Ruth Davis and Unknown Man Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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 JAMIE STONEY: Travel much--well, you know, just around the south.

M1: Just give some kind of signal.’

JAMIE STONEY: When you’re ready, sir.

M1: Okay, we’re standing on the corner of Cox and Chiquola Avenue where in

1934 there was seven people killed on the sixth of September. And, uh, we have a diagram here where each one, each one of them was either shot and died on the spot or either they were shot and one if you see at the beginning of the list he was critically wounded and he died on the way to the hospital making seven people. And we will start off with number one. And number one was shot right there were you…

GEORGE STONEY: Start again with number one and name him.

M1: Number one in name was I.M. Rucker.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, sorry.

M1: Okay, I.M. Rucker and he was shot and died right there on that spot on that

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corner right there. We go on to number two, and number two is Lee Crawford, and he was shot and killed right up in front of the mill. We’re going down to number three. Ira Davis and the diagram says they don’t know where he was shot. But number four was shot and killed right where that car is stan—is sitting. This little old, uh, gray looking car on top of the hill.

GEORGE STONEY: Start again and name number four.

M1: At number four is Bill Knight. And five is Claude Cannon.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, sorry. Bill Knight and then tell them all about Bill Knight again.

M1: Well, uh, number four is Bill Knight and he was shot and died right on that

spot right up there where that old gray car is. And then we’re going to number five is Claude Cannon, and number five was killed right there in front of the third house on the right. You’re looking right at it where that container is 2:00sitting up there. And number six is Yancy Yarborough and he was shot and killed, uh, where we can find him on the map here. Number six. He was shot and killed right in front of the, uh, right about up where that red car is standing. And then number seven, was Max Petterson, and number, he was killed right there. In the main street of Chiquola Avenue.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, who were these people? Where did they come from?

M1: They were the union people. And those are the people, while some of them

was coming around that way, they was some of them that came up the back way. And they were the union people, and telling it like it is, they all lived in that area of here in that vicinity and you can see where they were shot and killed that they were trying to get back home.

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GEORGE STONEY: Just again. Those union people, they all got shot in the back didn’t they?

M1: Well, either shot in the back or shot…

GEORGE STONEY: Could you say they all either got…

M1: And they, well you see at the time the mill was not bricked up. They had

windows in it. Well they knew, as I said, this thing was building up days before so what they did they, uh, planted these, uh, unio-non-inion people in the mill at night. And in the morning when all the-they came here they didn’t know they was in there. And these windows would let out. And when they let out it was just like a door on tank. And then they could just fire right, they were just shooting right down on them.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, were these people outsiders or were they people from Honea Path?

M1: These people was from inside the mill they were from Honea Path.

GEORGE STONEY: And the people outside the mills?

M1: They were from Honea Path. All these fellers lived in Honea Path. They all lived on-in mill houses on Chiquola Mill Village.

GEORGE STONEY: Why is it the story that it was outsiders who started all this?

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M1: No sir. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Because these people had met in this old store

building. The previous week before them Mr. Gorman had came down from Greenville as you will see in these papers that he came down to organize the union, and he led these people into believing that he could get them better benefits, he could get them better wages. And whit they wasn’t nothing that come out of it but was seven people and it was a sad sorry thing for this to happen.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, why do you take such interest in this?

M1: Beg your pardon?

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you take such an interest in this?

M1: Well, it’s just because I remember all this and I’m a Civil War fanatic. And to

me this is the same situation as the Civil War that brothers and sisters against each other, and daddy’s and sons and they have never lived long enough or they have gone to their grave to not even forgive each other for what they’ve done.

GEORGE STONEY: Perfect. Okay.

M1: Shot right across over there if you can see where that stop sign is. And he died

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on the way to the hospital. And number two, Lee Crawford, was shot right up there about I’ll say, uh, a hundred yards. And number three, is, uh, Ira Davis. They don’t know where he was shot. But, number four was Bill Knight. And he was shot right there where this old gray looking car is. And number five, is, uh, number five is Claude Cannon, and he was shot right up in front of this third house on the right. Third house on the right.

JAMIE STONEY: Did you say “third house on the right?”

M1: Third house on the right. He’s gettin’ it. And, uh, number, uh, number six

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was, uh, Yancy Yarbrough. And Yancy Yarbrough was shot…number six…hold it just one second and we’ll find it. Two, four, seven, five. Number six. Where in the world…

JAMIE STONEY: Is that the fella where they didn’t know where he was shot? Right there.

M1: Right, right, number six. He was shot right up there where that maroon car is. And then…

JAMIE STONEY: Could you say that again, sir?

M1: He was shot right up there on the right, on the left hand side of the road where

that maroon car is right under that water tower. And then number seven, uh, was shot, that was Max Petterson, and he was shot right there.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, Jamie?

