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local history

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 2

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this second post, we will highlight how three of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses, churches, and neighborhoods near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic.

Our first narrator, Margaret Potts, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark, and local recreational facilities. Our second narrator, Mildred Workman, sheds light on downtown businesses and dining practices. Lastly, our third narrator, Mildred Thompson, discusses the Brady’s Alley fire which devastated several African American families in Davidson, NC shortly after World War II.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 154: Interview with Margaret Potts, January 2, 2001

Black and white image of the front of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Image of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Interviewer: How did you end up at the Sunday school [at the mill chapel]? 

Margaret Potts: Well I was teaching Sunday school in Davidson Presbyterian Church, early.  They wanted me to have the little ones, the two in, whatever hours it was, babysitting more than anything else, in the old church.  It was a terrible place to have little children.  But anyway, so just through the years, I would teach Sunday school and do things like that, whatever needed to be done.  And so, some of the students, some real good students here at Davidson took on the mill project.  And they got anybody that they could get to go and help there.  And of course, I knew a lot of the people over there, so I was willing to help.  (laughter) And until I went off to go to college, and then I had to stop doing that.  [Page 26]

On recreation in Davidson:

Davidsonian article from 1920 stating: "The Mill Sunday School is quite elated over the new playground equipment provided by Dr. Munroe and his associates. A considerable quantity of open-air gymnasium equipment, such as is found in city parks, has been received. The apparatus consists of swing."
April 29, 1920 Davidsonian article discussing the construction of a gymnasium for mill children.
Margaret Potts: Well, I liked the track meets; oh I loved the track meets.  I didn’t miss a single one of those.  And in the summertime, we used to come out, and [00:49:00] they would let us -- not complain, if we played.  We never did anything terrible.  But on this very spot, right here, where this library is, they had this tremendous jungle gym for adults.  And what, where they got that, I don’t know whose idea it was to put that thing together.  It was metal, big metal things, put together, and it had a ladder that went up two stories and it went all the way across.  Now this is was when I was a child.  It had -- was hanging down, and a place for you to sit, and you could swing back and forth.  It had the most interesting jungle gym I’ve ever seen.  They let us play on that.  We used to spend hours over here.  I think the -- [00:50:00] what was behind?  The gym was behind it.  And it was in front of the gym.

On Dining in Davidson:

AUDIO 158: Interview with Mildred Workman, January 11, 2001

September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
Mildred Workman: Absolutely no place.   
Interviewer: No place? 
Mildred Workman: No.  There was a little place called the Coffee Cup down on -- what’s the street where Jasper’s is? 
Interviewer: Depot. 
Mildred Workman: Depot.  Down on Depot Street.  It was just kind of a little greasy spoon.  You could get decent breakfast there.  But I remember when we moved in -- we moved in as I recall on Saturday.  And we inquired where we could go for Sunday lunch of the C.K. Browns, and they said, well, there really was not anywhere.  You must come to The Browns and have Sunday dinner.  And there was no place near around to go.  You had to go to Charlotte.  And there wasn’t much in Charlotte.

On the Brady’s Alley Fire of 1949:

AUDIO 159: Interview with Mildred Thompson, January 17, 2001

Photograph of the Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Interviewer: I know.  Asking about, or mentioning Carl reminds me, do you remember a fire in 1949 in Brady’s Alley, (inaudible) – 

Mildred Thompson: Oh, yeah, I sure do.  I remember that like it was yesterday.  Carl was the minister, and Carl was the one that, I’m not positive about this, but I’m pretty sure, he’s the one that started that children’s sermon before church, you know, that called the children down.  I think he started that, because I can remember him seeing him come down out of the pulpit, and the little children would just listen, and they’d turn around and say to their parents, “Is that true?  Is that true?”  When Carl was telling the story.  

But anyway, about that, it was almost time for church to be over, and this fire started, and the fire was just blowing, blowing.  And of course, everybody was apprehensive, “Where is it?”  Well anyway, it was down in that alley; that was pathetic.  Those people, I don’t know where they had water, I don’t know what they had, but what they had was pretty bad.  And so Carl, after that he went down there and he investigated everything, and he told, he got in the church, and he said, “I refuse to preach in a church where the shadow of the church falls on poverty.”  Honey, that afternoon, he took the young people around, it was terrible.  Honey, he really turned this place around. [Page 9 -10]

Each of the five interviews featured in this two-part series are more than one hour long, meaning the vignettes you have read represent only a small part of these individuals’ stories. Now that researchers will be able to keyword search our newly produced transcripts, we hope others will have easier access to these rich narratives.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Potts, Margaret. Interview by the Davidson College Archives. January 2, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 154. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Workman, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 11, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 158. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Thompson, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 17, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 159. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 1

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this first post, we will highlight how two of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses and churches near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic. Our first narrator, Patricia Sailstad, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark. Our second narrators, E.M. and Dolly Hicks, shed light on labor relations in the South through the lens of the Davidson Cotton Mill, now known as the Hurt Hub.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 107: Interview with Patricia Sailstad, April 1997

Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.
Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.

Patricia Sailstad: And I remember the first time we ever had an integrated World Day of Prayer, and I went with Ms. Maude, and it was over at the little Methodist Church that has the log cabin next to it.  Oh, gosh.  Well, it’s…this is not the black church there.  This is the one behind it.  It was a white church at the time. But they decided they would have refreshments.  

