Saturday, January 01, 2005

Horse Creek Valley, South Carolina



Alright, back again. I hope everyone had a nice New Year and woke up with all limbs intact. Me? I'm so lame I didn't even make it to midnight. I'll try to redeem myself with the next series of posts in which we'll visit the Clearwater Mill and talk about the Horse Creek Valley region of Aiken County, South Carolina. This is gonna be a multi-post saga. There's not much written about Horse Creek Valley and the history of the textile mills, but I'll see what I can put together. Most of the infrastructure that attended the huge mills, including company towns and the mills themselves, is gone. However, we'll start with one mill that does exist, although it's been shut down for years: Clearwater Finishing, a textile mill in, fittingly enough, Clearwater, SC.



As you head generally northeast on SC 191 toward Aiken you pass all the old mill towns, including Clearwater, Bath, Langley, Warrenville, Graniteville, and Vaucluse. Most are filled with nothing but memories at this point, although the remaining little company houses, aligned in neat rows, are generally still occupied. Given the importance of Horse Creek Valley, not much easily accessible information exists. This website is an exception and, giving the requisite due to Richard Pearce and the Alicia Patterson Foundation, I'm going to steal a piece about Graniteville wholesale because I think it says as much about the milling region now as it did when written in 1975:

"For Graniteville is a town that believes in its ghosts, welcomes them as family: whether it's a great grandfather, long dead and buried, back to squeak his ancient porch rocker on a hot still summer evening, or locked doors that open in the night to a kitchen whore once long ago someone's grandmother burned to death in a fire. In the evening after dinner over coffee, the town seems to shake out its ghosts like pecans from the trees in the garden. Night dogs bark the distance between houses like old friends calling out across a field each one's too tired to cross, and old stories weave their way through the sleep of whole families, whole generations of families, until the history of an evening becomes the history of a town and of a century."



Historically, farming, especially tobacco and cotton, was the economic life-blood of the Aiken-Augusta area. Unfortunately, tobacco and cotton rapidly deplete the soil. In 1920-1921 the bollweevil decimated Georiga's cotton crop and the bottom fell out of the market, blows from which the cotton-economy never fully recovered. In short, by the time the 20th century got onto its feet, farmers were finding themselves unable to make a living and the Great Depression was already on deck. Down in the Valley, where Horse Creek was a ready source of water power, textile mills had been providing steady employment for decades. The first large mill was built in Graniteville in the mid-1840's, although small mills had been established in Vaucluse as early as the Napoleanic Wars (1803-1815), when British cloth was embargoed. By 1880 mills were in operation throughout the Valley. At first the mills processed mostly cotton, but later handled rayon, polyester, etc. You know, all your favorite fabrics. Normally sealed-up tight, some contruction out front provided us with a temporary entrance to the three-story Clearwater Mill. Although, if you look at the lower right of the sign in the first photo, you can see someone got inside before us and brought their spray paint. Just when you think you're daring, someone else makes you feel like a sissy.



Now, the farmers across the river believed that the red Georgia dirt was in their blood and that life without the wide blue vistas of sky and the scent of long-leaf pine on the air meant certain death. They scorned the textile workers, who they referred to as "lintheads" because of the bits of cotton and fabric that stuck to their hair. For their part, the textile workers thought the farmers were ridiculously behind the times, tending their fields in the brutal summer sun, nearly unable to tease a crop out of the sandy clay along the river plain. Yet life in the mills was harsh and workers fought long hours, low pay, tyrannical supervisors, obscenely dangerous working conditions, and respiratory problems. In the early years, workers literally inhaled the textiles they milled, destroying their lungs. In some towns every male, essentially all of whom worked in the mills, had a chronic cough. This photo of the third floor illustrates dangers of an entirely different kind.



