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A house with four rooms was now their home. They were to pay two dollars a month for this. They had no idea how the money was to be raised; and at first didn't like the house, for they couldn't keep pigs in the yard.
The wife and the two oldest children went to work in the mill. Henry Decker was given an easy job sorting yarns, where he could sit still. The first week they made no money, but the wife came home with some peculiar slips of paper. The foreman had told her that she could get food at the store for these slips.
The next week the family, all four of them, had made $14—not very much for sixty hours a week work for each of four people, but more than they had ever had in a year before.
At the end of the year Henry Decker was making $3.60 a week; his wife was a spinner at $6.40 ; Zeb was making $4.80 ; and Hattie, now sixteen, had reached $10 a week. That gave the family a weekly income of $21.80.
Their weekly expense was about as follows : Rent, 50 cents; food, $6.50; clothes, $3 ; incidentals, tobacco for Henry,
they could catch, a little bacon, and occasionally some sorghum—the cheapest grade of molasses—bought at the country store.
One of the children died after a while. The country coroner couldn't tell from what cause. To-day he would have pronounced it that strange new disease called pellagra. A second child was ill. A doctor on a walking trip through the mountains recommended a meat diet. But meat cost money. And there was no money ; so that child, too, died.
Some one up North will probably say that had the children availed themselves of the opportunities afforded by the State for education they would have been better off. Quite true. But the nearest school was over twenty miles away, and the school-books necessary would have cost over a dollarone-tenth of the family's annual income.
Then, somehow or other, word came to Henry Decker that he and his family could find work in the cotton mill. And after a while they came for him with an open wagon drawn by two mules. He and his wife and the three children who had lived, and the furniture, bedding, and wardrobe of the family were loaded in.
So, after fifty miles of the roughest sort of country roads, they came to the mill.
etc., $1 ; electric light, 12 cents—the latter the Mills, South Carolina, the in. admitted to be a gross luxury, but Joe, the spector found that one Tom Lovell had been youngest boy, was going to the district school working in that mill under sworn statement of and had to study, and Henry's wife had been
age No. 22,008, showing him to be over twelve to a session of moonlight school and had
years of age. Upon investigation it was brought
out that the overseer of spinning, Luther Plearned to read well enough to pick out the
had persuaded the ignorant mother to sign an large type of the Charlotte “ Observer” that
affidavit showing this child's wrong age in order the foreman lent her once in a while. Their
that he could put the child to work. A warrant total income was now, as has been said, was sworn out for the overseer, who entered a $21.80. Their expenses, $11.12. That is, plea of guilty, and was fined ten dollars. they were spending more in a week than
It is not remarkable that such a case as they had previously spent in a year ; yet
this makes the reader lose sight of the fact there was seldom a week when $10 did not
that twenty of the twenty-three convictions go into the bank, where the mill-owner paid
were against parents who had perjured themthem six per cent.
selves with false affidavits as to their own That was fourteen years ago. To-day
children's age. Henry Decker and his wife live on their own farm and have $4,000 in the bank ; Hattie
THE OWNER'S PART married an overseer who makes $5 a day, The development of a sense of responsiand lives in a pretty cottage in the village ; bility for the welfare of his mill operatives on Zeb is himself an overseer; and Joe gradu- the part of the owner is one of the most ated from Wake Forest University last interesting features of the whole cotton mill spring and is going to the Baptist Theologi. problem. Time was when many a mill-owner cal Seminary in Louisville in the fall.
charged as much as he could get for the rent That is the true story of one mill family. of his houses, went the limit in prices for
The rise of this family is spectacular, of foodstuffs at the company store, and worked course, for they started at the very bottom. children of any age if he could “get away It is doubtful if anywhere in the civilized with it." It is rare now to find a mill village world one may find more abject poverty than where the operative is charged more than in the mountains of North Carolina and Ten- fisty cents a room per month for his cottage, nessee. But for ninety per cent of the fam
or to find a company store where the prices are ilies going into a good mill it would appear higher than, or as high as, those prevailing in that there is a vast improvement in living the neighborhood ; and it is no longer possiconditions.
ble to employ children under the legal age.
