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Chiquola Mill — Honea Path, South Carolina

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Chiquola Mill

At four floors and 83,200 square feet, Chiquola Mill loomed large over Honea Path for a century. Incorporated in 1902, it opened in 1903 and operated until 2003. Pronounced shuh-cola, the textile mill likely took its name from a French derivative of the Indian word Chicora. It initially produced coarse sheeting before switching to print cloth.

Chiquola Mill Smokestack

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Chiquola Mill is remembered today as the site of a tragic event known as Bloody Thursday or the Uprising of ’34. That is the year the United Textile Workers of America organized strikes at several plants along the East Coast. In Honea Path, 300 union members – both men and women – gathered to protest low wages and poor working conditions exacerbated by the Depression. The strikes were ordered on Labor Day, three days prior. However, some Southern mills, such as Chiquola Mill, did not get word in time and thus began their strikes later in the week.

Chiquola Mill Ruins with Bulldozer

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Tensions were high as the crowd gathered the morning of September 6. The mill’s superintendent, Dan Beacham, who was also the town’s mayor and a judge, asked South Carolina Governor Ibra Blackwood to authorize the National Guard to send troops to Honea Path. Blackwood refused. Beacham then deputized 126 townsmen and anti-union millworkers; armed with rifles, pistols, and shotguns, they surrounded the protestors. Beacham also mounted a World War I machine gun to the factory’s roof.

Chiquola Mill Tower

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

When the newly-annoited deputies began to poke the protestors with pickets, a fight ensued and shots were fired into the crowd. Seven people – Claude Cannon, Lee Crawford, Ira Davis, E. M. “Bill” Knight, Maxie Peterson, C. R. Rucker, and Thomas Yarborough – were killed in the massacre, all but one shot in the back as he tried to escape. Cannon was shot five times before he collapsed on the sidewalk. Thirty more were wounded. (Note: Only six died at the mill itself. One died later of injuries.)

Chiquola Mill Water Tower

Shelley G. Robinson, 2011 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Eleven men were charged with murder, and all eleven were acquitted. Beacham later issued a public statement saying that he was not present during the massacre because he had returned home for breakfast. Decades later, research confirmed that he was indeed present and in fact had given the order to fire.

Chiquola Mill Ruins Stair

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The accusation was made at the time as well, and the front-page article in the Greenville News the day after the event includes the subtitle “Mayor Gives Order.” During trial, two eye-witnesses also testified that they had seen Beacham shooting at protesters. Beacham arrested them both on charges of perjury.

Chiquola Mill

Jason Powell of Taylors, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A funeral for the victims was held in a nearby field as none of Honea Path’s churches, each of which was owned by the mill, would allow a service. The funeral, which was documented in a Foxtone Movie News Story, was attended by as many as ten thousand people. At the time, the strikes constituted the largest labor revolt in American history. Soon after, President Franklin Roosevelt enacted both the 40-hour work week and minimum wage.

Chiquola Mill Interior Stair

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Following the event, mill workers involved in the strike either moved away or returned to work. Those who returned to work were forced to denounce the union, and a gag order was issued to prevent discussion of the revolt. The effects of this gag order are felt even today, and the community has begun to publicly revisit the tragedy only in recent years.

Chiquola Memorial

Kathy Dickerson of Greenwood, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A memorial to those killed in the massacre, seen above, was erected in neighboring Dogwood Park in 1995. Dan Beacham’s grandson, journalist Frank Beacham, who grew up in Honea Path but now lives in New York, worked to document the events of that day first in his book Whitewash: A Southern Journey Through Music, Mayhem and Murder and later in an e-book called Mill Town Murder. He helped work for the monument and attended its dedication (1).

Bulldozer at Chiquola Mill

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

More Pictures of Chiquola Mill

Basement Room Chiquola Mill

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Interior Room Chiquola Mill

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on Chiquola Mill

Contributor Shelley G. Robinson writes, “The mill was the lifeblood of Honea Path for nearly 100 years. Until the late 1960s, it was virtually the only place to work in town.”

Chiquola Mill: Our Sources

Whitewash: A Southern Journey Through Music, Mayhem and Murder, Frank Beacham, Booklocker.com, Inc. & Beacham Story Studio, Inc., 2007.

Chiquola Mill Info

Address: Chiquola Avenue, Honea Path, SC 29654
GPS Coordinates: 34.451653,-82.391924

Chiquola Mill Map

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4 Comments about Chiquola Mill

Pamela Westendorff Prestegard says:
June 13th, 2019 at 9:07 pm

Literally cried as I read this!!! This INCIDENT should be taught in history or social studies/South Carolina curriculum!! I’m very sad that these poor “early activists” never received justice posthumously! At least now the plaque …. but not enough. Thank you for the fascinating education! What a town though … under the corrupt thumb of its good ol’ boy local, yokel politicians. A good BOOK and an awesome movie!! Somebody should get busy!

Tonya Norris says:
November 7th, 2018 at 9:33 pm

I have heard the story but not as many details. I grew up in the shadows of the mill on the “Mill Hill.” Most of my family worked at some point in time at the mill. Loved the pictures.

SC Picture Project says:
September 16th, 2018 at 2:08 am

We could not agree with you more!

BettyM.Mccullough says:
September 15th, 2018 at 9:57 am

Many people do not even know this story. We all need to know the history of our towns. Thank you.

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