In 1933 Erskine Caldwell, a native of Moreland, GA, wrote God's Little Acre, a book based entirely on the tension (psychological, emotional, and, uh, apparently sexual) between farmers and millers in the region surrounding Horse Creek Valley. In the story, a family is destroyed as some members refuse to leave the barren land and others embrace mill life. In the end, it is the mills, or, more specifically, those that own the mills, the wreak the worst destruction. Here is a sample:

"Up and down the Valley lay the company towns and the ivy-walled cotton mills and the firm-bodied girls with eyes like morning-glories and the men stood on the hot streets looking at each other while they spat their lungs into the deep yellow dust of Carolina. He knew they could never get away from the blue-lighted mills at night and the bloody-lipped men on the streets and the unrest of the company towns. Nothing could drag him away from there now."



God's Little Acre is a vivid, searing, and lurid portrait of Horse Creek Valley. It was censored by the Georgia Literary Commission, attacked by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and banned outright in Boston. So, yeah, it's a fabulous book! Normally I'd say any book that sold 14 million copies must be terrible (Hello, John Grisham!) but in this case I make an exception. Here's a forklift's-eye view of the third floor. Other than the graffiti on the sign out front, there was almost no evidence anyone had been inside the mill recently. However, weirdly, next to this forklift was a relatively new McDonald's sack and the remains of a Big Mac. There was ONE other piece of evidence, but we'll talk about that later.



As the textile industry declined in the 1970's and 1980's, the Clearwater Mill closed for the first time. It reopened later, then closed again. I'm not sure how long it has been vacant now, but from the scraps lying around it would seem the mid-1990's. Walking around on the third floor required the utmost caution. Parts of the floor were totally gone and other portions were just wood, much of which was rotted and would provide a quick way back to the second floor. We got around by walking on the steel beams the supported the floor itself, which you could see through the holes in some areas.

In one section of the mill thousands of pieces of ancient computer equipment were strewn all around, some of it brand new. If you're looking for giant floppy discs, punch-card readers, and obsolete monitors, the plastic casing yellowed and coated in dust, well, it's out there. Elsewhere, old adding machines, rubber stamps, and discarded reams of fabric were lying on desks and stacked on shelves.
Following World War II the communities in the Horse Creek Valley, including Clearwater, relied completely on the mills for employment and economic stimulation. To date, no industries have moved into these towns to replace the textile mills. More to come.

41 comments:

jeremiah said...

interesting blog. great photos.

Jmhouse said...

Thanks, Jeremiah. I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

Best,

John

N. Anderson said...

My family is from Horsecreek Valley. Your site has the most information (and the most interesting info)of anything else I've seen. It hasn't changed much, and the pictures on your blog remind me of visiting my Grandma in Piney Heights and driving through all of the valley towns. It was poor, poor, poor. Some say Art-Deco, I say "poor." But the people were good and survivors. Thank you for the site.

N. Anderson

Jmhouse said...

Thanks for your comment! There's very little information on Horse Creek Valley out there and, you're right, the place hasn't changed much. There used to be a website dedicated to Horse Creek Valley, but I think it went dormant. Too bad. Anyway, thanks again for your kind words.

John

Katelyn said...

I live in Horse Creek Valley or as the residents say "The Valley." I live about 2 minutes from the Clearwater Finishing Plant. I hear they're going to tear it down to build condos/apartments. If you would like to ask me any questions about the area, I would be happy to answer. I also live rather close to Belvedere and North Augusta if you would like to know about those areas. My e-mail is kabrissey@usca.edu

This was very interesting to read, by the way. I'm a huge history buff, so I love learning about things like this.

Jmhouse said...

Hi Katelyn,

Thanks so much for your comment. Condos, eh? Interesting. Hopefully some folks will contact you with questions.

Take Care,

John

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. My grandmother and grandfather lived and were married there and my mother was born there. They left THE valley shortly thereafter. Some members of the family say "they escaped"m anyway they survived and prospered...
Those that didn't or haven't escaped are a rare breed of survivors...
Again, thanks for your site and your sharing...

Anonymous said...