The percentage of convictions to prosecuTHE FUTILE TEN DOLLARS
tions in South Carolina shows that. Note the stress on the word " good.” For, It should be remembered, too, that the as in all other industries, the mills vary greatly action for the benefit of the mill workers may with the temper and character of their
be termed purely extra-legislative--that is, owners, superintendents, and overseers. In
beyond the power of any law to provide—for not all mills even to-day are conditions as
it is inconceivable that any statute could be pleasant as Henry Decker found them four
so framed as to compel the owners to see to teen years ago. And it is of the worst mills
it that the employees live in a certain set that the reader hears.
fashion. And, so far as the law goes, the He knows, perhaps, that last year in South
miil-owner is compelled only to pay his wages Carolina there were twenty-five prosecutions
and to refuse to employ workers under the for the employment of children under twelve
prevailing age limit. There bis obligation, in years of age. He knows that in twenty-three
a strictly legal sense, ceases. And though it cases conviction resulted. He knows that
is true that there are still some owners who two overseers and one mill superintendent
hold themselves responsible no further than were convicted of willfully breaking the law
this, there are others who do not. by knowingly employing children under twelve years of age.
THE NEW MILL VILLAGE And in none of the three cases did the fine
Witness the rapid improvement in the exceed ten dollars.
physical character of the mill villages. Further, lister to one of the cases :
It was only a very few years ago that the April 2, 1915. While making inspection of typical mill village consisted of rank upon
rank of cheap wooden cabins, all built on Soutn. All along the south side of the buildthe same pattern, square, ugly, unpainted, ing he saved a broad space for terraces and perched two or three feet above the hard, flower gardens. In front of the mill he placed bare clay on four piles, one at each corner of an ornamental fountain, stocked with fish ; the structure. There were
no fences, no even a small alligator was introduced-to-day trees, no grass.
A hundred or more of these the delight of the youngsters. ugly boxes lined themselves in rows of ten or Then he began to plan his village. First fifteen in the middle of a sun-beaten desert he laid out one broad main street, then the of yellow-red clay. Every cabin had a other streets ; but he discarded the usual crude privy at its rear ; there was no sewer- geometrical plan of parallel roads and rectage system, and the few scattered wells used angular plots. Instead of felling all the by the whole community were easily suscepti- trees and making a waste of the property, he ble of pollution. Epidemics of typhoid fever curved his roads hither and thither so that the were distressingly common.
best trees might be spared. The cottages he To objections and criticism the mill-owner erected were of a dozen different types, and could reply: “I can't help it ; if they don't beside each cottage was a neat little tract laid want to live there, they don't have to.” out for use as a vegetable garden, the space
He was strictly within his legal rights ; but between the front of the cottage and the road where else were these people to live?
being reserved for grass and flowers. Pigs Gradually, however, there came a change and dogs were barred, although a milch cow in the aspect of the mill villages. The houses might be tethered in the rear of the yard if were painted; a few better houses, a trifle the tenant so desired. more pleasing to the eye, were erected; sew- This work was begun thirteen years ago. erage systems were installed wherever prac- To-day that mill village is as pleasant and ticable. One owner secured several wagon- homelike a little spot as one may well imagloads of young saplings and planted one tree ine. The front gardens blossom with flowers ; in front of each cottage. Other owners fol- onions, cabbages, yams, and strawberries lowed his lead. Two or three superintendents grow at the side of the houses ; two or three offered prizes for the most neatly kept prem- trees shelter the front windows, and almost ises, and rubbish disappeared from the front every cottage has its trellis of vines and yards and from beneath the houses. The rambler roses on the front porch. The peoidea of beautification became popular. Grass ple are clean, neat, and, from every appearseed was planted in the front yards and ance, contented. The streets are clean and an occasional scraggy flower-bed appeared. well kept-far cleaner than the streets of Cheap but neat and serviceable fences re many of the Carolina cities. constructed. Here and there a little vegeta- That is the physical side of the new spirit of ble garden filled in the space back of the cot- the mill villages. But there is yet another side. tage, where before had been only the hardbeaten clay.
TWENTY-ONE PER CENT ILLITERATE
The financial condition of the South since THE OWNER WITH A CONSCIENCE
the war has never permitted of the establishA mill-owner in North Carolina was among ment of any thoroughly comprehensive system the pioneers. This man had controlled a of education for the poorer classes. Four large mill that had been running for well on months' schooling out of twelve is as much as to forty years. The houses of his village six of the Southern States have been able to were dilapidated and ancient; land was dear supply. Many mill-owners considered this in the heart of the town where the mill was, not enough and went into their own pockets and the expense of expansion prohibitive. to maintain the schools for from two to five The mill-owner was not satisfied with the additional months, giving the children of the living conditions of his people; perhaps, too, mill villages from six to nine months' schoolhe was shrewd enough to realize that people ing annually. Even then it was difficult to living in such an environment could not give persuade the children to attend, since until him their best work.
recently there has been little progress toward A few miles out in the country land cost compulsory education. almost nothing an acre. The owner saw his a child not like school, he eft. opportunity and began the construction of One little girl of seven " quit," as she termed one of the handsomest mill buildings in the it, because her teacher would not allow her to