Tag Archive | Research

The Child Workers of Roanoke Cotton Mills 1911

Katherine H. Purdy

These children are examples of workers who deserved Labor Day.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;”

Ecclesiastes 9:10

 

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Faces of workers in need of help. This is who I think of on Labor Day.

When I see the pictures of young children who worked 12 hours a day, six days a week at the Roanoke Cotton Mills in Roanoke, Virginia it makes me sad for their lost childhood. On our Facebook History group, had quite a debate.

Take a good look at the faces of these precious, brave children.  See how young they were. Notice the barefoot boys? Shoes hindered their job of climbing on the machines so they had to work without shoes. I cringe to think of the dangers involved.  But they worked because they had to.

They didn’t take their pay to the local candy store, the soda fountain or to the ice cream parlor. No, they didn’t take their money to the Rialto Theatre on Saturday afternoon. They were working. They worked 12 hours a day, six days a week for low wages in order to help feed their family and to keep a roof over their head.

Parents who were in debt and couldn’t pay were sent to the Poor House along with their entire family. This is why some of the children were working. Others worked because their parents were sick, dead or failed to make enough to sustain the family so the children (as young as five years old) were sent to work. The money was turned over to their parents. Everyone in the family worked in order to keep the family together.

When I first started writing The Vision of a Mother’s Heart, I thought to break up a home was tragic and it is. However, to see children working hard in dangerous jobs at such a young age is more so. The picture with two boys standing together, the older with his arm protectively around his younger buddy makes me want to cry. Their eyes and facial expression seem “old”.   They remind me of my grandmother’s two older brothers.

Eugene & Curtis Minnix jpg (2014_02_18 18_15_37 UTC)

Eugene (the older boy) and James “Calvin” Minnix could have ended up in the same situation if their “Papa” hadn’t found homes for the children when he realized he couldn’t take care of them. This was often referred to as “Farming out” children to family and friends to stay (often working on farms to earn their keep) until the family was able to reunite. A story, I have found was all too common in the early twentieth century.

In Roanoke, the Poor House was in existence until 1958. It is now part of the Virginia Western Community College. It is said that conditions improved in the 1920’s and inmates of “The Alms House” helped farm the surrounding land so they had fresh vegetables, eggs, and other good food. Inmates included from infants to the elderly. They were reportedly treated well. However, it was a shame for families who had to live there.

Lite Grey Scroll2

Things were different in that time. For centuries, children were apprenticed; they learned a trade by living under the supervision and care of a skilled business owner. For several generations, the Minnix men in our family learned to be blacksmiths and coopers. (Barrel makers) They also worked on farms sometimes in deplorable situations. My great grandfather broke the mold and decided to become a farmer instead. His skill as a blacksmith came in handy on the farm.

By the time they learned their trade, they were proud to put their name on their work. They were thrilled and proud if they could write their own name. When there was a crisis or war, these young men didn’t think twice before enlisting to fight for their country. They taught values to their children and expected their children to learn responsibility. Yes, it is difficult for us to imagine children in such a sad situation but they were precious children who grew up to be hard-working, frugal, responsible citizens.

I don’t know about you, but I am thankful for each of these children.

For more information about the history of Labor Day, click on the link below.

History of Labor Day

Writers: Facebook history groups are treasures for research. Much of my research was found in local history books and also postings from the History of the City of Roanoke group as well as several local history groups including school nostalgia groups. Most who post are happy to share their stories, pictures, and documents with others. My thanks to friends who shared their stories and pictures with us and gave permission for me to use their pictures.

Blessings,

Kathy

Perfect Model for Jim’s House!

Photograph  by Kathie Trent Kingery. (Photo used with permission.) Check out her facebook page at Miss K’s Photography or send an email: ktkingery@hotmail.com

When I first saw this photograph, I knew this would be the perfect model house for Isabel’s half-brother Jim. If you have read The Vision of a Mother’s Heart, you may remember Isabel’s surprise birthday party. A BIRTHDAY SURPRISE is posted under The Vision of a Mother’s Heart Sample Chapters.