I was raised in "The Valley" and have lived in or close to it since I was born in Dec 1952. My father, mother, brother, grandfather and myself, all worked in the Bath, Clearwater, or Clearwater Finishing Plant at one time in our lives. My grandfather worked there for about 35 years. My grandmother on my mother's side of the family worked in Bath Mill for about 28 years. I remember my grandmother telling us how she was brought to the mill by her mother when she was a little girl and was put over in the corner in a box to play with her dolls, while her mother worked 10 to 12 hours a day in the mill. She would also tell how the mill would pay them with company script that you had to spend at the company store. The mill owned everything and everyone. The mills provided housing, schools, some recreation for the mill town kids. It was also a great place to grow up. The valley was hard and would make you hard, but Valley People were the best, kind hearted people in the state. They did not have much money to share with anyone, but they would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. Very little crime or stealing went on. Everybody knew everybody and looked out for each other's children. We could fight among ourselves, but GOD forbid a stranger to come into the Valley, as he would be lucky to get out with his body parts still intact. We had the best baseball teams in the county. That's all we kids had to do in the spring and summer. We were all dirt poor, but we did not realize it because all the other families around us were in the same shape. We were a proud people that loved GOD and country and would fight for both at the drop of a hat. Nobody had to lock their doors at night or during the day when you left to go to Augusta, GA to buy groceries. Women and young girls could walk the streets and not feel threaten or worry about anybody harming them. Alcohol was the hardest thing in town and was the only escape for many people. My Valley is now "Gone With The Wind", just like the closing of the cotton mills. Those were the best of times and also the worst of times. Great places in the valley like Boatwrights Mom & Pop Store at the bottom of the hill from our L.B.C. High School. Bubba Keels, Pool Room, Ruth's Place, L&M Cafe, where the best hamburgers in the world were made. The Immortal Dixie Lee Drive In on the Jefferson Davis Hwy between Bath and Clearwater, where Mrs. Lee was Queen of Drive In and served up great food and was also a swell place to take your date and sit in your car and see who else came there with their girl friends. It was the one place that belonged to all the Valley Kids and lord knows that anyone from another school would get the "tar beat out of them" for coming over, unless you were a sweet girl from another high school wanting to meet the handsome young boys from L.B.C. Hank Caver, lengendary L.B.C. Football Coach, Mr. John Harrison, was the Director of Youth Recreation for the Valley for many years and devoted his life to helping valley kids become ballplayers. Without him driving the bus to come and pick us kids up, we would have never been allowed to play organize sports. Our Clearwater Recreation Center was a picture of beauty. The Baseball Field was something to see and what great little ball players came through that place.

Horse Creek Valley, Valley People, May GOD Bless Us All!

Jmhouse said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thanks very much for your fascinating reminiscences. It's too bad that so much of Horse Creek Valley's history is lost. For awhile there was a website dedicated to documenting Horse Creek Valley's past, but it disappeared for good a few years ago. However, I'll keep the information I have posted as long as I can keep paying for the server space. Your comment made my day and added more depth to a region I already knew held great importance.

John

Anonymous said...

I'm very familar with the mills.. most of my family(linty clothes and all) work at the MILL.. The little farm my grandfather had, sought of suffered because, all the young people were getting jobs at the mills..no young strong men and women to 'pic that cotton'. Got so bad grandday had to take a nite-watchman' job at the 'chalk-bed'..surely you remember them..Dixie Clay and Hubert's...Oh..how I remember those days...Jefferson High..what a marching band...as usual and necessary,we move on, off to college..if you are lucky,or get married(luck wasn't your reason), to the ARMY, if not that..then, to the MILL...family on the way..got to move out of my daddy-law house..he works at the mill too.

Jmhouse said...

Thanks for your thoughts and memories. It's your words that keep the Horse Creek Valley alive and I appreciate you taking the time to write what you know.

Take Care,

John

Anonymous said...

