On a Thursday morning in 1934, 300 workers outside of the Chiquola Mill gathered in protest to low wages and long working hours. What happened this day would go down in history as ”Bloody Thursday” or ”The Uprising of ’34”

How a peaceful protest turned deadly

In September of 1934 the National Textile Workers Union called for protests at mills across the East Coast. Afraid of violence, the mill superintendent, Daniel Beacham (also mayor) asked the SC Governor to send the National Guard. When the governor refused, Daniel had a WWI machine gun mounted to the roof of the mill.

Some time early on in the protest, a fight broke out in the crowd. Suddenly, the sound of machine gun fire rang out. 7 were dead and 30 more wounded. They were shot in the back while trying to run away. The man who ordered shots fired? The superintendent himself.

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.

Sc Picture project (3)

Why didn’t we learn about this in history class?

For one thing, Daniel Beacham, who ordered these shots, was never charged. Not only that but he was also allowed to continue on at the mill as superintendent until he died in 1936. The community didn’t speak of the events that happened in fear of losing their jobs at the mill. They possibly could have even been in fear for their lives. Bloody Thursday became something that older members of the community just wanted to forget. Chiquola Mill continued to run until 2003. It now sits abandoned and crumbling on the edge of quiet town.

One of the last remaining living witnesses of that day had this to say:

“I’ll be 96 Monday, and to me, it’s just as fresh as if it happened yesterday. … It was a real bad time because families had become split. Some would be union and others would not be union. A lot of families were split on that account, and I reckon that the least they could say about it was the best.”

Knox – Post & Courier (4)

The mill Daniel’s grandson actually had no idea about his Grandfather’s involvement in the shooting until he had watched a documentary about the event. He has written about what he has learned about that day and would like the world to know what happened on that day. Read his story ”Chiquola Mill shooting hits 75-year mark”

Setting the record straight

Throughout the years, between the silence of what had happened and the lies spread by the mill administration, Bloody Thursday was forgotten by the members of the community. Although the skeleton of a building still remains in this small country town, the town people just moved on with their lives. In 1995, over 50 years after the murders a memorial was finally put up to these seven men. The stone reads: “They died for the rights of the working man“. No one was ever charged in the death of these 7 men.

Many myths have built up over the years about the workers who died in Honea Path 75 years ago. They were called an isolated group of troublemakers and rabble-rousers. Some, mainly the mill’s former management, claimed they deserved what happened to them.


I see it another way. I think these mill workers risked everything—their jobs, their freedom and ultimately their lives—for a cause they believed in. They made a decision to exert some control over their changing place in an increasingly industrialized world. Their method was to attempt to organize their fellow workers into a labor union.

Frank Beacham – Grandson of Mill superintendent

Remembering the workers that lost their lives day

People gathered at the funeral service for killed mill workers

Claude Cannon, Lee Crawford, Ira Davis, E. M. “Bill” Knight, Maxie Peterson, C. R. Rucker, and Thomas Yarborough lost their lives that day. A funeral service was held in a nearby field because none of the Honea Path Churches (also owned by the mill) would not allow the services of the mill workers to be held there. Thousands came to the field to pay their respects to these men.


References

(1) Greenville New Online. “‘Bloody Thursday’ anniversary passes quietly”. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.greenvilleonline.com/amp/15167921. 2014.

(2) Appalachian History. “The shooting at Chiquola Mill became known as Bloody Thursday”. http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2010/08/the-shooting-at-chiquola-mill-became-known-as-bloody-thursday.html. 2010.

(3) SC Picture Project – South Carolina citizen history. “Chiquola Mill”. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.scpictureproject.org/anderson-county/chiquola-mill.html/amp/

(4) Post and Courier. “It was a terrible thing”. https://www.postandcourier.com/archives/it-was-a-terrible-thing/article_1be9999c-2ab5-5c1c-add8-25dd337f5ae0.html. September 5 2014.