Category Archives: Moore County, North Carolina

A Mill Family’s Losses in 1918

Boy workers in a N. C. cotton mill. The white specks on their clothing are cotton lint.

I wrote earlier, in “Victim of a Pandemic,” about a World War I soldier who lost his life to the influenza pandemic of 1918. His mother, Margaret McDonald Hicks, had a brother, Neill Archibald McDonald, who lost three children and a daughter-in-law to that pandemic.

Margaret and Neill grew up in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Their grandfather, Angus McDonald, came from the Western Isles of Scotland to North Carolina near the end of the 1700’s. He came to this country speaking Scots Gaelic, the language his family continued to use at home through his grandchildren’s generation. Neill and his siblings spoke fluent Gaelic, and the language died out with their generation in the first half of the twentieth century.

As a young man, Neill left his home in the Sandhills and traveled to New Orleans, where, in 1897, he met and married Marie Gottschalk, whose family came from Germany. Neill and Marie moved back to his home in Moore County, N. C., and around 1912, they moved on to High Point, N. C., a growing mill town. There, Neill found work at the brand new Highland Cotton Mills and a home in the mill village.

Neill worked at Highland until his retirement in the 1930’s. Marie gave birth to at least thirteen children, one of whom died as an infant. The other twelve children were all Highland Cotton Mill employees, as were their spouses and children.

Early cotton mills are notorious for having employed children, for very low wages. The census of 1920 and 1930 reports children in the family as young as age 15 working in the mill. However, the children probably went to work at much earlier ages.

During the pandemic of 1918, three of Neill and Marie’s children died of influenza. The youngest was Wilbert, age 9, described on his death certificate as a mill worker, as were his brothers John, age 16, and Frederick, 18. Annie McDonald, the 20-year-old wife of their oldest brother, Ughie, was taken by the virus as well. She, too, was a HIghland Cotton Mill employee.

Those four family members, as well as several others, were buried at the Springfield Friends Meeting, near the village. No stones marked their graves, but the Friends kept careful records of the burials in their cemetery.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander.  All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

U. S. Federal Census reports for 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940, including Supplemental Questions, 1940.

Miller, Ernest H., High Point, N.C. City Directory, 1923-1924,  (Piedmont Directory Co., 1923.)  accessed online at https://lib.digitalnc.org/record/25291?ln=en, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill; p. 236.

Hills High Point City Directory, 1938, 1939, 1949 (Richmond, Va.: Hill Publishing Co.) accessed online at Ancestry.com.

Louisiana Marriages, 1718-1925, database on-line at Ancestry.com.  Original marriage records from the Clerk of the Court, St. Tammany Parrish, La.

North Carolina Death Certificates, database online at Ancestry.com, original records from North Carolina State Archives; Raleigh, N. C.

Brenda G. Haworth, Ed., Springfield Friends Cemetery:  1780-2017, Guilford County, High Point, N. C., (2017:  Springfield Memorial Association, High Point, N. C.) p. 141.

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987)

Lewis Wickes Hine, photograph of boy workers in a cotton mill, 1908, digital image, Library of Congress.

Victim of a Pandemic

 

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Grave stone of Neill Abner Curtis Hicks, 1897-1918

There is an old Scottish cemetery in the Sandhills of North Carolina, where the oldest grave is dated 1796. Many people buried there were from the Western Isles of Scotland, including Jura and Skye. They spoke Gaelic.  Most of the graves have the names Ferguson and McDonald on them. The last monument was a tribute to a soldier who fell in World War I, not from an enemy bullet, but from a virus, during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

My aunt, Willie Alexander Carr, told me of walking to the cemetery with her mother, Loula Richardson Alexander, when Willie was seven years old. They went down a lane and through the woods near the Alexanders’ farm, balancing on a log to cross the creek. They were visiting the grave of Loula’s first cousin, Curtis Hicks.

The Hicks family lived in the township of Greenwood, in Moore County, North Carolina. Abner Hicks and Margaret McDonald married in 1890, and by 1902, they had five children. Then they lost their sixth child as an infant, and two years later, after the birth of twins, Margaret died. Her babies, a boy and a girl, died soon after. Their graves were all placed beside Margaret’s parents in the old cemetery.

In 1911, Abner remarried, to Flora Ann Yow, a neighbor. My father remembered her as “Aunt Flora Ann,” beloved by the family for her kindness to her step-children.

