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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Roads offer residents routes out of Rowan County, hurting local business

Shuping describes the growth of Rowan County, including the advent of good roads, which he blames for the decline of the mill economy. After the arrival of roads, and cars to drive them on, town businesses usurped the role of Shuping's mill, which used to provide a variety of services.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Orlin P. Shuping, June 15, 1975. Interview H-0290. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BRENT GLASS:
They also brought cotton here, right? There'd be ginnedand baled.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Yes, and then hauled to the cotton mill, the ones were bought in this area.
BRENT GLASS:
Why didn't they take it straight over to the mill? Wouldn't they do it over there?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
No, they didn't do that. One or two of the mills did, but nmost of them didn't. We used to have ten or twelve, maybe fifteen gins, in this particular county. I think we've got maybe one or two, maybe two now. We got much more population and nobody raises cotton. So that makes a difference. Our part of the cuntry is right much industrialized, the help is. Farming is all done with tractors where it used to be horses and mules.
BRENT GLASS:
Have you seen the farmers go through some pretty hard times?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
I have, yes. Especially in 1913 right before World War I. They couldn't sell their cotton. Woodrow Wilson was president. They had a theme up for going around, "Buy a bale of cotton," that would help the cotton farmer. You couldn't ever sell the cotton; there was no market. As soon as France and Germany and England got into World War I, it made a market for it. Then 1917, April 6 or something like that, the United States declared war on Germany. Then everything moved along to 1921. We had another depression like we had a few months ago, or maybe worse. It lasted about a year. It was really bad.
BRENT GLASS:
How did your's or your father's business go? Did it fluctuate?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Oh, yes.
BRENT GLASS:
With how successful the farmers were doing?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Yes, and generally the nation. People buy more when they've got money. That was before the automobile ages. I used to make wagon belts. I run a little shop
BRENT GLASS:
Where was that?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
When I was a young fellow. That was just some of the things you did. I was just a young fellow and have us a little time and build a wagon bed for a farmer or quilt frames for the ladies. Anything to make money. Like these fellows in the city. They'll set a lot of didfferent things in order to make money.
BRENT GLASS:
Would you say that this was a pretty successful business, the milling business?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
It was until the good roads came. My father was awful strong for good roads. When we got good roads and automobiles the business quit.
BRENT GLASS:
Why was that?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
They was going into town to get some work done on a tooth and had to go to the bank or they had to go to the drugstore. There'd set a bag of wheat in the car and do it all in one trip and there was nothing here except the lumber and flour and corn meal.
BRENT GLASS:
You weren't selling drugs or other things.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
A man going into Rockville or China Grove or any little town could go to the blacksmith's shop, could go to the drugstore or he could go to the doctor's office, tooth dentist and maybe hardware. And it ruined it. The good roads and the automobiles running there, we never did do as good. We had a poor living all the years. Most of the mills were running or not running. Most of them been tore down and this one happened to be one that's standing. There's another one over here in the county. Probably you know about it. It's on thewest side of Salisbury. It's a brick building. It's like this.
BRENT GLASS:
Goodwin's?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
No, I don't think it's Goodwin's.
BRENT GLASS:
We can talk about that later.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
We lost one by fire years ago.
BRENT GLASS:
The good roads did in the cross-roads mill.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
They ruined it. The first place is that the decision was wrong. Their decision was to build the mill where the farmers was and the wheat. They should have built it near at a railroad siding and a little town. At that time, people went to the railroad to get on the train to go to the county seat or wherenot. They had something to go for besides wheat. It was the wrong place here and every other place. Of course, anybody realized it twenty years too late.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever think of moving it?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
It wouldn't be practical. No, it would be very expensive then. We tried to get electric power here in 1926 or '27 and they wanted three thousand dol-dallars to hook us up. Well, three thousand dollars then was a lot of money. It's fifteen or twenty thousand now. We didn't have that kind of money. We were still run on steam. But we bought wood. In other words, a man who owned a bag of flour, a bag of feed, would bring a little wood. We'd swap him flour or feed. Then we could burn the wood and ground some more flour and maybe sell it to someone.
BRENT GLASS:
How late was this?
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
We did that almost up till 1932 or '33, maybe later than that.
BRENT GLASS:
You did operate the saw mill until a few years ago.
ORLIN P. SHUPING:
Yes, but you see in 1934 we went into the sawmill which was much heavier than lumber and then we got fuel. We quit running the flour mill in1942. That way, the saw mill and planing mill furnished its own …