Horse Creek Valley, what a great place to grow up in and learn about life. When I was a young kid, the Valley was everything a young boy could want it to be. It was rough, it was hard, and it was alive with life. It was the sound of a freight train racing through the towns at night, blowing it's whistle to let everybody know that it was coming through town. The noise of that train, rocking on the tracks could put a little baby to sleep. It's funny now, thinking about how close the tracks were to everybody's house, today it would sound as though the train was coming through your house, but back then it was just accepted as much as an "early morning breakfast" that mother had waiting on me when my feet first touched the cold, hardwood floor. I remember the fierce competition between each little town concerning athletic events. Each grammar school would feed it's own little baseball, basketball, or football team. Bath, Clearwater, Langley, Burnettetown, and Gloverville were the five grammar schools that existed when I was a little boy. Mr. John Harrison, who worked for United Merchants, (the people that owned the mills) ran the Clearwater Pond Athletic Park where we had a beautiful baseball field, tennis court, basketball court and during the summertime, a beautiful sandy beach, a wooden pier and a wooden raft to swim out to, all located at Clearwater Pond. What great memories that place has for many Valley boys and girls. It was closed in 1963 or 1964, due to the "intergration problem". We, children of the Valley lost everything when United Merchants closed our recreation park and summertime swimming place. From that time on we all just went swimming in any creek or mudhole that we could find. We also suffered from not having a decent baseball field to play on. Some of the men from the Valley got together and tried to fix up the old baseball field that was beside LBC's Football Stadium. This old baseball field, after many years of improvement, became Howard's Field were many Dixie Youth Championships in baseball have been won. Also, for what it's worth, "thanks to all the men from the Valley who gave up much time to help put in a new lighting system at Howard's Field back in 1980. This lighting system is still in use today and the good men who put that lighting system in were never properly recognized because of the "Bath Mill Mafia", a group of "crusty old men who worked for the Bath Mill at the time the lighting system was put in at Howard's Field. Heck, they have even changed the name of the athletic teams that were so good back in the day! For many, many years our baseball teams that won many championships and were recognized all over the state by their names on their jerseys that said, "L.B.C"! This name struck fear into the hearts of many teams that had to face these little baseball players in the district and state playoffs. But sadly, not anymore as the Old L.B.C. name has been changed to the Valley Recreation Association. What kind of name is that? I guess that I am just getting old and it is hard to see my old Horse Creek Valley fade into a distant memory now. May there be a SPECIAL PLACE IN HEAVEN FOR ALL THE TRUE VALLEY PEOPLE! WE KNOW WHO WE ARE AND WE WON'T EVER FORGET! GOD Bless Horse Creek Valley!

Jmhouse said...

I've received some great comments on the Horse Creek Valley and this is one of the best. Clearly, the HCV meant a lot to a lot of people and the area remains evocative. But it has changed dramatically and is continuing to do so. Hopefully, remembrances will accumulate here for posterity as I have no intention of letting this blog fade away entirely, even if I post infrequently at times.

Thanks very much for your recollections.

Best,

John

Anonymous said...

Great site. Brings back so many memories of hard times and harder people. I knew men a rabid dog would cross the street to avoid. They worked shift work in the mills, under the most trying conditions.of Bath, Graniteville and Clearwater and
took care of their obligations to God and their families. These men were tough and the women tougher. My mother told me of a woman who had a baby mid day and went back to work that afternoon. These people I have spent 77 years with are the best of the best and will give you the shirt off their backs but will
kill you if you try to take it without permission. As a young man I delivered grocieries from a small
store in Madison (an area between
Warrenville and Graniteville). We
drove a pick up for delivery and I would take the groceries in the houses which were unlocked and put the perishables in the "ice box" and neatly place the other items on
the "dining table".No one locked their doors. When WW2 came along its seems all the older young men I knew were drafted and I remember many of the coming back never the same as before, either loss of limbs or nervous breakdowns, ulcers, etc. The army drafted me for two years during the Korean "War" or "Conflict" and that was the longest I was away from the valley. I am very proud of being from Horse Creek Valley and feel it was a priveldge to know these people, my friends and relatives.
During the was and for afew years after, there were 40-50 men who owned their vehicles and operated them as "Valley Taxis".They provided transport to workersin the mills and plants. They had a precise time to pick up the worker
and then drive tyo 4 or 5 other homes for other workers. They would tranport them all at once to the mill. The shift hours in Graniteville were 8am-4pm-midnight.
They would take a load and pick up
riders who were getting off. When not carrying mill help, they drove up and down hwy 1, then a 2 lane road now known as 421 and pick up riders who stood beside the road and flagged them down. The fare from Aiken to Augusta a distance of about 15 miles was about 50 cents.
The headliner in these cabs was coated with lint from the heads of the workers who had just spent their eight hours working. Bosses in these mills were treated with the utmost respect out of fear for the jobs. Some of the bosses abused this respect or fear especially some who worked ladies.
When William Gregg started Graniteville Company, he was a godsent to many southerners. These
usually were men with families who\were down on their luck sharecropping etc and they came from Georgia, Ala, NC and most of the South to work here. Mr Gregg
was a great man with much foresight. He build livable homes
for the workers who qualifies, created schools, managed to get a RR through, set up company stores
and tried to help the people who turned their lives over to him.Many
of the houses were shotgun houses, a structure one room wide and about 50 feet in length. They were build
with the finest pine, some slate roofs and one village known as rock town was created from the granite
quary a few miles away. Granite Mill was made with these same slabs.

