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Title: Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, November 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Snipes, John W., interviewee
Interview conducted by Glass, Brent
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 160 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-11-27, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, November 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0098-2)
Author: Brent Glass
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, November 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0098-2)
Author: John W. Snipes
Description: 153 Mb
Description: 43 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 20, 1976, by Brent Glass; recorded in Bynum, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Patricia Crowley.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with John W. Snipes, November 20, 1976.
Interview H-0098-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Snipes, John W., interviewee


Interview Participants

    JOHN W. SNIPES, interviewee
    BRENT GLASS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Back yonder fifty or sixty years ago anybody hardly ever went over the eighth or ninth grade around here. Weren't one out of a hundred that ever went off to college. The commencement at Chapel Hill, when I was little, was a big day for us. My Daddy and Mother would prepare for that day, and we'd hitch up a two-horse wagon and fill it full of wheat straw. And my father and mother would sit on a spring seat, and us nine young'uns would be back there on some quilts and wheat straw. And we'd drive twelve miles to Chapel Hill in a twohorse wagon. There'd just be hundreds of horses and mules tied out on the campus in them woods there; I reckon it would be about where Memorial Hospital is, and a little beyond Memorial. No, it'd be across the railroad there. We'd hitch horses all down in there. We carried a big cracker box full of chicken and pies and cakes, and people was just eating dinner everywhere. That was the commencement. And we didn't care nothing about the baccalaureate sermon or Doctor so-and-so making a big speech. We'd be out there around the lemonade stand. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Well, what would you do when you got down to campus?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, we'd just march around. They'd sell two paper cups of ordinary lemonade for a nickel, or one pink cup of lemonade for a nickel. We'd always grab the pink and [Laughter] a little bit of old coloring would color a barrel, you know. They'd get one cup of pink lemonade for a nickel and two plain for a nickel. And we'd have thirty or forty cents maybe, and we'd drink lemonade all day—maybe eat ice cream [Laughter] and stuff like that, and spend our little barrel of money and just see the crowd. There were just hundreds and hundreds of farmers there with their horses and mules. Way back when my Daddy and Mother first started to going there a

Page 2
lot of them went there in oxcarts (drive an old bull, you know).
BRENT GLASS:
Would you ever go to Chapel Hill any other times?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, hardly. I never did see Chapel Hill no time much except at commencement. That was the first time I ever saw it in my life. And I didn't have no other business up there 'til I got up a bigger boy and all.
BRENT GLASS:
Would there ever be any music?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, sometimes we would listen at the band. They'd march, you know. We'd never heard a band; didn't know a drum from a clarinet or nothing else, I don't reckon. It was just to be in a crowd, it looked like.
BRENT GLASS:
When did people stop doing that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It was looked forward to every year. I was born in 1901, and I reckon I was twenty years old before we stopped going. That was an annual event.
BRENT GLASS:
Why do you think people stopped going?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I don't know why they stopped. Just thousands and thousands of people. They was marching all over town. There'd be little ice cream stands and hot dog stands and lemonade stands and popcorn. I'd love to see some of the old pictures of the way it used to be at commencement.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you do any marketing when you were down there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your parents bring any kind of thing to sell?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Just a holiday?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just a holiday. It was a big day.

Page 3
BRENT GLASS:
How about Fourth of July around here?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Fourth of July used to be, of course out in the country, ball games. We had big ball games every Fourth of July. I've seen five hundred to a thousand people right there in that ballground. They'd have a ballgame in the morning and one in the afternoon, and have a little tent out there selling drinks and lemonade and ice cream and sandwiches and all of that. But them days is gone now. They've got this softball they play at night. Of course we never did see a night ballgame. See, some of the most famous, the especially famous people who have played on this ballground are Bun Hearne, the coach of Carolina. He was raised here. All these Hearnes and Bud Hearne was raised here; he played on that old ballground. He got to be coach at Carolina.1 [interruption]
BRENT GLASS:
Let's get back to….
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Commencement? [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
No, no. We could talk about holidays, because we're on Fourth of July. I was wondering whether there were any other kind of holidays where you'd have neighborhood get-togethers?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Thanksgiving. We looked forward to them, and Christmastime, of course, and Easter. Thanksgiving my grandfather, he was a possum hunter, and he'd always catch him two or three big possums along in the fall after the frost bit the persimmons. And he'd put them in a box and fatten them. And he loved possum. Of course we'd have the turkey, and they had big dinner spreads.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever eat any squirrel?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir. We used to set rabbit hollows and catch rabbits and eat squirrels too, and quail. We looked forward to Thanksgiving. And

Page 4
corn shucking, all back there then they had these old neighborhood corn shuckings. And maybe seven, eight, ten farmers, you'd have a big corn shucking this evening and a big supper that night. And all of them would help you. Next week you'd have one, and it went around like that.
BRENT GLASS:
How about candy pulls?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir, old-fashioned homemade candy pull, you know.
BRENT GLASS:
How would that work?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, a boy and a girl. they'd love to… Have you ever seen them pull it?
BRENT GLASS:
No.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, they put this candy, sugar and water stuff, on and boiled it 'til it was a syrup. Then they let it cool a little. And then when you could work it up and get it in a ball, something like about the size of a baseball, then you could pull it out two foot long. You could work it down to small, say the size of a broomhandle. And then a girl and a boy face each other, and she'd pull that a'way and he'd pull this way, and maybe he'd reach over in the middle and that would double it. And she'd reach over and that would double it twice, you see. The more you pulled it the fluffier and the whiter it got. There'd be somebody to judge when it was pulled enough, you know. And then you'd get another ball.
BRENT GLASS:
Didn't your hands get kind of sticky with all that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. They'd put a little flour on their hands.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, oh, I see.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh, candy pullings was big doings [Laughter] way back yonder. I ain't heard tell of one in forty years that I know of.

Page 5
BRENT GLASS:
Let's move on to when you got married and started your own farm. When would that be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
April 18, 1919 when I got married. My wife was fifteen and I was seventeen.
BRENT GLASS:
How come you got married so young?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, we got to courting.
BRENT GLASS:
How did you meet your wife?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She was a tenant that lived in a house on my father's place, a little old girl seven or eight years old. From then on I knew her from the day she was born at my father's old place there. Her mother died when my wife was, I believe she was about three years old or something like that. Then her uncle took her and raised her there on the farm in the tenant house where my wife's mother died. It was on our old big plantation, the old Snipes plantation. It was 640 acres, and it was a grant from England, a square mile.
BRENT GLASS:
Right, you mentioned that the last time. What was your wife's maiden name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Smith.
BRENT GLASS:
What's her first name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Lessie, Lessie Mae Smith.
BRENT GLASS:
So you knew her since she was a small girl. You grew up together.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes, yes sir. We were born and raised together.
BRENT GLASS:
How did you court?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, we went about a mile and a half to an old one-room schoolhouse through the woods. There was about four or five families. I was thinking about it the other night; sometimes there'd be as many as

