Why you should know Lois McClain’s name….
Seventy-five years later, the Chiquola incident in Honea Path still significant
Shots at mill echo still
A monument to those who were killed at the Chiquola Mill in Honea Path is located in Dogwood Park in Honea Path.
Men carry guns outside the Chiquola Mill in Honea Path during the textile strike of 1934.
75 years ago, workers at the Chiquola Mill were shot and killed after going on strike. Today, the mill in Honea Path stands empty.
Men gather to be deputized in Cater Park during the textile strike of 1934.
Lois McClain, a spinning room worker at the Chiquola Mill, was photographed after she was shot in her left hand during the textile strike of 1934.
HONEA PATH — The Chiquola Mill in Honea Path, now abandoned, is a shell whose prized hardwood floors and wooden roof beams are gone, leaving the place open to the rain, the sun and the years.
The concrete sidewalks surrounding the 21-acre property are untended and overgrown with weeds, and the bloodstains of 75 years ago have long since been scoured away by time and weather.
The blood flowed from the bodies of Chiquola Mill workers, seven of whom were killed during the shootings on Sept. 6, 1934.
The workers were Claude Cannon, 27, Lee Crawford, 26, Thomas Yarbrough, 54, E.M. “Bill” Knight, Ira Davis, 26, Maxie Peterson, 27, and C.R. Rucker, 39. They were among about 300 union textile workers from Honea Path and Belton who had formed a long line of solidarity around the mill to protest working conditions and wages.
A small part of a historic event known as the General Textile Strike of 1934, when nearly 1 million textile workers left their jobs in protest of working conditions and wages, the Chiquola Mill strike made national news when, around 7:45 p.m., non-union workers and special deputies stationed in and around the mill opened fire on the picket line with pistols and shotguns.
An Anderson Independent story the next day, reported that the “hail of fire from non-union workers and special deputies” killed six men, wounded “a score of others,” and left wives and children “sobbing in agony as they rushed to the sides of their dead.”
A seventh man, who was taken to the Anderson County Hospital (now AnMed Health), later died of his wounds.
Anderson County Sheriff W.A. Clamp was in the midst of the firing, and told the Anderson Independent he felt “lucky to have survived it. I don’t know who shot first. Bullets kicked up around my feet, and they were shooting pistols, rifles and shotguns,” Clamp said. “The firing lasted just a couple of minutes and there really wasn’t time to do much of anything.”
Seventy-five years later, Honea Path Mayor Earl Lollis Meyers says the town still feels the pain of the “Chiquola Incident,” as it is called in oral histories and archives.
“It is a part of our history, and it helped change labor laws,” Meyers said. “But it remains a painful subject.”
Meyers said his grandfather, a lay preacher named E.W. Lollis, helped with the funerals for the seven men, some of whom witnesses said were shot as many as 10 times.
“There were strikes going on all over the South in those days,” Meyers said. “The strike at the Chiquola mill was just one of many.
“My grandfather was a supervisor, known as an overseer, at the mill. I remember him telling us he heard the shots. He took my mother and grandmother and put them on a train to Greenville as soon as he could. He was worried for their safety.”
Meyers said that to this day people argue over who gave the order to fire.
“The event divided families,” Meyers said. “There were some who wanted the union, others who did not. Some believe it was J.D. Beacham who gave the order to fire. Others believe one of the striking workers fired first. But no one really knows.”
Beacham was superintendent of the mill. He was known to have been inside the building when the shootings happened. According to the Anderson Independent report, Beacham, who also was the mayor of Honea Path, “quietly swore in 100 extra officers” to aid the 26 officers and non-union workers guarding the plant the day of the shooting.
Today, a stone monument to the fallen sits in the shade of a large holly tree in Honea Path’s Dogwood Park, just a mile from the mill itself.
Dedicated May 29, 1995, the monument bears the names of the seven men who “died for the rights of the working man,” and references the “30 people wounded” that day in 1934. Placed by unknown hands, there are roses thre, made, ironically, of a textile — silk.
Mayor Meyers, who worked in the textile industry for 27 years, said the events of August and September 1934 “accomplished bringing new labor laws to the whole country. You could work in a mill in those days at any age, for any amount of time. In those days, kids’ education was secondary to working in the mill.”
Meyers said that while the word union still evokes fear and skepticism in the minds of many Southerners, unions served a purpose for textile workers.
“There are good and bad things about unions, but most of the large manufacturing companies up north brought union benefits to the South,” he said. ‘When I started out in the ’50s, they were paying better wages and were doing more for us,” he said. “I think all of this came about, at least in part, because of those hard days in 1934.”