This semester I enrolled in a class called “Mapping: Visual and Textual Structure”. In our first residency we discussed the definition of a map as it may apply in it’s abstract form. In short, we identified unconventional objects that told a story, illustrating the journey from one place or time to another. I believe that this is what this blog post is all about a few traditional and un-traditional maps that help us glimpse at the life of a mill worker in the town of Minetto from the 1920s to 1940s.
Over the summer I’ve spent a lot of time researching about my wife’s great grandfather Harry Crouch. This led to a fascination with the Minetto-Shade Cloth Company / Columbia Mills (essay) and the town of Minetto. When I approached Jim and Anita Wheeler about the project, they were so gracious and supportive, as they have been with all of the information I’ve acquired regarding the Wheeler family history. In a total surprise Jim offered me Harry’s wallet and two small notebooks that he kept throughout the years. I mean, for someone like me, the day this envelope arrived in the mail was better than Christmas morning!
Below I have digitized the two notebooks and provided bits and pieces of contents found in Harry’s wallet. I’ve also included a 1923 map of the mill (most of which no longer exists) layered over a current image from Bing Maps to provide a visual perspective of what the town of Minetto resembled back in Harry’s day.
The Minetto Shade Cloth Company / Columbia Mills plant played a major role in the lives of many around the Minetto area and the Crouch family resembled this. Below are family members associated with the mill and specific instances where employment dates were noted.
|Family Member||Work History|
|Crouch, Rose Quigg||Unknown Job (1916)|
|Crouch, Delia M.||Shade Packer (1915)
25yrs Service (1943)
|Crouch, Harry W.||Bleacher (1910)
Roller Driller (1915)
25yrs Service (1943)
|Crouch, John H., Jr.||Laborer (1910)
Cloth Sizer (1915)
|Crouch, Lottie||Roller Maker (1905)|
|Crouch, Rhoda A.||Roller Maker (1905)
Roller Zipper (1915)
This first journal from Harry Crouch contains dates and information from 1917 to 1922. Although more of a ledger than a journal, it offers a really nice glimpse at life during this time. It appears as though Harry intentionally sectioned off spaces in the book for different items he wanted to track, such as wages, loans, gardening supplies, purchases, loans and alternative sources of income. I believe these figures paint a picture with numbers and provides me with a few more bits of information that lead to even more questions. Here are a few items I found interesting and, of course, his journal for your viewing.
Pg1 – I have a gap in residency from 1918 to 1920. Inside the cover of this journal is Harry’s name, the year 1918 and a Syracuse address. This may be the address he resided at, but I have nothing indicating why he would be staying in the Syracuse area: possibly for work?
Pg3 – In March/April of 1918 it appears that Harry was working with “Franklin Auto Company” in Syracuse. In May of 1918 he began work in Minetto.
There are several pages of wages from working at the mill, which culminates in an income summary. I think this information reflects the kind of wages that mill workers received, the inconsistency of days and hours worked, and how Harry began to progress within the company. I loved the expense records. I mean who among us knows how much we spent on our teeth four years ago? Harry could have told you in 1922. In fact, Harry could have told you in 1942! I also was interested in the alternative ways he raised monies and his accounting of who he’d lent monies.
The second journal dates from 1922-1923. Some of the text, originally written in pencil, has faded a little closer to the binding. This was another reason I wanted to digitize and preserve these documents.
Almost all of this book itemizes expenses. Some made me smile as they are directly related to stories I’m working on from Kathleen (Crouch) Wheeler, Harry’s only daughter. I hope to have these completed soon. Again the extra money references really interested me, especially the references to the fire department. I haven’t seen anything indicating that he was a fireman, or maybe he provided some other service for them? If he was a member of the fire department, I’d love to see if they have any pictures of him … a project for another day!