Page 6
twenty-five of us. And we walked about half as far as from here to Pittsboro through the woods on those paths.
BRENT GLASS:
To go to school?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
To go to school. And it was just one room.
BRENT GLASS:
And that's how you got to know each other?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, we went back and forth to school together, then went to church together (I mean the same church).
BRENT GLASS:
Which church would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Mann's Chapel. It was originally the old Shady Grove. We lived adjoining that plantation.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you have a chance to be alone at all with your wife before you got married?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Not much. Just walking, and maybe we'd get behind sort of going to school, you know. [Laughter] We'd lag along behind, maybe drop a book or something and we'd get behind. We could whisper and talk a right smart. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Did people think that was kind of young to get married at that time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. We just surprised the whole neighborhood. My oldest brother, he was in World War Number One; he's living in Florida now. There's not but one in our precinct, a World War I veteran from November 11, Armistice Day. I checked everywhere, and I knew this man Partin from up here near Mann's Chapel. As far as I know he's the only living World War Number One veteran in Baldwin township. There's some in Center township. I remember when he came home. I remember I was plowing on November 11; I was sowing wheat on November 11, 1918. And I

Page 8
large to my age. He says, "Hello, John Atwater. What in the world are you doing over here this time of night?" I said, "I want some marriage licenses." He says, "Who do you want them for?" I said, "I want them for John Snipes." "Do you know him?" I says, "Yes, I do." He said, "Do you know who he's marrying?" I said, "Yes, I do."
BRENT GLASS:
Well, you told the man that you were John Atwater?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, I see.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
[Laughter] I was buying them for John Snipes. And so he issued the licenses. I carried them back home. And our old two-storey house, the weatherboarding, of course, runs from the top to the bottom. And between those studdings I laid it up on the sill. Never will forget it, laid it up on the plate, hid them about four or five days before Sunday. This was about the first of the week. Well, I went to look for them about Saturday, Friday or Saturday, and they weren't there. And I figured that this old studding run straight up from the plate to the bottom and they fell all the way down to the sill, fell down there I reckon sixteen or eighteen feet. Well, I had to ease off a piece of weatherboarding, and I found them. That Sunday I went in horse and buggy to church, and my wife walked through the path to church. When she came out of the Sunday school she crawled in the buggy, and we lit out there in the road with that horse and buggy and come right along down yonder. The magistrate lived out yonder, A. T. Ward, We asked his wife where the magistrate was. She said he was down here Sunday evening, sitting down here on the porch with a bunch of men talking. Well, I drove on down there in the buggy, me and her. I had the horse in a

Page 9
lather. He got in the foot of the buggy, and we carried him back up to his house. And he got the Bible and he married us.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he know what you had come for?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. [Laughter] He had to marry us. We had the license. And we were related. Cousin "Don" Ward was a justice of the peace, I believe most of them called them then.
BRENT GLASS:
So what happened? You went home?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No, we didn't go home. We lit out and went up to a friend, Jack Norwood's and Nettie Norwood. They lived up there and they were friends of ours. And we spent the night there.
BRENT GLASS:
How do you spell that last name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
N-o-r-w-o-o-d, Norwood.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, right.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, so next morning we got up, and we thought we'd go by my wife's Daddy's, her foster father's. And he was out and about plowing, and he was whistling. He looked up and seen us, and it done got out over the neighborhood telephone. He done got the word. He didn't even quit a'whistling; didn't come to the house or nothing. I think that her mother said, "Well, now you've played it. You've made a mess now," or something. That was about all that was said. But he was whistling, and it didn't have a bit of tune in the world to it. If it'd been "Old Black Joe" you wouldn't have known what it was. But he was a'plowing [Laughter] and a'whistling right there near the house.
BRENT GLASS:
Now this is her stepmother who said this?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes. Well, it was her foster mother that raised her, yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
What did your folks say?

Page 10
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, we come on home, and [Laughter] my wife said all night what my mother said to her. I forgot what it was now. But they sort of got reconciled to it. And we had a tenant house (my Daddy did) over there, and we together had thirty dollars. [Laughter] So we got up some little household furniture and moved over there in a little new tenant house. Next morning I broke me a garden, broke me up a good garden. And we planted about four or five acres of cotton. That was in 1919. We had a cotton crop in 1919. Used to plant about the middle of April or the first of May or somewhere along there, plant cotton. So I got my cotton in.
BRENT GLASS:
Now you didn't have a tractor or anything?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, nothing but a mule. My Daddy had five mules. So he let us take one of the old mules, and we kept him. We planted our cotton.
BRENT GLASS:
What else did you plant?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I planted a little corn, raised us a pig for a little piece of meat. When it come a rainy day she and I would go over in the woods, and it took four oak trees to make eight crossties, about two lengths eight and a half foot crosstie. About seventeen feet would be about all the running feet we could get out of it. Well, me and her would saw them down with a crosscut saw. And then she'd go back to the house and clean up the house and cook dinner, and I'd jump on them and hew them. Then when I went to dinner she'd come back with me, and we had to saw them off then with the crosscut saw and skin them. And I'd take them eight crossties the next morning on a wagon and carry them to Carrboro. They'd bring about seventy-five cents apiece, something like five or six dollars

Page 11
for the crossties.
BRENT GLASS:
For the eight of them?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
That would be a day's work.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That would buy enough flour and meat and sugar and coffee; maybe get ten pounds of sugar and two or three pounds of coffee and maybe a forty-eight pound sack of flour. Well, maybe it wouldn't rain so I couldn't work no more then two or three weeks or maybe a month. But when it come another rain I'd do the same thing. And that's what we lived on that summer.
BRENT GLASS:
That was the only cash you got?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That was the only money we had.
BRENT GLASS:
So how large an area did you actually work farming? Now you had some timberland that you could cut down.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes, we had some big fields all around the house, different fields of maybe, oh across the branch there there'd be five or six acres, and maybe over yonder three or four acres.
BRENT GLASS:
So you couldn't hire anybody to help you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh no sir. I wouldn't have had nothing to pay him with.
BRENT GLASS:
So you and your wife had to work the whole farm yourself? What did she do on the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She went to the field with me. She chopped cotton, and then laid by the cotton. She helped me pick cotton. Then I loaded it up and carried it to the gin. And I think the first bale of cotton, a five hundred pound bale of cotton, as I remember…. Cotton jumped up high right after the war. It was thirty or forty cents. We'd never heard tell of

Page 12
cotton being like that in our lives. Well, a five hundred pound bale of cotton at forty cents'd bring you a couple of hundred dollars. Well, we thought we was rich.
BRENT GLASS:
How much cotton could you raise in a year? How many bales?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I had about four.
BRENT GLASS:
Four bales.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It'd be approximately, gross, about eight hundred dollars.
BRENT GLASS:
Where would you take it to be ginned?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We had old Alliance Cotton Gin up there near Mann's Chapel church. It was an old community gin. My grandfather run a store and a post office; and the post office was Kilgo (K-i-l-g-o)—which this younger generation don't know nothing about.
BRENT GLASS:
It would be baled there also?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
They had a bale?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They ginned it and baled it. And my grandfather had a man that helped him there run a blacksmith's shop. And he pulled teeth. Everybody in that neighborhood, if you had a toothache and had one that had to come out, you just went there. And he'd put his first in your forehead. And you could sweat all you wanted to if he ever got a hold to it. I've got the old pulling tins in yonder.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, you showed me the little… looked like a wrench or something.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
[Laughter] Didn't put a thing in the world on them but cold steel.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, you showed me that once before. Let me ask you a little bit