Jmhouse said...

Thanks very much for your comment. I have to say, out of all the posts I've published, the Horse Creek Valley series has received the most fascinating comments. The history of the HCV is so rich and, unfortunately, largely unknown. Of course, Erskine Caldwell wrote a bit about the region, as did Cormac McCarthy in a little-known play. But the voices of those who actually lived there are mostly nowhere to be found. Well, except for here in the comments section of this post. And these comments, this most recent one very-much included, are rare gems.

I am very grateful for everyone's reminiscences and I wish that this history could be compiled so more people could know about it. Well, maybe someday. In the meantime, I hope to hear from more people who knew and loved the HCV.

Once again, thanks very much.

Best Regards,

John

pastormarkadams said...

jmhouse,
I like going into old buildings, too! It's so fascinating and you can sense the people who worked there and are probably gone from this world. It's like going into the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining". If you'd ever like someone to tag along, and I'd really like to, e-mail me at TADAMS4835@comcast.net. I know of another huge, abandoned building to explore.

Anonymous said...

This was a very imformative article, thanks for your info. I have lived in the Horse Creek area just about all my life. Recently my husband and I started researching the history. What I am particular interested in the history of Horse Creek itself and the indian tribes that were in the area. I can't seem to find anything on this except for a few mentions. Any help pointing me in the right direction? Your help would be greatly apprriciated. Thanks ,
Deanna Hearn

Jmhouse said...

Hi Deanna,

Thanks for your comment. I contacted a local historian who runs a website on the history of the lost town of Hamburg, South Carolina. It's really worth taking a look at:
http://www.arete-designs.com/hamburg/

Anyway, he supplied all kinds of good info. I'll just paste what he wrote here:

"There is a book just out that will answer her questions, called 'Guardians of the Valley' by Ed Cashin (his final and posthumous book).
http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Valley-Chickasaws-Colonial-Carolina/dp/157003821X

It's about the band of Chickasaw Indians that came here on invitation of S.C. in 1723, and were deeded 21,000 acres along the west side of Horse Creek extending up to Vaucluse. They collaborated with the folks in Savannah Town, Fort Moore and later Augusta for mutual defense. (The Chickasaws were a great pick, an early author called them the Spartans of the Southeast.) Everybody got along great until the Rev War, when the Chickasaws were irritated to see their friends fighting amongst themselves, and went back to their homeland in Mississippi.

Anyway, the book has some nice maps that I drew for Ed and you can see a preview at the "Download Chapter One" link at the bottom of this page:
http://www.sc.edu/uscpress/2009/3821.html

There are also a couple of Wikipedia articles. The Chickasaw Nation web site used to have some stuff but those links don't seem to be working right now.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savannah_Town,_South_Carolina
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Savannah,_Georgia

If that leaves any desire at all, thee is another book about the Westo Indians that were in the general Augusta - Silver Bluff area in the late 17th century. These guys made all of their neighbors so mad that they were driven out. Then the Savannahs (aka Shawnees) got in there long enough to give the river its name. I don't know why they left.
http://www.amazon.com/Westo-Indians-Slave-Traders-Colonial/dp/0817351787

Ed Cashin and Tony Carr died just in the last couple of years, so I guess I know about as much as anybody right now."

Pretty good stuff! I didn't know that the Savannah River was named after the Shawnee. Let me know if you need anything more and thanks again for stopping by.

