of his ancestors first obtained a land grant from England for property in the Stanley region, his grandparents' home in Stanley, and how he built his house with his wife Doris on the family land in 1967. Other topics include Mr. Rhyne's Presbyterian faith, plants in the area that the Rhynes enjoy such as bigleaf magnolias, and environmental problems in the area including water pollution and illegal dumping.

Harry W. Suddreth recounts moving to Mount Holly, North Carolina in the 1960s, and what he likes about living in the community. Topics discussed include urbanization in the surrounding area, owning and running his businesses, Low Meadow Greenhouses and Low Meadow Garden Center, pollution due to the growing population, and farming.

Southern Oral History Program Interviews

"In 1973, the History Dept. of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill established an oral history program devoted to the study of the southern region of the United States. The Southern Oral History Program collects interviews with Southerners who have made significant contributions to various fields of human endeavor. In addition, the Program undertakes special projects with the purpose of rendering historically visible those whose experience is not reflected in traditional written sources."


R-0568 Interview with Sophie Melvin Gerson, and Simon W. Gerson Sophie Melvin and other strike leaders were arrested and charged with the murder of police Chief Orville Aderholt during the Loray Mill Strike of 1929.

 C-0111 Interview (Digitized transcript) with Ernest Cagle, 1981  Ernest Cagle, white textile worker, with interviewer Ben F. Bulla. 11 September 1981. Ernest Cagle worked in Ranlo mill.  Also B-0047 Interview with Ernest Cagle.

Collection Title: Millie Wiggins Wandell and Charlotte Wiggins Oral History on Ella May Wiggins, 1984   The Millie Wiggins Wandell and Charlotte Wiggins Oral History on Ella May Wiggins, 1984, records the sisters' memories and what they learned afterward of the death of their mother, Ella May Wiggins, a white balladeer, textile worker, and union organizer who was killed during the textile strike in Gastonia, N.C., in 1929. Acquired as part of the Southern Historical Collection.

Veterans Oral History Collection

North Carolina Veterans Oral History Collection contains interviews with military veterans who were born and raised in North Carolina, and who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for any military service, engagement, or war.
The purpose of the State Archives of North Carolina’s Military Collection Veterans Oral History Program is to capture and provide access to the memories and experiences of the military servicemen and servicewomen from the state of North Carolina, preserving them for the benefit of the public and scholars.
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Thomas E. Carson Jr. Interview, 1999-10-12 [MilColl OH 157] Thomas Edgar Carson Jr. was born on January 28, 1922, in Gaston County, N.C. in the Crowder's Creek area of Gastonia, N.C., to Thomas Edgar and Myrtle Norris Carson. Thomas Carson Jr. graduated from Gastonia High School, and was attending Erskine College in Due West, S.C., when he was drafted in military service during World War II.


Wilbur W. Warlick Interview, 1991-09-20 [MilColl OH 904] Wilbur Wilson Warlick (who went by "Rip") was born on October 11, 1921, in Lincoln County, North Carolina, to Claude I. and Prue (or Price) Clegg Warlick. Wilbur's father was a mail career for the U.S. Postal Service by 1930 in Lincolnton, North Carolina. Wilbur Warlick enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939. He served during World War II for the entire length of the war, working as a radioman.

Mount Holly, N.C.

Mount Holly Memories 125th Anniversary. A Gaston Gazette Special Section. September 23, 2004.   Includes interviews with members of the Mount Holly community.

Cramerton Mill Village. Louise Elrod

Oral history interview with Louise Elrod of Cramerton Mill Village, dated Wednesday, September 18, 1996.

Interview with Giles Tate Smith

Interview with Giles Tate Smith. He describes the map of the town of Gastonia that he made from memory dated back to the year 1895.

Two versions of map are available online:

Hand-drawn map showing residents and businesses in central Gastonia in 1895.
Transcription: "This is a map of Gastonia, N.C., dating back to 1895. Made from memory by Giles Smith, born in Gastonia December 13th 1890. Dates are from records. Gastonia N.C. was incorporated 1877. Map completed May 12, 1972."

Hand-drawn map showing residents and businesses in central Gastonia in 1895.
Transcription: "This is a map of Gastonia, N.C., made from memory by Giles Smith. Born in Gastonia December 13th 1890. Dates are from Records. Gastonia NC was incorporated 1877. Map finished May 12, 1972."

Georgia State University Library, Special Collections and Archives

The Uprising of '34 Collection

E.O Friday Interview
E.O. Friday was an African American textile worker at the Modena Cotton Mill. E.O. Friday talks about discrimination against African American workers in the mills, their exclusion from joining the union, and working conditions in the mills. He also discusses Ku Klux Klan activities during this time, his service with the United States Navy, and starting his own business.
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Ernest Moore, E.O. Friday, Charlie Wetzell Interviews
Ernest Moore was a textile worker in Gastonia, N.C. Ruby Moore was Ernest Moore's wife and she lived in Gastonia, N.C. E.O. Friday was an African American textile worker in Gastonia, N.C. Charlie Wetzell was the son of the owners of Armstrong Mills in Gastonia, N.C.
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Charlie Wetzel, Elaine Pruitt, Bill Pruitt, and Roger Moore Interviews
Charlie Wetzell was a textile manager and yarn salesman at the Stowe Mill in Belmont, N.C., and later worked for either a historical society or historic site in Gastonia, N.C. Elaine Pruitt is a Winston-Salem, N.C. history teacher and an assistant researcher on the film. Roger Moore was a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal. Bill Pruitt was the son of a mill worker. Charlie Wetzel talks about his role in the mill and shows the filmmakers various historic artifacts that came from or were associated with the mills and mill life.
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More interviews from the The Uprising of '34 Collection:

Gastonia, N.C.

Belmont, N.C.

Library of Congress

John and Jean Rosenberg oral history interview conducted by David P. Cline in Prestonburg, Kentucky, 2013-08-15

Jean and John Rosenberg begin this interview with recollections of their families' backgrounds. Jean learned about social issues as she was raised by a Quaker family in Pennsylvania, and John's family fled Germany under threat from the Nazis. Jean attended Wilmington College and became a research analyst for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. John grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, where FBI agents kept tabs on his family, attended Duke University, served in the Air Force, and attended the University of North Carolina School of Law. He became an attorney with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, which became effective after reorganization by John Doar.

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Karl Robert Eyman Collection Karl Robert Eyman Collection (AFC/2001/001/86123), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

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