JAMIE STONEY: Mmmhmm?

GEORGE STONEY: Come around in front of his for just a moment. As a boy of

twelve, this must have seemed something very unusual for you too. Could you talk about how you felt as a boy of twelve when all this happened?

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M1: Yea. As a boy of twelve, really to be honest with you, I didn’t know what was

going on because I didn’t, uh, uh, you know, being twelve just, uh, being stated going to school and this, uh, I wasn’t really old enough to realize what was happening. But, uh, one of the saddest things I can say about it all, the Sunday when they buried all these people is one of the saddest days this town had ever known.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you go to the funeral?

M1: No sir. Most of, I didn’t, because most of those people that went were the

union people. And as I described to you before, they held the funeral at the same place where during the Civil War they mustered out Orr’s Rifle Company from Anniston, South Carolina to here in Honea Path.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay cut. Okay now, what we’d like to do is to have you

take us to the place where they had the funeral. But would you like to have lunch with us first?

M1: No, I’ve already had [audio cut off].

8:00

[Inaudible talking in the background with automobile noise]

M1: In front…

JAMIE STONEY: Uh, could you start again? Um, now I’m ready.

M1: We’re standing in the front where at this little old tree which I’m pointing at.

At where these seven people the funeral was held for them on Sunday afternoon on, uh, September the 7th, September the 8th . That will be two days.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s try it again. Okay?

M1: Okay. We’re standing in front of the…

JAMIE STONEY: Can we start, I, I didn’t have the microphone…

M1: We’re standing in front of the old oak tree where, uh, these seven people the

funeral was being held on Sunday afternoon of September the 8th. And the only 9:00contribution that we can feel justified is them to bringing them to this old oak tree that’s where Orr’s Rifle Company discharged his rifle company and mustered them out in 1865 after the Civil War. Because when you stop to think about it we have nice football fields and baseball fields that would have been much more convenient, but these people somehow felt that by dying in this tract that they had made some contribution to their fellow man.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, why didn’t they go to churches and have the funerals?

M1: Well because the church would not have been big enough to hold all of them.

And two, probably each one of them was different denominations ‘cause at the photo that you’ve got you can see that the tremendous amount of people there and we’re sure that a lot of people, uh, from out of town and maybe even out of state that attended it. Because seven people with all their families and friends they, that, uh,, a lot of people. They were thousands of people that 10:00attended this funeral.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, the funeral was here. Is there any kind of memorial or plaque for these people?

M1: No sir. No sir.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about that?

M1: Well the only that, there’s no memorial, no plaque. Uh, the people was carried

from here over to Eastview Cemetery. The biggest majority of them I’m sure are buried at Eastview. That’s the cemetery where ya’ll was this morning. So…

GEORGE STONEY: Could you say that again? That’s…

M1: The cemetery over at Eastview is where they all was buried. And you were

over there didn’t you say you were over there visiting with the one of the fellas that was killed that morning.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you know where the other grave stones are out over there?

M1: No sir I sure don’t ‘cause they’re scattered all over. See they was like the

family plot that each people got different family plot. And I’ve never taken the trouble to look up to see where.

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GEORGE STONEY: Now as a boy here you went on to school. You were twelve,

and then you went on to school. Uh, was there anything in your school books about this?

M1: No sir. No sir. They have never been anything published about all this the

later years because people, uh, are beginning to open up and will talk about it now but for years they didn’t want to mention it.

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you think that was true?

M1: Well, as I’ve told you they was brothers and they was families that split up

over each other and they didn’t want, they just didn’t want to talk about it. They people that, uh, I can assure you that done the shooting they wished it hadn’t have happened. And the families of those that died uh, I don’t know how they feel about it but I can assure you people that was involved in all this, uh, if they had it to do over like anything else. Which you, if you in war, you ain’t going to have that second chance, and they didn’t have a second chance. It all took place, and it was over with and people want to forget it.

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GEORGE STONEY: Good. Okay. Could you say that again?

M1: They, uh, well it’s just like in the war. You don’t have a second chance and

these people if they had it to do over again I’m sure that they would probably been the man that done the leading of all this that it would have been done different. That he would have made another decision not, uh, to call in the National Guards as so many of these other mills and things did do. And they stopped it right there.

GEORGE STONEY: Now tell us about the mayor and the superintendent.

M1: Well the mayor of this town was also the superintendent of the mill. And he

was lord and master of the town. In other words, if you didn’t do what he said he’d move you out of one of his houses. I mean telling it like it is. Cause he’d ask you do you like your house. If you said, uh, if you smarted off to him he’d say well move and you moved. There was none of this the way they do now. When they wanted to get rid of you they just fired you. And most of 13:00these union people, most of these union people left here. They went in about a few weeks, because they knowed if they didn’t go they was going to be fired anyway.