John

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the info! You have told me more than I could Google! lol. I will try the links and see what we can find! Again, thank you so much!
Deanna Hearn

Anonymous said...

This has brought back memories for me to. I was raised in Graniteville, my family worked for those mills and my dad drove a truck long distance. I remember those trains coming thru. They would shake your house and they were right in the backyard. The people in the mill did come home with cotton in there hair. My sister also worked in one of the mills in Graniteville. My Grandmother is buried in the Graniteville Cemetery. My grandmother had a little farm beside the house. We had chickens, a pig and a garden. We hung our clothes on the line outside. That was the good old days. Our address was RT 1 , have u ever heard of such? And as far as the ghosts, We did welcome them, even though they scared uswhen we were little. But thanks for bringing those memories back around. I went to Leavelle McCampbell middle school when I was in the 7th grade. It was a high school then. But the next yr, it was a middle school. Thanks again.

jmhouse said...

Comments such as yours are absolutely the best part of doing this blog. Your recollections are very much appreciated and make me hope that some day the history of the Horse Creek Valley will be compiled so that everyone with an interest might know about it.

Was your address simply "Rt. 1"? That would be really something else. I live in a complex so big my apartment number is over 1000. Times are different, I do believe.

Best,

John

Amy said...

I live across the street from the finishing plant and have been watching them start to tear it down for the last few weeks. It may be the end of an eyesore for some, but I can remember that building being there since I was a child and it's certainly not going to seem right with it gone.

jmhouse said...

Yeah, I guess the Clearwater Finishing Plant has been slated for destruction for some time. It's too bad because it really is a very cool and historic building. But it's badly damaged and I'm sure there was just no money (or interest?) to rehabilitate it.

Here in Albuquerque the sprawling railyard complex is being re-developed. It's an awesome set of buildings and, while it was very cool to see it basically abandoned, I'm glad it's going to be put to use. This kind of re-development seems to be the exception and not the rule, however, and it's been a long road to get the project going.

Well, say goodbye to the finishing plant for me. And thanks for your comment.

JM

Anonymous said...

Found this blog while trying to get an on-line map of Bath/Burnettown area. I,my father and his siblings, my sisters and cousins, my husband all grew up in "the valley." It was "home." My grandfather moved to Burnettown early 1900s, bought land and built homes - some for rent - some for family. We were a tight knit group. I attended Bath Grammar, Langley Grammar, the original LBC on the Carline, and finished at what is now LBC Middle School under L. B. Ergle. My husband and I left there in 1957, and it's depressing to go there now. Houses are falling down, businesses are no more - no new industry or development. Yes, we frequented the Dixie Lee, Jack's Grill, and spent wonderful summer days at Clearwater Pond swimming, playing ping-pong - just "hanging out." Just today I got a phone call from a former classmate trying to arrange a reunion of our Class of 1956 - so now you know how old I am. I would love to visit with everyone and reminisce. Remember, a boy from the "upper valley" (Graniteville/Warrenville)dating a girl from the LBC area wasn't welcome. We shopped in Augusta, GA and ignored Aiken. Rode the Valley Coach and the Valley Taxis, went to the movies at the Miller or Imperial Theaters. It's all "gone with the wind."

jmhouse said...

Thanks for sharing your memories. I appreciate hearing your recollections of "the Valley" very much. Yes, the place really is in rough shape these days. South Carolina Public Television was supposed to air a special on the Horse Creek Valley, which would be the first true historical documentation of the area that I know of, and it sounded fascinating. Anyone see it? Does it really exist?

The Miller Theater must've been a beautiful place in its heyday. I don't know anyone that was actually in it back then.

Thanks again!

JM

Anonymous said...

As of May 2011, the Clearwater Finishing Plant is still standing.

jmhouse said...

My understanding is that the finishing plant itself is going to be adapted for use in whatever future development occurs on the site. The rest of the original buildings at the complex, I believe, have already been taken down or will be soon. Most were badly damaged by recent fires.

Thanks for your comment!

JM

jmhouse said...

Here's a recent NEWS PIECE on the Clearwater Finishing Plant.