Page 13
more about the farm. You farmed for about ten years, you told me.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We moved down here on Thanksgiving Day in 1929.
BRENT GLASS:
Now how far was your farm from Bynum? Was that just on your old family home place, right?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It's up here at Polk's Landing. There's a thousand and four acres. The old Snipes place, where we turn off right up here and go up through the country it's about six miles, something like five or six miles.
BRENT GLASS:
So why did you finally give up farming?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The last year I raised four bales of cotton; and I carried a five hundred pound bale of cotton to Chapel Hill and it brought me twenty-five dollars: five cents a pound. The boll weevil hit. And I had four or five bales at four and five cents. And I told my wife, I said, "Never will I work on the farm and spend maybe seventy-five or a hundred dollars for fertilizer, and it'd take every bit of cotton I make to pay that fertilizer and not have a dime for the whole year for my work." So I quit.
BRENT GLASS:
So why would you bring your cotton to Chapel Hill?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Carrboro. When the old cotton mills was running there.
BRENT GLASS:
They would buy it.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They used it there, yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Now how many years did it go like that? Was it just that year, or had it been getting worse and worse each year?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, see, that 1929 in the fall of 1929 was the beginning of the Depression. Everything just went all to pieces. You take now right after 1918, along about then people were wearing seventeen and

Page 14
eighteen dollar silk shirts. I remember that same shirt you could have bought it for seventy-five cents in 1929.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, during the twenties did you live pretty well?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, we thought we did. [Laughter] We didn't have nothing, but we were happy.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever move out of that tenant house?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. My father moved down here then in 1921 out of the big house, and she and I moved in the big house. There were two or three tenants, four or five. We had some colored tenants and some white tenants. There were four or five families on the place. And I sort of kept the old place together there for ten years, about eight or nine years after my father moved on to Bynum.
BRENT GLASS:
Why did he move to Bynum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, he had all them other children that needed to be in school. And at that time they were consolidating the school. When they was consolidating the school they built this big schoolhouse out here that took care of an area of twenty-five miles, eighteen or twenty miles, I'd say, around Bynum. They had some old Model T buses, and they was busing them in here. He moved right yonder in that two-storey house there in front of the post office. He lived there 'til he died in 1954. My father and mother were born the same year.
BRENT GLASS:
Where did you bring your corn when you raised your corn?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We'd carry it to the mill and grind it.
BRENT GLASS:
Which mill would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
About the only grist mill at that time was one here at Bynum that made corn meal. And we'd bring wheat; we'd plant a little wheat and

Page 15
bring a bushel or two a week and get flour. We'd never heard tell of self-rising flour then.
BRENT GLASS:
So during this time, during the twenties, you wouldn't consider yourself prosperous but you weren't poor. You weren't starving.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That's right. Well, I hustled all the time. When I got through laying by there'd be about a month or two before you started to gather it. I'd get out and cut crossties. I worked public work here and yonder. I worked some on right-of-way to highway, to help cut a right-of-way. I worked some at the sawmill. Seventy-five cents a day, a dollar a day. It was mighty slow, but six days were six dollars. We kept going.
BRENT GLASS:
You said you had tenants.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
About how many during that time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, at one time there was about three on the place, I believe after my father moved down here. There was about three left, and then one of them moved off. It got down to two, and then it got down to one.
BRENT GLASS:
They would farm some of your land and you'd take a percentage of their crops? Is that how it worked?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. A third and fourth: a third of the grain, I believe, and a fourth of the…. Sometimes we furnished mules; they plowed with our mules. But sometimes they owned their own mules. It would depend on which a'way. Then we'd have to stand for the fertilizer and buy the fertilizer, and sort of look after them.
BRENT GLASS:
In order to get your money for fertilizer and seed and things like

Page 16
that would you have to borrow money?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, Atwater and Lambeth here had a big company store. After we got our land broke in the spring (in other words, we had started a crop) we could come down here and say, "Now Mr. Atwater, we want a ton of fertilizer 'til middle of November 'til we sell some cotton." We could buy it on credit. They furnished everybody for fertilizer, almost, around here.
BRENT GLASS:
What if you had a bad crop one year and couldn't pay? What would happen?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That's the reason that Atwater and Lambeth went broke. [Laughter] They had thousands of little old mortgages. And when it did flunk, maybe if a man splurged a little and had a big farm and bought $300 worth of fertilizer, well that's still on the books now and ain't never been paid. They had a mortgage on an old cow, maybe, a mortgage on two mules. And the old mule's dead and the cow's dead. Atwater and Lambeth was a big corporation at one time. They owned the cotton mill and the grist mill.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they own the cotton mill too?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I mean the cotton gin, the J. Modell cotton gin. They ginned cotton and made corn meal and flour and all like that. Well, Mr. J. B. Atwater of the firm of Atwater and Lambeth, at one time he kept the whole time for the cotton mill on top of that. He kept the labor time.
BRENT GLASS:
What do you mean, kept their labor time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, say there was a hundred people working in the mill that worked twelve hours a day, they'd come in and put in their time. [interruption]
BRENT GLASS:
Well, we were just talking about the farm you had and your reasons for quitting the farm. Were you sure of getting a job in Bynum?

Page 17
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. I didn't even have a prospect. It was Thankagiving Day, 1929. And that old big house right over yonder, you can see the front porch post up and down right behind them trees. He had two rooms upstairs vacant.
BRENT GLASS:
Whose house was that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Mr. Walt Hatley. And I rented those rooms for five dollars a month. We put in our application down at the mill, and I think they put me to work the next night.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you have any children with you at that time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I had one daughter, Vivian. I think they started me off at twelve and a half cents an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
What were you doing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I was sweeping, twelve hours a day. We worked fifty-five hours. We worked 'til Saturday at twelve o'clock. Fifty-six hours, I believe it was. Well, I don't know whether it was fifty-five or six. Let's see… sixty-five hours. Well, then about the middle of the week they put my wife to work in learning to wind. She got about twelve cents an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they pay you every week?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They'd pay off every two weeks. And what we would do, if we had in sixty hours at twelve cents an hour, when Saturday dinner come we wouldn't have no money. We'd pawn our time to Mr. Durham, the merchant down here. We'd pawn our time to him. We said, "Now we'll pay you for both weeks next week," if we got five or six dollars worth of groceries. In other words, we'd give him an order on our time, an order on our check. Then when the two weeks was out…. It was rough; I'm telling you, it