The fourth child of Abner and Margaret, Curtis, was twenty-one when young men were drafted for the Great War. His draft card described him as dark haired and blue eyed. He worked for a local farmer, Angus Cameron, who owned a saw mill. Curtis registered in June of 1918 and left his home for Fort Jackson in August.

Curtis was assigned to Camp Sevier, built in 1917 near Greenville, S. C., to train soldiers for the war. By the Armistice in November 1918, 80,000 soldiers had passed through the large camp. In September of 1918, the first influenza case appeared in the camp hospital, and it opened a floodgate.

The epidemic developed so rapidly that facilities and staff were expanded and taxed to the limit. When the hospital filled up, the Red Cross and Y. M. C. A. buildings, the schoolhouse, a theater, mess halls, and tents became hospital wards. Medical officers were joined by civilian, professional, and practical nurses in tending to a total of 6,000 patients.

Personnel used many precautions, isolating patients with hanging sheets and screens. Doctors, nurses, and attendants wore masks and gowns. Patients with pneumonia were placed in separate wards. Disposable cups and plates were used and burned afterward.

Curtis Hicks was one of the unfortunate soldiers who developed pneumonia, which caused his lungs to hemorrhage and quickly caused his death. Three hundred and forty soldiers died, a death rate over 5% in the camp. He died on October 4, only a few months after his induction into the Army. By November 11, the epidemic, as well as the war, was effectively over.

Curtis was buried near his mother and his grandfather, John Finlayson McDonald. Willie and Loula visited the grave when fresh soil was still mounded over it. Woods now cover the acre of old family graves, and real estate development has slowly surrounded it.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

Sources:

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Willie D. Richardson, cousin of Curtis Hicks, WWI

1900 U. S. Census, McNeill’s Tshp., Moore County, N. C., p. 169; NARA Microfilm T623-1207; 1910 U. S. Census, McNeill’s Tshp., Moore County, N. C., p. 193; NARA Microfilm T624-1119; 1920 U. S. Census, Vass, Moore County, N. C., E. D. 92, p. 21B; NARA Microfilm T625-1300; accessed on Ancestry.com.

North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: North Carolina County Registers of Deeds. Microfilm. Record Group 048. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC.

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.;

South Carolina Death Records, 1821-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: South Carolina. South Carolina death records. Columbia, SC, USA: South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Influenza Outbreak of 1918-1919, by Steve Case, revised by Lisa Gregory, 2010, NC Government and Heritage Library, NCPedia.com. Accessed 7 March 2020.

U.S., Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917–1918 [database on-line]. Original data: War Department, Office of the Provost Marshal General, Selective Service System, 1917– 07/15/1919. National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland.

Office of Medical History: Office of the Surgeon General, “Extracts from Reports Relative to Influenza, Pneumonia, and Respiratory Diseases,” April 4, 2003, http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/1918flu/ARSG1919/ARSG1919Extractsflu.htm#U1. (continued)%20CAMP%20SEVIER%20BASE%20HOSPITAL%20REPORT, accessed March 9, 2020.

Grave monument in McDonald-Ferguson family cemetery, off County Road 1825, approx. .4 mile from Highway 1, just north of Crains Creek, Moore County. Visit to cemetery and photographs taken March 29, 2002.

Interviews with Willie Alexander Carr and Lewey G. Alexander, Sr., by the author, April 1, 2002.

Class of ’42, Cameron High

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Graduates of Cameron High School, Cameron, N. C., in 1942.

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I have not found a date for the opening of Cameron School, but William Hamilton McNeill, who was born in 1869 in Moore County, graduated from Cameron High School. (He later became mayor of Carthage, N. C., and owner and editor of its newspaper, as well as a state legislator.)

When the 1963-64 school year ended in Moore County, N. C., Cameron, Farm Life, Carthage, and Vass High Schools were consolidated into Union Pines High School.

Copyright 2019 by Glenda Alexander.  All rights reserved.

Sources:

“A Pocket Manual of North Carolina for the use of Members of the General Assembly: Session 1911,” ed. by R. D. W. Connor, (Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission 1911) p. 298. Accessed through Google ebooks, 28 Dec. 2019.

“Carthage High School — Carthage, North Carolina,” accessed 28 Dec. 2019 at https://classicschools.com/blog/nc/carthage-high-school-carthage-north-carolina/.