Robert Lamb said...

I was born in Aiken, but only because the hospital was there. I began life in Clearwater and still feel a fondness for the town and for all of HCV. From Clearwater, we moved to Augusta, to a neighborhood called Frog Hollow, but which was demolished years ago via urban renewal. Former residents of Frog Hollow maintain a lively community on Facebook. I'd like to see one also by Horse Creek Valley-ites. ~Bob Lamb (boblamb@hotmail.com)

jmhouse said...

Well, once again I have a chance to lament the passing several years ago of the Horse Creek Valley website. It seemed like it was going to be a great clearinghouse for all things HCV and then it just disappeared. I was in touch with the fellow running it for awhile, but it's been a long time now. A HCV community forum is definitely warranted.

Thanks for your recollections, Bob. I think I might have to take a look at one of your books. They sound excellent.

JM

Anonymous said...

The Horse Creek Valley movie 'A
Tale Worth Telling' played on SCETV on Thursday September 22 2011. It is a bang up job and I hope people can be proud of it. Surely it will play again over the coming months or even years. The Aiken Museum of History was the main sponsor and you can buy a DVD there if you can't wait for the broadcast.

jmhouse said...

Anonymous, thanks very much for the heads up on the Horse Creek Valley documentary! I'm thrilled that it's completed and being shown. I hadn't heard much about it lately and was starting to wonder.

I'd certainly like to own a copy of the film, but for anyone that can't wait to track down a DVD (like me), the entire film can be seen HERE. If you press "play" and then "pause" and then go wash the dishes or something by the time you get back it should be fully loaded and ready to play through without hiccups. This seems to be an official site, too.

I just watched it and it was great, following the history of the HCV from pre-history right through to today. Great commentary and visuals, too. HIGHLY recommended viewing.

Again, thanks Anonymous! The info is much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

My grandmother at 54 left the Seminole Mill one cold February afternoon in 1969 because she had been sick. She had been working in the mill since she was 14 years old. Never missed work. She died in the hospital that day. My father died of pancreatic cancer after working decades in the Finishing Plant. I do believe the chemical odors that followed him home on his hair, skin, and in his lungs killed him years later. We were poor, but my proud parents wouldn't hear of "free lunch". They paid their bills and bought groceries on Friday of each week. By Monday the paycheck was gone. There was a company store that sat between the mill and the plant. It was run by Sam Monroe. I remember him as a pleasant man. In emergency situations, he would extend a little credit. I grew up hearing the whistles of the mills blow to indicate time to come to work, go home, or have lunch. I loved growing up in our mill town. My husband is from Washington DC and he takes me driving down highway 421 every chance he gets to see what he calls "the good hard-working people" or "the real people". He especially loves to take that route around Christmas time. That is something that I appreciate so much about him. See, growing up Aiken was on one end of the Valley and North Augusta was on the other. We were looked down upon because of where our parents earned money to take care of their families. Things still haven't changed so much. I do live 10 miles from my parents home now. My mother stil lives there. Her house is close to the church my grandmother was a founding member, and my mother played the piano. The remains of the Seminole Mill sit across the street from that church. It was something to witness it first-hand.

jmhouse said...

Thank you very much for your recollections, Anonymous. That is a wonderful description of the joys and hardships of life in the Valley. I'm sure it's true that some of the perhaps more intangible things haven't changed so much. It really must've been something to see the Valley when the mills were working full-time.

There's a book called "A Fabric of Defeat" which you might find interesting as it describes the life of a southern textile worker. Between that and the recent documentary, "A Tale Worth the Telling," I'm glad to see Horse Creek Valley getting some attention every now and then.

Thanks again and best regards! JM

Anonymous said...