Page 18
was rough. But we ate, three meals a day.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he charge you interest for that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. He started with nothing, and he got to be wealthy fast.
BRENT GLASS:
So which Durham would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Mr. C. E. Durham, the one that's had the stroke. Mr. Frank Durham was Warren Durham's father.
BRENT GLASS:
His brother, you mean.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Frank's his brother and Warren's his son, old Mr. son. Yes sir. Well, then later on when the World War Number Two, it started, well after Roosevelt come in and N.R.A. Let's see, that was in thirty….
BRENT GLASS:
That was in the early thirties.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We thought, well they was going to let us make eight hours and pay us thirty cents an hour. Well I just thought, "What in the world would we do from three o'clock 'til evening?" Go to work maybe at seven o'clock and get out at three, and eight hours. And I'd think, "Well, then we've got from then 'til night and going to get $2.40." I didn't see what in the world…. I thought I could save that money. I didn't have no idea what we'd do with all that much money. It just weren't conceivable, hardly. Well, then things begin to move up to take good care of that $2.40, [Laughter] and we didn't have no more then than we did when we was getting twelve or fifteen cents an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
What hours would you work when you first started over there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They put me on nighttime.
BRENT GLASS:
You'd get there at what time?

Page 19
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Go to work at six o'clock every evening, come off at six the next morning. Take some time off, for thirty minutes sometimes. Sometimes we'd work straight on through.
BRENT GLASS:
And would you eat a sandwich or something?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Carry a potato and a sandwich, a biscuit with a piece of meat in it or something. And that was it. And we'd make it all right. I don't know [Laughter] how in the world we did it.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, what other kinds of jobs did you have there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, I worked on there from 1929 'til '46.
BRENT GLASS:
Were you a sweeper all that time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. I run the lapper room. I got to head of the lapper room. And I run both sections, was responsible for both sections. And I got on daytime; later on I got on daytime. And I weren't getting nowhere, and I got to messing with timber in 1946.
BRENT GLASS:
Before we get onto that, I just want to ask you one thing about how you got from sweeper to the supervisor of the lapper room. What jobs did you have inbetween?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, I run the opener. That's where they open the cotton. We had a little cement walk from the warehouse to the opener room, and we would open about twelve bales of cotton. And I'd have to take the hoop off of it and take the bagging off of it, and feed it in the hopper. And then they had the finisher. And then I ran them openers three or four years, and then I got to operating the finisher, where they finish the lap before it goes to the card. I stayed on them lappers for, I don't know, several years on daytime. I got on daytime. Then my wife still stayed on nighttime. And that made it pretty well, 'cause one of us was there

Page 20
when my daughter went to school out here in this old schoolhouse (not the one that burned up, but the other one).
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever have any other children besides that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We had a baby born, Jewel. She was born when we lived up at the old place. She was born and lived about three weeks. She wasn't healthy; I mean, she was sickly, and she died. And Vivian was born in 1923, December 21 (I believe), 1923. One reason we moved to Bynum: they had started these old Model T buses, and we were almost a mile from the public road back in the woods. My wife would have to go with her to the bus every morning. And she'd leave home a'crying; and then she'd have to go over there and stand on the side of the road 'til the bus come that evening, and march her back through the woods. We just couldn't put up with that, it looked like. So we moved here where she could walk to school.
BRENT GLASS:
How did you feel about working down there at the cotton mill?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I didn't like ne'er a day of it. I had too much ambition; I had too much ambition to work for somebody else. But the N.R.A., that's when we went on the forty cents an hour, or thirty cents an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
Did the mill stay open during the whole Depression?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, it got down into… Me and a Mr. Suet had to split five days. He'd work three days one week and I'd work two, and then the next week I'd work three and he'd work two. And he finally got mad about something; he quit and I got the whole five days. Then when it went on that there getting off at three o'clock I went to buying cedar. I'd sharpen my axe at night, and when the lights blinked for three o'clock I'd light out down here. There was a fellow that had about

Page 21
a hundred and fifty acres of cedar down here. And I bought the cedar. And I cut cedar posts and towed them out there. I could go down there and cut maybe forty or fifty, and I got eight cents apiece for them. And I'd pile them out here, and a truck'd come by and buy them off me. I'd pile up two or three hundred; then I'd sell them to him. And I paid the man that I got the cedar posts from two cents, and I sold them for eight. I could cut a gang of them from then 'till dark, and then walk about a mile. I'd come on in about dark and bring back some with me. Then I got to messing with timber, and I got pretty good on estimating timber. I got to buying timber. I bought some of the biggest tracts all over North Carolina that anybody's…. I'm the oldest old timber buyer. I've bought from Murphy to Manteo: two or three thousand acres down yonder in Carley Swamp, and I bought eighteen hundred acres ajoining Polk Air Base on Little River at Fayetteville. And I bought a 32,000,000 feet tract over yonder in Halifax County.
BRENT GLASS:
Thirty-two… ?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Million: the biggest tract that's ever been sold. I helped Mr. Hancock. I was working with Hancock Lumber Company estimating timber then.
BRENT GLASS:
Well thirty-two million what?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Feet. And Mr. Hancock went there, and that was in World War Number Two. He went there and run a plane mill day and night, and when he left there they pulled him for between $500,000 and $600,000 of income tax. That's been a long time ago; it was in the forties. But anyhow, then I started buying timber. I bought some of the biggest tracts that's ever been sold in North Carolina, I reckon. Then in 1946 I told my wife (living

Page 22
right there in that company house), I said, "This is my last day at that mill. I ain't going to get nowhere."
BRENT GLASS:
Now all this time you were doing this in your spare time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
You were still working at the mill?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Saturdays and after three o'clock. Me and Mr. Bryant, he lived right there. That extra outside work, I picked up four or five hundred dollars. And I told Bill one day, I said, "Let's go into saw-milling." I said, "The Moore boys up here have got some mills, two or three sawmills. So let's rent one of them, and me and you take that mill." And we'd buy the horses. We bought a pair of mules, a black mule and we bought a snaking horse.
BRENT GLASS:
Was he a cotton mill worker also?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, he was a carpenter. But carpentry, it got dull. So we started in 1946. Mr. Moore bought an $800. International motor unit for power for the sawmill. No, he bought an $800. Moffit mill and about a $1,000. International engine to pull it with. And we started to buying our timber, and sawing it and hauling it to Pittsboro and giving him half of what we made just for the use. We paid him for four years. I reckon on this $800. Moffit mill and $1,100. International motor (approximately $2,000) we paid him back $30,000. interest on it. We'd give him half of what we made for four years. And we got up there to where maybe we'd have $700 or $800. profit on Friday. If we had $800. me and Bill'd take $400. and give Bland $400. Me and Bill had to split ours. Then the Moore boys put in a planing mill up there, and they had eight mills. And they put me to buying for all the mills. I bought timber for