I don’t know about you, but I love looking at houses – especially older abandoned homes. There is something sad about seeing a house or cabin that used to be someone’s home. If I am a passenger in the car, I scour the scenery for “homes” that may be appropriate for characters in my book. Some old houses have so much character – rotting gingerbread trim, bay windows, wide, wrap-around porches. Any of the above elements will grab my attention and my imagination. “I wonder who lived there?” A story begins to take shape in my mind. I visualize the house as it must have looked when it was new. Children playing in the yard, dogs, kittens, flowers and Mama watching the activities from the porch swing while stringing beans.

I’m not sure how much research most authors do when writing a novel. An author of historic fiction must spend a lot of time in research in order to have a story that is historically correct and appealing to readers. I spend a lot of time in research, including reading local history books, visiting local historic sites on-line and checking census records for the time period.

I look at houses on the internet, go to realtor sites who have slide shows of older homes and browse through the rooms. I especially like sites with vintage or antique furniture, restored homes, Pinterest is a wonderful site for getting ideas for a character’s setting. Magazines are also a good resource when researching period homes and appliances.

When I saw this photograph taken by my friend, I just knew it was “Jim’s house!”  A printed copy is on my story board for inspiration for the sequel. She has other wonderful pictures on her facebook page.

Last night, someone posted the picture of an old abandoned cabin. It was exactly as I imagined Grandpa Greene’s cabin in The Vision of a Mother’s Heart. I wasn’t the only one with that thought. A good friend who had read the book posted that it was just like the cabin in the book and she could see Isabel coming to the door. (Most likely with a baby brother in her arms!) It was perfect! Just as this house is perfect for Jim!

Be sure to look for Jim’s house in the sequel, Hope Beyond the Sunset. It may play an important part in our story!

A Walk in a Lovely Town

 

November, 2012

We stepped inside this lovely country store and it was as if we were crossing a threshold into the past. From shelves containing books about local history, old fashioned cookware, toys and clothing. Add local music and food and this gal didn’t want to leave. I could have stayed several hours as I perused aisles for future purchases; convinced that my husband will bring me back again soon. We had lunch while listening to local musicians and bought a book with a pictorial history of the area.

Where is this lovely spot located? Along the curvy roads of South western Virginia. Floyd, to be precise.  My first impression as we pulled into the parking lot which faced the country store, I remarked that we must be in Mayberry! Why? Notice the shop beside the store.

Yep, looks like Floyd left the Andy in Mayberry and opened his barber shop in Virginia!

The gentleman sitting in front of the charming country store chatted with my husband and promised to come inside later to play some music.

Music in the Floyd Country Store

There were other wonderful shops as well.

Notice the caption on this sign – one doesn’t see the invitation to loiter very often!

“Loitering Allowed!”

We spent a lot of time in the consignment shop too. I will save my purchases for another post. I will say that I found something from the 1920’s. This is important because, The Vision of a Mother’s Heart and the sequel I hope to finish by the beginning of the new year take place in a small community in rural Virginia during the “Roaring Twenties!”

One of the things I was looking for on this trip was to see houses that may have been built pre-1920’s and may have had a wrap-around porch. I will give you a hint about the sequel. Isabel stayed with a wonderful lady near Floyd County for a while. She was a very kind woman who lived in a house with a wrap-around porch.

I couldn’t resist getting a pic of this outfit. Reminds me of the Roaring Twenties!

Within view of the town is a beautiful sight. A white Church with it’s spire reaching up to  the sky. Couldn’t help but wonder if there was a Church bell, calling citizens to Church every Sunday morning.

As we were driving out of town, I saw a blue house that will be perfect for a scene in Hope Beyond The Sunset. You will recognize it when you read the story.

For my fellow history buffs reading this blog, Floyd, VA was once named Jacksonville to honor Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837).

Floyd, Va is also recognized as one area ministered to by Bob Childress of The Man Who Moved A Mountain. (By Richard C. Davis and is available on Amazon.com.)

That’s all for tonight, friends. Hope you enjoyed our little journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. I know we did!

For more information about the area, click on the following link. http://www.floydvirginia.com/visitors-guide/