Thank you for suggesting "A Fabric of Defeat". I will read it. The documentary, "A Tale Worth the Telling," has a place in my dvd collection already. I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Having posted some comments here before and also having read most of the other posts on this website I would like to thank all of the kind people who remember our Valley and how we were treated by the North Augusta and Aiken Crowd and also please keep in mind that I was brought up to believe that the "VALLEY ENDED AT GLOVERVILLE AND STARTED IN CLEARWATER"! People in the Graniteville -Warrenville - Vaucluse area did not consider themselves to be Valley People. There was always a bitter rivalry with the people from the Valley (L.B.C.) and the people from the Graniteville area. I have always been amazed at how and why the people in North Augusta and Aiken and even people in Augusta would love to call us "Lint Heads", when Augusta, GA had just as many or more cotton mills than we had in the Valley. We had the Bath Mill and the Seminole Mill in Clearwater, SC and the Clearwater Finishing Plant was not a cotton mill nor was the old Langley Processing or Valchem as it became called later. North Augusta people still do to this day look down on people that live in the Valley or as they like to say "Those People Who Live Down Hwy 421"! I worked and lived around many of these people and I would hear them speak about Valley People and when they got through I would tell them I was Horse Creek Valley Born & Bred and they did not know what to say then!!! Valley People, there will be a special place in Heaven for all "Small Cotton Mill Towns" throughout the South because the character and courage of these great people will never be forgotten and it will be passed down to their children's - children and may their memories continue to live on this way. It would be great if someone had the time and love to write a book or story about our Valley Towns and our Old Wonderful High School - L.B.C. and it's "Blue & Gold"! As many of us have stated on this website already our Valley is "Gone With The Wind", the way of life that we knew and grew up with, but the memory of being part of all that will remain with all of us who lived it and can proudly look back on it and smile and reflect that "we were part of something special that will most likely never be lived again in the South or the U.S.A. for that matter"! Valley People, Gloverville, Langley, Burnettown, Bath, Johnstown, Rabbit Hill - Lynwood and Clearwater, y'all are and will forever be a living legacy to how hard our parents, grandparents and some of us had to be to make a living for our families, but we did it despite the rest of the county pulling against us. GOD Bless All Of Y'all For Being Valley People!

Thank you for allowing me to express my joy and pride to all of the Valley People.

jmhouse said...

And thank *you* for expressing your joy and pride to all of the Valley People! It's very much appreciated.

Oddly enough, I've never actually been inside one of the old mills, just the Clearwater Finishing Plant. In 2012, I was taking some photos of the outside of the Graniteville Mill and had to explain myself to the owner, who just happened to be driving by. He seemed satisfied once he realized I knew who William Gregg was. "So you just go around taking photos of old buildings?" Yup.

Thanks again! JM

jarrett said...

As someone whose family worked for Ganiteville Co. I just want to mention that Clearwater was considered a Yankee mill, unlike the Graniteville Co. Mills that dot the rest of the Valley, and were considered the local mills.

jmhouse said...

Wow, thanks for that little fact, Jarrett! I'd never come across anything about Clearwater being looked down on as a "Yankee" mill. I love learning those obscure pieces of history that sometimes are never known beyond the local community. Do you know where Clearwater was based out of?

Thanks again for passing that along! JM

Karen said...

I grew up in the Valley. This brought good memories to me. As a Valley girl, you know how to love, you know how to fight, family and friends are number 1. I live in NC now and even today myself or friends that still live in the Valley or who have moved away will comment on Facebook, you can take the girl out the Valley but you cant take the Valley out of the girl! This was a great place to grow up and I cherish the memories of my childhood and teenage years growing up in Clearwater. If we get mad enough we may say we are going to go 593 on someone or 421 on someone.. just shows we are true Valley girls. I am glad I am a Valley girl, I learned respect for my elders as well manners.. I was taught to say please, thank you, yes maam, no maam, yes sir and no sir.. I have taught my kids that too and they have grown up to be polite and respectful adults. I now live in Wilkes County, NC where empty furniture factories are abundant.... its home now.. my kids teenage years have been spent here so essentially this is their "Valley". thanks for the memories on this story and the Regency Mall Story. KDH

jmhouse said...

Karen, thanks for your wonderful comment. I had to smile when I read the part about going "421 on someone." There must be countless fond memories of Horse Creek Valley out there, but similar threads of family, loyalty, and respect run through all that I've heard.

I'm thrilled beyond words that people like yourself continue to post their recollections of HCV at City of Dust.

Hope all is well in Wilkes County and thanks again! JM