Page 23
every one of them. I got started at that. And then I started long about 1955 buying for an old millionaire in New Canaan, Connecticut. He furnished the money. He'd send me the money: a fellow Northrup Dawson. He lived in New Canaan, Connecticut in the summertime, and he had a big Del Ray beach, Florida home. And he had had a seat on the Stock Exchange, and he sold that, Mr. Northrup Dawson, for I forgot how many million. Well, I called him and I told him that J. B. Jolston Lumber Company'd gone into the hands of receivers. And they had about fifteen or twenty tracts of land.
BRENT GLASS:
J. B. who was this?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
J. B. Jolston Lumber Company at Carrboro.
BRENT GLASS:
How do you spell that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
J-o-l-s-t-o-n. They had about eighteen or twenty tracts of land where Mr. Jolston had bought land, timber and all. He had some mighty poor sawmill men. They'd cut it and mess it up, cut half of it and it'd get wet in there and they'd move out, and they'd tell him all of it was cut. Well, the Sanford Bank was going to close out on J. B. Jolston for $29,000, I believe it was. I called Mr. Dawson in Connecticut and told him that I wanted it. I said, "I'll handle it for you." He said, "What do you want me to do?" I said, "Wire lawyer Jim Phipps at Chapel Hill a $5,000. binder." And he said it'd be on its way in an hour's time. Well, I took all that land then. Right out there where Bill Dixon is at Chapel Hill, ajoining the University, there was 218 acres. Well, the bank had all these eighteen or twenty acres, about twenty tracts of land appraised and itemized. Well, I looked at the itemized sheet and I saw that two hundred and something acres ajoining (250 acres, I believe it was)

Page 24
the University, they had it appraised at $18,000.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
BRENT GLASS:
You were saying about Cary Lumber Company?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Over yonder on the Durham-Raleigh highway I got land every-where: all over Durham County, Lee County, Chatham County and all up in yonder around where Chestnut Ridge Church is. There's five or six big tracts in there. I told Mr. Dawson, I said, "I'm going to start selling them off." We didn't take no capital gain on them. Well, I sold them off there, I sold off enough that he had his principal back and had $60,000 profit. Well, he was paying me this chicken feed all along out of what I'd sell. And he called me one night and he said, "John!" He said, "How much more land have we got?" I said, "You've got four more tracts." He said, "Well, if you'll sell them three tracts for $30,000 (that was the principal to start with) I'll set you up." No. "If you'll sell them four tracts for $30,000 I'll be all right." I said, "I'll do you right." I went and sold three of them for $30,000, and I had a hundred acres left up yonder where New Hope Camp is and Chestnut Ridge Church, way up yonder between here and Efland. And he deeded me that 96 acres as a commission. That 250 acre tract right here where Bill Dixon got a riding thing here in Chapel Hill….
BRENT GLASS:
Where is this now? What does he have out there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
You go down there and turn down by…. Go right opposite the DuBow's and turn this a'way.
BRENT GLASS:
Turn right?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That's right. Out there I think they have a riding ring out there. Well, I believe that 250 acres of land five years ago was selling

Page 25
for about five or six thousand dollars an acre. [Laughter] It'd have brought a million dollars if he had kept it.
BRENT GLASS:
But you sold it?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I sold it. I sold that 250 acres for $18,000.
BRENT GLASS:
What about the 96 acres he gave you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, he gave me that. And I put the deed in the trunk. One day I was sitting here and a friend of mine from Pittsboro come over and said, "My father-in-law has got a lot of money to invest; he sold a lot of stock at three or four times what he give for it, and he wants to put it in land." He said, "Have you got any land?" I said, "No, I ain't got but about 100 acres." I said, "I thought I'd give that to my grandboy." We cut the timber off of it, and my wife asked me, "What's that land worth since you cut the timber off it?" I said, "Oh, I reckon it would bring a thousand or twelve hundred dollars; it was worth ten or twelve dollars an acre." He said, "Well, my daddy-in-law is getting into something he don't know a thing in the world about." He said, "Let's go look at that hundred acres." I said, "All right." I said, "What can you sell it for?" He said, "I can sell it (he don't know nothing about land) to him for $3500." I said, "Well, if you can I'll give you $500. Just get me $3,000. and you can have what you get over it." Well, he sold that. And then a man come running to me one Saturday morning—no, one Friday evening late. Right out on the Jones Ferry Road there was sixty acres out there. He said, "That man wants to sell that." I said, "What does he want for it?" He said, "He wants $6,000." And I run up there with him to look at it. I said, "Well, what do you want out of it?" He said, "I want $200." I said, "Well, I'll take it. I'll pay for it in the morning." My son-in-law

Page 26
and my daughter had a '56 white Ford. I didn't have no car or nothing but my truck. I run down and borrowed the thing. And on Saturday morning I went flying to Pittsboro. I went in there to the Lumber Company ('cause all of them trusted me, I'm glad and thankful). I said, "Mr. Steadman, I want $6,000. this morning." It was $6,000. for this piece of land. I said, "I want $6,000. and I'll bring you the timber." He says, "All right." He got it up. I said, "I want it in cash." And I went flying back out there on the streets. My wife hollered at me before I left to bring her some hair spray or something from the drug store (which she ought not have bothered me with). I throwed that $6,000. in the glove compartment and run in the drug store. And when I come back there was a man getting in there putting the key in the switch. I run up there. There was two white '56 Fords sitting as close together as from here to that yonder, and I had put my $6,000. in his glove compartment and he was fixing to crank up. I run down there and said, "Hey, mister, wait one minute." I opened the door and run my hand in there and pulled that money out, and his eyes got that big. [Laughter] I said, "Mister, yonder sits my car. I put my money in your glove compartment." So I went up there and paid that man for it. I out about $7,000. worth of timber off of it.
BRENT GLASS:
Now how were you cutting this time? You had a tractor?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I got Mr. Bryant. I had quit and Mr. Bryant was running the mill. I was just messing with land and timber. He cut me about $7,000. worth of timber off of it. Then I come and I built that little old store. One night I was sitting there after I sold that (that was in 1953)….
BRENT GLASS:
But who would do the cutting for you? You'd hire somebody to do it?

Page 27
JOHN W. SNIPES:
A man'd cut it by the thousand. Yes sir, he'd cut it for thirty dollars the thousand. I had that much drag left; I mean, I had enough to pay for my stumpage. Well, I had the deed to that sixty acres of land. My wife says, "What're you going to do with that old land out there on the Jones Ferry Road?" I said, "I'm going to give it, the land, to the grandboys." I was sitting there one night; it was raining. And you know the little girl, I reckon, Wilbur Partin's wife.
BRENT GLASS:
Vinnie, Vinnie Partin.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes. Well, I was sitting there, and I'd never seen the little girl. She come running in there and said, "Mr. Snipes, don't you own that sixty acres out there across from my father-in-law?" I says, "I don't know. I've got sixty acres out on the Jones Ferry Road." But my wife had asked me, had said, "What are you going to ask for it?" I said, "I'm going to ask a thousand dollars." She had a pocketbook about that long sitting right in yonder; it was drizzling and raining. Her husband wasn't saying a thing. She was a business little woman. And she said, "I want that piece of land. What will you take for it?" I said, "I don't care nothing about selling it. I'm going to give it to my grandboys." I said, "Just what would you give me for it?" She said, "I'll give you $2,500. I'll give you $2,500." Well, it just scared me so, I said, "Well, how about $3,000?" She said, "I'll split the difference with you," and started peeling off hundred dollars bills. She said, "I'll give you five hundred dollars now, and you fix the deed tomorrow." Well, I almost had to take her up. I let her give me $2,750. She told me in less than eighteen months got offered $60,000. for it [Laughter] , a thousand dollars an acre. And she built a great big home out there.

