Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Describing a mill's role in the local economy

Shuping remembers carrying water and sweeping, his first jobs at his family's mill, which milled both flour and lumber as well as providing other services to the community. As he recalls mill work, he describes the mill's role in his area, grinding mill for sharecroppers, keeping some as payment, and reselling it.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. 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

BRENT GLASS:
When was the first time that you worked at the mill?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
When I was big enough to carry buckets of water from the spring, half gallen buckets full of fresh water.
BRENT GLASS:
That was your first job?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Well, you know, I'd sweep and things like that. Then I got up bran. We'd run flour mill and we'd have farmers and other people come to the mill every work day. But two day a year we didn't work, Fourth of July and Christmas.
BRENT GLASS:
Sundays you worked?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
No, no Sundays but work Saturdays.
BRENT GLASS:
What time would the mill open in the morning?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
That kind of depended on how smart you was. If the weather was good, we'd open pretty early. Snowing or sleeting we probably wouldn't open till eight or eight-thirty.
BRENT GLASS:
How late did you operate?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Back then we'd usually close before dark. After we got electric lights in 1925, we made our electric lights in 1925, we had what you'd call a farm plant--still got the generator yet.
BRENT GLASS:
You ran that off the steam engine?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
We had a gas engine if we didn't have steam up. Maybe it'd snow a couple of days and we wouldn't have steam up every day. People couldn't get here. You'd run it with a gasoline engine. We furnished the miller's house with the same power.
BRENT GLASS:
You said farmers came every day. How big an area did this mill serve?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Quite a few of them came six and eight miles.
BRENT GLASS:
That would be the furthest distance?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
I few scattered ones might have been farther than that but that was just the territory. Whenever we got more than six miles, we'd run into Rockville. They had a mill. China Grove, the other; Salisbury nine miles and they had two mills. Mount Pleasant, thirteen, fourteen miles, they had a mill. We got them more than half way to Mount Pleasant which is approximately fourteen miles but we'd get them six or seven. The farmers, most of them, had no roads worth talking about in winter and they went to the nearest place.
BRENT GLASS:
They brought these things in on wagons?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Most of them wagons and a few buggies; some on horseback. I have seen people carry fifty, and I know one woman that a number of times carried a hundred pounds of flour. I don't see why she done it. She wasn't no larger a man than you are and she carried it a mile and a half down to her home. She done it more than one time. By the way, I have some old record books that we'll get into later on. It gives dates and things.
BRENT GLASS:
How did the farmers pay you?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
We're told most of it; told it.
BRENT GLASS:
What does that mean?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
‘Told’ is a sharecropper. In other words, a man brang a bushel of wheat. Let's break it down. He got twelve pounds of bran and thirty-eight pounds of flour. The miller kept the rest. That's thirty-eight and forty-nine, fifty. The miller kept the other ten for dirt and his share.
BRENT GLASS:
And then you'd se ll it?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Then we'd each sell it. At that time, whenever you wanted flour you didn't go to the store. They didn't have it. Now you can go to the store and buy flour. Later on they did, but at the beginning of it people came here to buy their flour and the bran and chops.
BRENT GLASS:
Where did these people come from?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Mostly in the neighborhood. You always had someone who wasn't farming. He was an industrial worker or he didn't like to work too well and he . He's the one that would buy it. And then farmers. A lot of the farmers had a large family and at that time they didn't raise a lot of bushels per acre. The farmer would run out of wheat before he got any wheat and he'd have to buy some. A lot of times we'd sell them maybe two or three hundred pounds of flour till June. Maybe would sell it to them till the fall of the year when he'd sell his cotton. If he didn't raise wheat, he might be raising cotton. He'd sell some cotton and then pay you for whatever he bought.
BRENT GLASS:
Did the farmers ever come here for any other reason? They brought cord wood here.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Yeah, we bought cord wood to run the boiler with. Also we cleaned seed grain. They also came here and listed their taxes. This was the place to list their taxes. The list taker was here.