Chiquola Mill – Honea Path, South Carolina
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The Chiquola Mill – pronounced shuh-cola – located in Honea Path was established in April 1902 and began operations in 1903. The mill likely took its name from the Chicora tribe. Chiquola Mill ran until January 31, 2003, initially producing coarse sheeting until switching to print cloth. Its water tower, shown below, was demolished 20 minutes after this picture was taken.
Sadly, Chiquola Mill is the site of what is referred to as “Bloody Thursday.” On September 6, 1934 a textile union strike took place at the mill. Chiquola was one of several mills along the east coast where workers gathered to protest low wages and unfavorable working conditions in textile plants. The event was organized by the United Textile Workers and was planned for the previous Monday, which was Labor Day. However, some Southern mills, such as Chiquola Mill, did not get the word in time and thus went on strike later in the week.
The day of the strike, Chiquola Mill superintendent Dan Beacham positioned a World War I machine gun atop the mill, and the protesters were encircled by deputies comprised of armed local residents and even some mill workers. At some point during the strike a fight ensued, and shots were then fired into the crowd of between 300 and 500 people. Seven people were killed, fatally shot in the back. Thirty more were wounded. Eleven men were charged with murder in the incident; all eleven were acquitted. A memorial to those killed in the event, seen below, was placed in neighboring Dogwood Park in 1995.
According to Frank Beacham, journalist, historian, and grandson of superintendent Dan Beacham, funerals for the victims were attended by thousands of mill workers from far and wide. The services were prohibited from being held in the mill-owned church and were instead conducted in a nearby field. Following the event, most of the mill workers involved in the strike either moved away – some voluntarily, others forced out by Beacham – or simply returned to work in the cotton mill after being made to disassociate with the textile union. Because of economic hardships, the millworkers had no other choice. Then the townsfolk ceased talking about the event. Bloody Thursday was rarely, if ever, discussed until the 1990s when Frank Beacham began investigating his grandfather’s role in the tragedy.
Frank Beacham says he knew very little about his grandfather’s involvement in the ordeal until viewing a documentary on the mill shooting sixty years after it occurred. After making contact with Sue Cannon Hill – the daughter of victim Claude Cannon – who appeared in the documentary, he began uncovering the truth about the events of that September day and put the facts together in an e-book titled Mill Town Murder. Among his discoveries was that Dan Beacham called for the shots to be fired during the strike.
Today a nursing home is planned for the site of the mill, which is in the process of being demolished. A granite memorial dedicated to the mill workers who were killed was erected in 1995 behind city hall. Frank Beacham was present at the memorial’s installation.
Reflections on Chiquola Mill
Contributor Shelley G. Robonson 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 Info
Address: Chiquola Avenue, Honea Path, SC 29654
Chiquola Mill Map
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