Page 28
And that land now is two and three and four thousand dollars an acre. I didn't have a dime in it.
BRENT GLASS:
Now she bought the sixty acres for $2,750?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
$2,750. [Laughter] Well, that was profit to me.
BRENT GLASS:
Sure.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I done got a thousand dollars out of it.
BRENT GLASS:
She lives down there now, doesn't she?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She lives down there as far as I know.
BRENT GLASS:
I think her family lives down there. I think she's back in Carrboro now. She's an older woman, right?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I think that she married this Wilbur Partin; I think Wilbur probably was in the Army when he married her or something like that. She's from overseas, but I don't know where: Belgium, Ireland, I don't know.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, she is?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, she's from overseas.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, I'm thinking of a different person then.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She's a ball of fire.
BRENT GLASS:
Her last name is Partin?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Wilbur Partin's wife. And they live out on the Jones Ferry Road, four or five miles out there. It's oak woods there, and the prettiest lots. The doctors and all built all around it there, and Mr. Ferguson lives right across the road from her.
BRENT GLASS:
I'd like to know if we could go back to Bynum for a minute, and to the Jay and Muldell Company. When you'd go there, did you have to punch a clock?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir.

Page 29
BRENT GLASS:
Were there any rules?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. Well, you were supposed to be there when the lights blinked. At six o'clock you were supposed to be on the job. And we were so afraid we'd lose our job I'd be there an hour sitting there and it dark, sitting there 'til it was time to start, or a half an hour.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, would they fire you if you were late?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
If you stubbed your toe they'd fire you. They'd fire them here for not putting out the lights late at night, at one time in the history of Bynum. Old Mr. Bynum used to go around over the hill at nine o'clock and see who was up. And if you was up he'd knock on the door and tell you to cut the lights out and get into bed.
BRENT GLASS:
This is the man who first started the mill?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That's right. Well, it was almost as strict when I first come here.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, what kind of rules were there? Do you remember any of them? Could you smoke on the job?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Not in and around the office. Jobs where you'd start up all your machine and get them to running and maybe they'd run thirty or forty minutes (your doffers), well they'd step out in the road out there and smoke. But you didn't smoke in the mill because it was too inflammable.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. What other kind of rules might they have?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That Depression, the people marching every day wanting jobs. Of course the cotton mill was two storey. You'd start up your machine. If it was running all right you could go to the window and lean out and get fresh air out of that dust—because, you see, so many cotton mill people die of brown lung, they call it.

Page 30
BRENT GLASS:
Did many of them get that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir. We was talking about two men died. I set here and seen them go across there coughing every breath. From here you could hear them 'til they got to the post office, coming along a path going out there for groceries or something, coughing every breath. But totally during the Depression just droves come in from Ramseur and Saxapahaw and Burlington; all of them come hunting jobs. Well, they ain't got no jobs. They said a fellow went down to the office, and as he was going on down the walk there the fellow leaning out the window fell out and killed him there on the sidewalk. But this other fellow going on down the road, he'd been down there and asked for a job. He said, "No, we ain't got no job for you, not unless somebody dies." He turned around and was leaving; he started on back and this fellow fell out of the window and got killed. So he was running back down to the office and said, "How about that man just fell out of the window and got killed? Can I have his job?" He said, "No." He said, "The man pushed him out gets his." [Laughter] They told that as a joke. But it was rough, I'm telling you right.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you know anybody who would get dismissed?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, they fired them for nothing. Just get mad with them and fire them.
BRENT GLASS:
Was there a curfew in town where you had to be in by a certain time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Not after I started working. But there had been, there had a curfew. They had some restrictions. Some of them would send us to church every Sunday. And if they'd get drunk and get in a fight or something down there, the superintendent would say maybe, "Well, you can come back on your

Page 31
job, but you're going to have to straighten up there a little. You're going to have to be at church Sunday morning. I'm expecting you there for four Sundays or five Sundays." Now them restrictions was put on lots of times.
BRENT GLASS:
How about you? Did they ever…?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. I never did. They threatened to fire me one time. I had never seen no homebrew. They'd take and get a can of yeast and five pounds of sugar, and take an old crock or five gallon jug down in the woods. They'd put that yeast and sugar in there and fill it up with water and let it work off. And it was strong! I never seen none. And then they'd have reed quills, the boys'd go down there and suck it. You couldn't tell how much you were drinking. And when you first started to drinking it, it weren't no more than a Coca-Cola or sweet apple cider. Well, I followed them off down there in the woods. Never been raised up there in the sticks, and I didn't drink. Still don't drink, and I ain't never drank. But I got to sucking on that thing with them, and first thing I know the world started turning around. And somebody run (I reckon they thought they'd get my job) and told the superintendent that I was down the river drunk. He called me to the office next morning and asked me about it. I said, "Well, yes sir. I drank some stuff that I had never seen." I said, "I didn't know that stuff was like that. I got sick; the world started turning around, and I laid down and went to sleep down there. The mill was standing part of the time and [unknown]." He said, "Well, I'm going to have to fire you." I come on home. That night he sent for me, and he said, "Come on back on in the morning." I went on back to work, and never lost another day from it. But I got drunk.
BRENT GLASS:
He tried to scare you, huh?

Page 32
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes. I reckon I got drunk. I didn't know what was going on. The world was going around and around. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Let me just ask you a couple of more questions. Did you live up in a mill house up there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. I never lived in ne'er a one but this one, except Mr. Hatley's.
BRENT GLASS:
So you rented that from him?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And then I bought 80 feet by 180 feet from Bill2 from that house there, and paid him cash for it. I kept saving a little money, me and my wife. Then I decided I didn't want this lot. And I sold it to Andy Dawson yonder. He got a pinch into something and he started to building this house, and he got to where he couldn't finish it. I believe that I had let him have some money and sold him my lot, and he owed me fourteen hundred dollars. Then he let me take the house. I bought it and finished it.
BRENT GLASS:
When would that be? Around what time?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Lord have mercy.
BRENT GLASS:
Before the war?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
About 1949. And then there was an old store sitting where that brick home is. I bought from down yonder the road up to this telephone post and that old store for $1,000.
BRENT GLASS:
Well now, on the village people didn't own their homes, did they?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Now what would they be rented for?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Fifty cents a room a week: a three-room house a dollar and a half a week. I believe they've gone up to seventy-five cents now.