GEORGE STONEY: Cut.

M1: Okay.

GEORGE STONEY: Nice. Okay. We’ll go downtown and get the Xerox.

JAMIE STONEY: Great. The wind picks up as we… In case you haven’t gathered this is the Anderson Independent from Honea Path.

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[Pause]

JAMIE STONEY: Watch out. I’m rolling. I’m doing some close-ups on the list of names.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay.

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[Road noise]

JAMIE STONEY: Okay, we have fifteen minutes on this tape and we are rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay. Could you just tell us who you are and where you live?

RUTH DAVIS: My name is Ruth Davis. 200 Serene Street Honea Path. That’s right.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay, now, tell us about your where you came from, where you were born, who your father was.

DAVIS: Well, I was born in Honea Path on Hamlet Street and my daddy was, was [inaudible] Knight but they called him Bill.

GEORGE STONEY: Now what did he do?

DAVIS: He was a weaver.

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s start over and just say I was born in Honea Path and my father was a weaver and then he later had a grocery store. Okay?

DAVIS: Well he worked and he had somebody working in the grocery store.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay.

DAVIS: My brother.

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GEORGE STONEY: Yea, okay. Now, let’s start again. Okay?

DAVIS: Okay.

GEORGE STONEY: I was born in Honea Path.

DAVIS: I was born in Honea Path.

GEORGE STONEY: I’m sorry. We’re…a good bit loader than that and just tell me about your life. Okay?

JAMIE STONEY: Watch your left hand.

GEORGE STONEY: Yea. Okay?

DAVIS: Well, I was born in Honea Path.

GEORGE STONEY: And who was your father?

DAVIS: Give the name or the initial?

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, just tell us what he did.

DAVIS: My, his name was Bill Knight and he was a weaver at Chiquola Plant. And he owned a grocery store.

GEORGE STONEY: And what did you do in the mill and when did you start working in the mill?

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DAVIS: Well I started to working in the mill, uh, about the age of sixteen then.

And I, well I had double jobs. I was a weaver then finally I was a drawing hand for the patterns.

GEORGE STONEY: When was that when you started?

DAVIS: In the drawing room? Uh, I come out of the plant in ’72, but I’d been a

working you know off and on and I, uh, I had to I had to quit. And I, they give me this job on account of arthritis.

GEORGE STONEY: Now tell me about your brother. Just indicate, just point to his picture and tell me about your brother.

DAVIS: Brother?

GEORGE STONEY: Mmmhmm. Was that your brother or your father?

DAVIS: That’s my daddy.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay. Tell me about your daddy and why you have the picture there.

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DAVIS: I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.

GEORGE STONEY: Just say my daddy was Bill Knight and this is his picture and then tell me how he died.

DAVIS: This is my daddy. And he was got killed in a strike. I don’t have to tell you about him sitting on a tank leg.

GEORGE STONEY: Yes, just tell me everything that you want to.

DAVIS: Well I was sitting with him the morning, and he always whittled with that

little knife all the time. And where he got up to leave and I was with him and he begin to tremble and somebody come and took him. And when they got him off at the, at the mill lot and carried him out into a house on the corner and somebody 19:00went and got pillow. And he died there and I was with him when he died. At the Chiquola Mills, you know, he got killed over there. It was off the, it was on the, it was in a yard at a [inaudible].

GEORGE STONEY: Now, why were you up there that morning?

DAVIS: Well, everybody around here know’d I’d follow him everywhere he went cause I was the oldest girl. Yea, that’s…

GEORGE STONEY: Now your father, uh, tell about your father’s interest and why was he up there that morning?

DAVIS: Well, he didn’t take no interest in the other part. He went on account of

the grocery store and the people that traded with him told him if he didn’t go 20:00they wouldn’t pay him. So he went and they never paid him no way.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, was he a member of the union?

DAVIS: No sir. No sir. He was not a member of the union.

GEORGE STONEY: Now did he know of those people who were members of the union?

DAVIS: No sir I don’t reckon that he did cause he did, he went to his work every

day and come back home. He stayed at home. He probably walked through town when he came home. And on, you know, on Saturday he’d go to the show and on Sundays he’d go to church. He went to the Methodist church on Sunday.

GEORGE STONEY: And how did you get along with your father?

DAVIS: Well, I got along good with my father. My mama too.

GEORGE STONEY: And tell about that morning then when your father got killed.

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DAVIS: Well, I couldn’t, well when he, when, you know they, when he got up and

they was beginning to shoot and we left. And I had a hold of his arm, and then somebody come along and got him and he was trembling and they had to take him off to the mill yard. And he died right, just you know after they got him out there. Cause they went in the house and got a pillow to, the Meeks’ house and put him, you know laid his head on it.

