Major Hall, Olympia Mills

Personal Anecdotes by Sherry Jaco

When my grandfather, Major James Hall, was a child of about seven years, his family left their home in Chesterfield County, SC—about the year 1900. His family with six children packed all their belongings into a horse-drawn wagon and left their small share-cropping farm in search of a new life. They made the trek south, taking turns walking and riding in the wagon.

Granddaddy told me he remembered the family pots and pans were hanging from nails in the back of the wagon. Many years later, he could still recall the metal clanking as they trudged along the dirt road.

When they reached the big city, the wooden bridge across the Broad River was so rickety, their father was not sure it would support all their weight at once. He made all the children get off the wagon and walk behind to spread out the weight. Granddaddy told me he remembered walking behind his bigger sisters, their long cotton skirts dragging the ground and getting caught on splinters as they all walked barefoot across the bridge toward their new life.

Soon the family was established in a modern mill house in the Granby Mill Village. The father and four of the children were hired for different jobs. Major and two of his sisters all ran “one” job together. Major remembered standing on a wooden box because he was not quite tall enough to reach behind the spindle and “doff them off.” (Change them out.) Children were
especially good at this because their hands were so small, and they could reach into close spaces.

The children’s wages all contributed to the support of the family. Coming from an agricultural background where children were expected to help with the farming chores, it was not unusual for children and parents to expect that same help as laborers in the mills.

There was great excitement when the new Olympia School was scheduled to open in the fall of 1901. Miss Maime Boozer and others canvassed the mill villages, encouraging parents to allow their children to become students. Since major was so young—unable to hold his own “job” at
the mills, he could attend the new school. However, major did not take to school life and all the sitting still. After just three days, he decided he had enough. Major jumped out of one of the first-floor windows and headed for home. He wanted to get back to his job in the mills.

Major remained an employee of the Granby, then the Olympia, mills all his life. He married Ruth Browder about 1910, and they both lived and worked in the Olympia Mill Village for the rest of their years. They raised a family of two boys and six girls. They were both well respected members of their mill village communities. Major worked his way up through the ranks, and,
because of his adeptness for mechanics, he eventually became a machinist supervisor. Major James Hall figured a way to “educate” himself without the benefit of school classrooms.

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