Page 33
BRENT GLASS:
Was there indoor plumbing in those houses?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
[Laughter] No sir. No water, plumbing or nothing.
BRENT GLASS:
Where would they get their water from?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, I've known for years and years they toted it from a well right there. But since they built this new water plant about twenty-five or thirty years ago they got a spigot up and down the street. Then if you wanted to pick it up at the street and run you a pipe in the house, some of them done it on their own. But they run it up the hill; I think there are seven or eight spigots up and down the hill.
BRENT GLASS:
Where would this other well be? The first one?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The first well was right there in the mill yard down there. I believe they stopped that up. Now this is filtered water now. That at that time was an old well; there weren't no filtered water. Then there was a big well right yonder right in front of where that pick-up is right over. I think they've got a plank laying over it there—I mean, they've got a cement cap over it. But I've toted water from there and toted water from that house up there from that well, and all around here. They furnished plenty of water for us. Of course they didn't use no big site of water.
BRENT GLASS:
What about trash? Where would people dump their trash?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They didn't have none; weren't no garbage in the Depression. I never seen a garbage can on the hill 'til money got plentiful [Laughter] a few years ago. Never seen what a garbage can was.
BRENT GLASS:
They never threw out any garbage?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, they didn't have no garbage. Now, boy, Howard, John and Charlie, I expect they're pulling down doubling $2,000 a month

Page 34
hauling garbage: a thousand or twelve hundred apiece hauling garbage.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, how about streets? What were the streets like in the village there? Were they paved streets?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. I don't know when from around the church, around there, when that was blacktop (maybe twenty years ago, maybe about '55 or somewhere along there). But up until then it was for twenty-five years just dirt.
BRENT GLASS:
Were the people who worked there mostly families?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Born and raised here, the majority of them. Now this floating crowd, the people that would get fired somewhere, would come here.
BRENT GLASS:
Were there many transient people?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, there were some a'going and coming all the time. Some wouldn't stay a week. Now you take, there was a boy about…. This mill now they're signing up for unemployment: letting them sign up to work two days, and sign up for unemployment. There was a man worked here about two or three years ago, moved and left here and had a full-time job. He came back here two weeks ago and got himself a job here so he could draw unemployment. [Laughter] He left a full-time job and come back here and took two days a week in unemployment. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
What do you think about that?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I can't see that. I can't see that, can you?
BRENT GLASS:
[Laughter] No. Well, the families who worked there, did everyone pretty much know one another at the mill?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, when we first come here many or all of them were kinpeople: the Abernathies, all the Abernathies and the Durhams. There was three sets of Durhams at that time, and there was a gang of

Page 35
Abernathies: Connie Abernathy and John Abernathy and Will Abernathy and Henry Abernathy, all brothers. Their old father was the nightwatchman before them. And the Tillmans and the Durhams. There was Corrie Durham, his family, Ernie Durham and her family, Mr. Manley Durham and his family. They were just family connected: Atworth Abernathy, she was a Tillman. Abernathy over across the road yonder, they were all in the family, born and raised here.
BRENT GLASS:
How about the supervisors? Where were they from?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
They were all in the family, mighty near.
BRENT GLASS:
So people got along with the supervisors pretty well?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Well, they were scared not to.
BRENT GLASS:
Nobody ever threatened to quit if things didn't get better?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. They was afraid to. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
How about a union? Did they ever talk about organizing in some way?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
One of them there organizers come by and it was whispered around all over the mill that they was going to have a meeting to organize a union up at the schoolhouse.
BRENT GLASS:
When was this, about?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The old schoolhouse up here. I was working in the mill, and I went. I didn't sign nothing. Next morning I hadn't much more than got in the mill before Mr. Edgar come over, the superintendent, come in. "John, I heard you went to that union meeting last night." I said, "Yes sir, I did." He says, "Do you know if I wanted to I can fire you for not walking fast down that path. I don't have to have no excuse to fire you. I can fire you for not walking fast." I said, "I realize that, Mr. Moore. I'm

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aware of that, very much aware of it." I said, "You can fire me just because you don't like me, or anything you want to." I said, "But I didn't sign no paper and I didn't join no union." It scared them all to death, and a man never did come back. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Mr. Moore scared them all?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, was that true? Could he fire you for just about anything?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Fire you for anything he wanted to.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did people think that maybe it would be good if they had the union?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I think that the majority of people at that time would have loved to have a union, because they didn't have…. If you didn't trade at the right store—see, Mr. Moore's brother run that Robert Moore store over there—and if you went out of town and bought groceries, why if he didn't like it he could fire you. You'd soon know what to do, I'll tell you that. You better go there and get your groceries.
BRENT GLASS:
Hmm. So that was pretty strong control.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And old Mr. Manley Durham, these boys…. Say they paid off every two weeks. Well, when they got up to making twenty dollars a week, twenty-five dollars a week, they'd go to old Mr. Manley on Saturdays and say, "I'm going to draw two full weeks next week, fifty dollars, but I want to sell you my time." "Well, I'll give you forty dollars for your fifty dollar due bill." And you'd give him a due bill and he'd pay it off. When two or three or a hundred or so checks come over here, Mr. Durham'd just take it out, take your check out and cash it.
BRENT GLASS:
They would send the paychecks over to Durham?

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JOHN W. SNIPES:
Send them over to the office, and Mr. Durham would be responsible for the spinning room, Mr. Will Abernathy the card room, and the different departments, you know. Well, all the spinning room checks went in the hands of J. M. Durham. And if I had pawned my fifty dollar check to him for forty dollars cash, he took my check. He didn't give it to me; he put it in his pocket. Well, Mr. London's labor laws or something, that went on for years. He made thousands of dollars that route.
BRENT GLASS:
This is Durham or London?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Mr. Manley Durham, Mr. Carrie's father; he died here recently, ninety-two years old. Well, he bought the time. Where they didn't pay off for two weeks, he'd buy it every week at a discount (let's put it that way). That went on for years. Henry Carter down yonder, he's sold his and pawned his one a thousand times [Laughter] to Mr. Durham, and some of them old hands.
BRENT GLASS:
Is he still around, Mr. Carter?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, he still lives down there on the hill. He's the last one of the old ones, about, working in the mill.
BRENT GLASS:
When you were working in the mill did you ever feel like you were—you know, they always say the millhands, they called them "lintheads" and things like this—a second class citizen?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, felt all the time just like the scum of the earth. I was too independent.
BRENT GLASS:
Did people ever make fun of you or tease you?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, appeared that if you went off to play ball, see…. "Bynum cotton mill hands," they'd refer to it that way. It was a low-grade