GEORGE STONEY: And, when did you get news of all this?

DAVIS: I was with him. I was there all the time. My mama was at home. Cause he had went just a few days and bought school books for my baby brother.

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GEORGE STONEY: Now, tell us about the funeral.

DAVIS: Well, they had a, they had uh, they had a what, what would you call it?

They had it all together over yonder on Harper Street. That’s when they had them all over there. They had, you know, rode over there. What kind, what kind of funeral would you call that?

GEORGE STONEY: Well let’s start again. Uh, Uh.

JAMIE STONEY: Hang on a second.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, I think we want to…let me show you some pictures of

the funeral. And it may help you. Just look at these pictures and then talk about what it reminds you of.

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[Pause—paper shuffling]

JAMIE STONEY: You want to wait for…rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay, could you tell me about the funeral?

DAVIS: I don’t believe I can remember back that long. All I know is we was there.

GEORGE STONEY: Why did they have it all together?

DAVIS: I could not tell you. I don’t know why. They called it a mass funeral. I

believe that’s what they called it. I don’t know why. Cause there’s not in, any of them buried at the same place I don’t think. Now see Mr. Yarbrough he’s buried over here. I believe Mr. Cannon, I believe there’s a Cannon, 24:00they buried over here. My daddy. I just couldn’t. I believe Mr. Rucker, they must have took him back to Alabama where he come from.

GEORGE STONEY: Do you remember any of the sermons or any of the speakers or anything?

DAVIS: No sir. I sure don’t. At a time like that there’s things that’s just tore up.

You can’t remember anything. Cause it was just, I know it was just everything was just bottom side. Well I guess you, I didn’t knowing all the people that 25:00done some shooting them like that. Now there’s lots of people, that’s, the biggest majority of them they armed inside the mill. One had the gun. Nobody on the outside had their gun. Didn’t anybody. But uh, now the chief made like he wasn’t there but he was there cause it was brought out inquest that he killed my daddy and told the kind of bullet he was using in his gun, his pistol. But he’d passed by mama’s, she’d be sitting on her porch. Cause he got sick when he got sick and he called for her and she wouldn’t go. Said that he’d 26:00pass up and down the road. And my brother, oldest brother, he wanted to go and mama told him no. That he could, that he could have stopped and made it right while they was at home instead of waiting until he got down there to see it. Biggest majority of them people laid a long time sick and…Now Mr. [inaudible], he’s on the police f orce and Charles Smith was on the police force. I don’t know, just the, just the, just a lots of them that you knowed. Now Mr. Rob Calbert he was there. He was inside. He was something in the mill. Just the, just lots of things like that. But all you seen was them pushed the gun out pushed the window out and begin to shooting and then they pushed the window back 27:00in and they’d go back in. But they didn’t tarry long when they started shooting.

GEORGE STONEY: Did your father have a gun?

DAVIS: No sir. My daddy never owned a gun. All he, all he ever owned was a

pocket knife. No sir, he never did have a gun. If you, he never did, I don’t reckon he ever did go rabbit hunting or nothing like that because he never owned a gun.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us again why he went up there that morning?

DAVIS: Why he went up there that morning? On account of the people that traded

with him. They told him if he didn’t go that they, you know, they would not pay their bill they owed him. But uh, I, that’s the reason why he did. They never did was paid no how cause some of them, you know, some of them did get killed. But there’s some, most of them didn’t but they didn’t pay the 28:00bill. A little old grocery store.

GEORGE STONEY: What happened to those people?

DAVIS: That, um, was over there. I couldn’t tell you.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us all the people who got killed? You were pointing out where they lived and so forth. Tell us the people who got killed.

DAVIS: Well, Ira Davis and Max Petterson. And um, they lived, they lived, Ira

Davis lived right over here in a house, and his brother in law was a Davis. And then there was, uh, my daddy, Mr. Yarbrough, Mr. Rucker, Mr. Cannon, and let’s see. There was seven? Let’s see who did I leave out? Let’s see there was I 29:00know there was you know…

GEORGE STONEY: Now, were all of these people friends and neighbors of yours?

DAVIS: Our, far as I know, you know there’s lots of people trade with my daddy.

But, uh, see we lived close to any of them all the time. We lived on Hamlet Street when that happened. That’s where we lived out on Hamlet Street.

GEORGE STONEY: And these people then were your friends?

DAVIS: They was friends, all them, well, well like their children, well like you

know they’re youngin’s and all us played together and as far as I know my dad was friends with everybody. He was friends with everybody.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you, you lived in an old mill village then?

DAVIS: Yes sir. Sure did. Lived up on Hamlet Street.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell us, tell us what is was like to live in this mill village.