And actually, this was...  But it was the first time they’d had black and white together, and after the ceremony we went to their little log cabin, which was right next to it.  You’ll see the church; it’s a Methodist church, I think.  Now it is a [00:40:00] black church, but it was white at the time.  And so there we were (inaudible) standing up.  We weren’t sitting down, eating.  And Ms. Maude said, “You know, Mrs. Sailstad.”  She looked around at the black and the white together, all chatting.  She said, “I think this is what heaven must be like.” [Pages 23 – 24]

On the Davidson Cotton Mill:

AUDIO 150: Interview with E.M. Hicks and Dolly Hicks, September 18, 2000

The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
¬¬Dolly Hicks: At one time we had a union that picketed, trying to get the union in at the old Davidson Cotton Mill…I remember from down the street cars just -- But we weren’t allowed up there because there was trouble going on up there -- Up at the mill, so you can see it from right where -- back then it looked like a hundred miles, but it’s only, [00:30:00] what, not very far at all, half a block.  (laughs) But they did have some over there.   Now, [Beatrice?] might could tell you more about that -- but I remember it very distinctly, because we were not very young at that point…’cause I was born in ’25.  It would probably be in the early ’30s…But the union or something came in, something they were doing up there, and there was cars, and seems like somebody got hurt.  
 
E.M. Hicks: They had the flying [00:31:00] squadron.  Had a flying squadron came out of the North, and they were coming down through the South, and they were going to organize the South.  And so they came through Greensboro.  Now, this would have been the ’30s. And they came through Greensboro, because Cone Mills was in Greensboro, and we were out -- I lived close to Cone Mills.  And this flying squadron came down there, and I remember very well -- you know, it was different back in those days.  I was freer to get out and go where I wanted to than most kids my age.  And so I wanted to see what was going on.  I went out to Cone Mills, [00:32:00] and I could walk out there easily.  And I got out there, and the cops wouldn’t let me -- get close.  They kept me back.  But in those days the cops wore leather leggings. And so these people who were fighting the cops, some of them were the employees, see, and the others were imports, and they’d take an apple and stick a razor blade down in it, you know, and then if you take your fingers and put it on the wrong side of the razor blade so it would be [toward it?], and throw that thing, and when it would hit these guys on the legs, it cut their [00:33:00] leggings.  It cut their leggings. It was rough.  I mean, it was kind of tough.  But anyhow, the cops won, and they left Greensboro, came on down this way.  They got to Gastonia.  That’s where the big one was.  You can find that on the record, because they had machine guns up on the buildings, and they were sitting up there with machine guns. [Pages 66 – 70]

In part 2 of 2 of this blog post series, we will provide another look at the Lingle Hut, culture surrounding the cotton mills, downtown eateries, and a devastating fire.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Sailstad, Patricia. Interview by Jim Smith, Heather Baker, John Thornberry. April 1997. “Common Ground Oral History Project.” Audiotape Collection 107. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Hicks, E.M. and Dolly Hicks. Interview by Jan Blodgett. September 18, 2000. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 150. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Guest Blogger: Eoin Mills on “Mapping the Plantation World Around Davidson”

In Fall 2019, Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) had the privilege of working with Dr. Rose Stremlau’s “HIS 306: Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” course. Over the course of a semester, students researched the history of women and gender in the greater Davidson, North Carolina area using materials in the Davidson College Archives and other local organizations. The following series of blog posts highlights aspects of their research process.

Eoin Mills is a Junior Political Science Major and History Minor at Davidson College. His work for HIS 306 Women and Gender in the US until 1870 centers around how enslaved women interacted with Davidson College during the Antebellum Period. 

Upon first entering the Rare Book Room, one cannot help but catch themselves in the stern glare of Rev. Drury Lacy, former president of Davidson before the Civil War. However this may be fitting as the area around Davidson College is steeped in history from the Antebellum period of American history. Its ties to plantation life and slavery run back for generations and the College was heavily integrated in the norms of the period. This semester, I have become immersed in the sources about this time period contained within the Rare Book Room and College Archives for my course Women and Gender in the United States until 1870. Specifically, the maps which the archives hold meticulously document the families and plantations of the area and how they interacted with the college on a daily basis. While there are many gaps in the record in reference the experiences of enslaved women, the topic which I am performing research on, the documents available provide strong context to a tumultuous period of America’s history. 

Scan of a supplemental map of 
portions of mecklenburg and iredell county described in the post. Numbered circles note plantation homes and churches.
This map is a supplement found in The Plantation World Around Davidson by Dr. Chalmers Davidson.

The most important document which launched my research was Chalmers Davidson’s map of the Davidson area that documents all the major plantations and families which existed from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. The map extends from the South of Iredell County, where the college used to be before county lines were redrawn to northern Mecklenburg County. Over 25 separate historical sites are noted on the map, many of which were large plantations. Upon closer examination of the archives, many of the plantations have detailed files on the families who lived there. Many of the families, such as the Brevard and Potts families, were wealthy slaveholders who had been established as North Carolina’s elite social class.  

This map, while not comprehensive provides necessary insight into the dynamics of the world around Davidson. When examining the map at first glance, one cannot help but realize the scale which plantation life dominated the area. It notes how the area was based on the characteristics of a slave society. The sheer volume of plantations emphasizes the extent to which this dictated daily life. There is also a deep-rooted connection to the confederacy as many of the families represented on the map had sons and husbands who were officers. Upon researching the names which the map displays, one can find how deeply ingrained the families and plantations were not just as soldiers but also as suppliers to the confederacy. In addition, the founding family of Davidson is represented. This displays how the past of enslavement is integrated into the history of the college.  

Overall, even at a quick glance, the map allows for one to draw inferences regarding the former dynamics of the area, along with providing an integral guide for further research by providing names, locations, and time period to focus one’s search. 

Bibliography

Davidson, Chalmers G. The Plantation World Around Davidson. Rev. and enl.ed. Davidson, N.C.: Briarpatch Press, 1982.