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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Many large families move from the country to work in textile mills

Osteen's father moved his sister and children to a mill town where a cousin supervised the mill and needed workers. Most of them worked as weavers or spinners while his sister maintained the home.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
Now why did your mother and father move around-I mean your father-move around so much?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
I don't know. Well we had a first cousin, my daddy's brother's boy that worked in these mills and he could out talk my daddy. That was the root of it I know. He got Pa to move. First one place then another. Because he was a overseer in the mill. And he wanted them good spinners he said, so he'd follow him around. That was the main thing about it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind of work did your father do in the mill?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
He laid up roping in the spinning room. Just a hourly job I reckon.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And your mother (Tape stops)
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
I wasn't quite five years old when my mother left.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And as far as you know, all that she ever did was take care of the children.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Oh she just took care of the house and the babies. She was a housemother.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And now, what about the aunt that came to stay with the family. Did she ever work in the mill?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
No, no. She lived around-she was a old maid-with her brothers and sisters and after my mother died, she just made our house her home.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who was the first of your brothers and sisters to start to work in the mill, here at the Poe Mill. Or did all of you all start together?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Well, we all started at one time, because we had moved from the country here, out here on Fourth Street in a six room home.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind of jobs did you have?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Worked in the spinning room. If you know anything about it . . .
GEORGIA:
Two of the boys worked in the weave shop.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
And two in the card room. And the rest, about four of us, in the spinning room-three or four of us.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember what it was like the first times you went into the mill at all, what you thought about, or what that seemed like?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Law, I didn't know what, I just looked and looked and looked 'till my eyes got tired seeing so many different things. Just out of the country, didn't know nothing but a one room schoolhouse where the whole school was in one big weather boarded. Grown boys with moustaches were going to school, and grown girls. There was big women. That was what it looked like there. And in the mill, well, there was some little bitty children to grown old people worked in the mill, doing different things. And I couldn't call over all the things. From the cards onto the spinning and then to the weave room. Well if you ever worked in a mill you understood about what it was.