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work, and I weren't happy with it none of the time. But I couldn't help myself. 'Til when I got so I could get away from here, then I got away from there; I got out of the mill.
BRENT GLASS:
But you stayed in Bynum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever think of leaving Bynum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir. I've been satisfied out of that mill. But I built that store. I owned that, and I owned that, and I owned that, and I owned this and I owned that 'til my wife broke her…. I got to making money sawmilling. I've made as high as five hundred dollars a week; I've made as high as a thousand dollars or ten thousand dollars a week.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you and your wife ever go on a vacation?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No sir, never had one; [Laughter] never had one in our lives.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever want to take one?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Not specially, no sir, not as I know of.
BRENT GLASS:
How about newspapers and things like that? Do you take the newspaper?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Take five or six.
BRENT GLASS:
You do? Do you like to read?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, I read about all the time. I've been taking the Durham Herald for thirty years, I reckon. Then I took the Durham Sun; then it quit. Then I take the Raleigh News and Observer; they just throw it out here on Sunday. Then the Raleigh Times quit; we don't have an evening paper. But I pick up one at Pittsboro or Sanford, the evening paper. I get the Sanford evening paper, and I get the News and Observer, and I get the Durham Morning Herald. I get every one I can get my hands on. I mean,

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I like to read.
BRENT GLASS:
I know that you want to watch your ballgame. I want to ask you one more question. Can you tell me pretty briefly what became of all your brothers and sisters, where they moved to and what they ended up doing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well Marvin, the oldest brother, he was a citrus inspector in Florida for the federal government for years. He left there, M. L., (stayed there about twenty years) and then he went to the Log Cabin Association in the mountains working for the government up there. There's a Log Cabin Association in the western part of the state; I believe it's owned by the old five-and-ten-cents Kresses or something that a'way.
BRENT GLASS:
So he came back to North Carolina?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. He came back up there at Silver and stayed there. He's got a retirement under Florida's state law; he's got a retirement under North Carolina state law. And my sister-in-law Willamena (Billy), she had twenty-five years with Florida teaching and twenty-five years with North Carolina teaching. Marvin was born in 1896.
BRENT GLASS:
That was Marvin and his sister-in-law?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Wife. Then my other sister, she's in Roxboro.
BRENT GLASS:
What's her name?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Betty. She was born in '88, and her husband died a few years ago. He was with the State Highway Commission in Person County. And Jessie, my third sister, she died with kidney trouble. I don't remember just exactly when Jessie died; 1944, I believe.
BRENT GLASS:
Where was she living?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
She was living here.

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BRENT GLASS:
Living in Bynum?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Then I'm the next child; I was born in 1901. J. B., county agent for Chatham County, he's retired. He's at Pittesboro. And then Grady died. Let's see, Brooks was born in 1904; Grady was born in 1906. He died in '68. Edna was born in 1909.
BRENT GLASS:
Well now, let's go back. What did Brooks do?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
He was county agent at Chatham County; he retired about five years ago.
BRENT GLASS:
What did Grady end up doing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Grady ended up, him and his wife, in Rockingham, Richmond County. He done a little of everything, nothing particular.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he work in mills down there?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
No. He done so many little things and nothing in particular outstanding about him. And Doc (Frank Snipes) he was born in 1913. He died in '54 with his kidneys.
BRENT GLASS:
Now Edna, you said, was a sister?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Edna, she was a schoolteacher. She died at Coates.
BRENT GLASS:
In North Carolina?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, down near below Fuquay.
BRENT GLASS:
And Frank, what did he do?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
He was with the A-C office; he was a chief clerk at the A-C office in Johnson County. He died in Smithfield in 1954.
BRENT GLASS:
What's the A-C office?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Agriculture. And Thomas (he's the baby, born in 1916), he's living here now. Lives yonder in my Daddy's old house.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he live in Bynum all his life?

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JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir, lived here all his life.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he work over here at the mill?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That's the only job he's ever had.
BRENT GLASS:
All right. One last question I just remembered. You mentioned the word "public work" before. Now what did you mean by that? You mentioned that you took some public work.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh, I done everything.
BRENT GLASS:
But what do you mean by "public work"?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
I'd go out and help a man at a sawmill a week when I weren't plowing the ground. I've butchered hogs; I've castrated pigs. In the spring, maybe, at one time everybody here had him two hogs/pigs down here in the woods, male pigs. And when the moon got right…. I didn't ever pay no attention to the moon, 'cause I planted my corn when I wanted to and I castrated my pigs when I wanted to. But one time in the spring they'd say, "Well, we want you to castrate our pigs Friday after you get off from work." And I'd go from house to house, I think about thirty-five castrations. And that old man living right over yonder—my father was old—-he said, "I don't trust these young people. I'm going to get your daddy to castrate mine, when the moon gets right." I told him, "All right." I never lost a pig; and that old man, one of them died. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
You had to wait 'til the moon was full? That's how your lard got… ?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. I bought cows and butchered them.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, the thing is, by "public work" you mean works not on the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. Anything to make a little money. I bought out old

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Allen's store out yonder at Mann's Chapel. The old man died and they had an auction sale over there. I helped conduct that auction sale. When they sold it all down to it was just all scrambled up, after they got through I asked the administrator, I said, "What'll you take for what's left?" He told me. I said, "I'll take it; I'll buy it, and I'll pay you for it." Then I had me an auction sale. [Laughter] I straightened it all up and put it out, some cases of old stuff, and I had me an auction sale after that. I'd go around through the country and see a fat cow, nobody wouldn't buy 'em. I'd say, "What'll you take for that old cow?" "Well, I'll take twenty-five dollars for it." And I looked at her, and she weighed a thousand pounds, maybe. "I'll take her." I'd take her home and put her up and feed her a few days, then kill her, cut her up and take it on the pick-up truck and bring the meat down here and haul it over to Bynum. There weren't no health laws then. I'd sell a man, I'd cut him off ten pounds of steak, round steak or stew beef or roast. Maybe doubled my money on the cow. Anything honorable I would try. Now if anybody was in bad shape, worse than I was, if I had two dollars and he didn't have him any he could have both of mine. Bill come to me one day out here and said, "I'm twelve hundred dollars in debt; ain't no way in the world…." He got behind in the sawmill after I done quit. I said, "Well, how much do you need?" He said, "I need twelve hundred dollars." I said, "Well, let me go on down to the bank." I'd go over there and pick up twenty-five hundred dollars; I'd need twelve. I went over there, and I come back and I give him the twelve hundred dollars. I said, "You can just have it to put you back on your feet again." He'd get behind again. He had that house there and I had this one back there,

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where he lives now (Bill lives back there now). Ken Cooper called me and told me he'd give me $3,300. for that house back there. I said, "Well, Bill wants it." And so Bill come out here and said, "I want that house." I said, "How much do you want to give for it, Bill?" He said, "I ain't got but $1,800. dollars." I said, "Well, Ken wants it at $3,300. But you've been a good friend to me; you can have it for $1,800. That's all right." But I sold it one time to a boy and his wife right there, and they'd pay so much a month for three or four years. And he stayed out there and made the payments for about a year to the bank. Then he come out here one day and said, "I'm going to leave." He said, "You want the house back, to buy it back? I'll just give it back to you." I said, "No, I'll pay you back every dime you ever paid for it, so you and your wife can get along." So I give him all his money back. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Well Mr. Snipes, I want to thank you very much.
END OF INTERVIEW
1. Bud Hearne was a Carolina baseball coach. His famous saying: "We will win some. We will lose some. Some will be rained out."
2. Bill Bryant.