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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0085-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Employer control over mill housing

Jones describes how Mr. Luther Bynum, the superintendent of the Bynum cotton mill during the early twentieth century, was a dominant presence in the working community. According to Jones, Bynum was able to exert control over the behavior of workers because of the power he had over mill housing. Since the mill owned most of the housing that workers lived in, Bynum could not only fire workers from the mill, but he could also move them out of their homes. Her comments are revealing of the ways in which employer paternalism worked outside of the mill and seeped into the community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0085-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

But now Mr. Luther Bynum that lived out here in this house right next to us, he was over the mill at first down here.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He was superintendent of the mill?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, I don't know what they called it. I just heard him say he was over the mill. I don't know what they called it. But that's how Bynum got its name, I think; this family of Bynums were about the first here, you know. And Mr. Bynum really looked after the place. I've heard my mother speak about it, how he'd go around, you know, and if a little something happened that shouldn't have, he'd go and investigate about it, and tried to keep things in good order here, you know, while he. . . . I don't know who owned the mill, whether he was in it or not, but the J. M. Odell Manufacturing Company is the only one that I ever knowed the name that it went by.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But Mr. Luther Bynum was over the mill when you were a little girl, right?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yes, before I can remember.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How would he keep it in order, like if there was noise or if people were raising ruckus or something?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, the best that I can figure it out, if they didn't live kind of like they ought to and keep their homes right, I think he would just move them out. I don't think he would keep them here on the work. Now that's the way I remember it. I don't know whether that was the exact. . . . They didn't have as much law around then as they do now, and half the time the law don't do anything (Laughs) when it comes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember ever seeing him when you were a little girl?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yes, I remember him. Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was he a nice man?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yes, he was a nice man.