Like many small southern towns, Marion was home to several textile mill villages beginning in the second decade of the 1900s. Labor unrest led to strikes and eventually to a bloody confrontation in East Marion in 1929. That violent episode has overshadowed much of the rest of McDowell County textile mill history, but the mill village also made for a strong community and life there was often pleasant, even idyllic.
Here, lifelong Clinchfield resident Mrs. Glenys Buckner Gilbert shares her fond memories of growing up in the village and relates how her father narrowly escaped the scene of the violent showdown at the gates of nearby Marion Manufacturing in October of 1929. (The 1929 strike is explored in detail in this post.)
Back in the 1930s, being sheriff of McDowell County meant that your entire family became part of the process. Betty Adkins Gibbs, daughter of Sheriff Oscar Adkins, remembers how living in the courthouse just steps away from the jail cells and the court room got everyone in the family involved in some way (willingly or not). In this clip, you’ll hear Betty urged on by her husband Pete, to whom she has been wed for over 60 years.
In the early days, everything at The Ramble Rack was do-it-yourself, even the ads.
Nowadays, outlet stores and discount centers are common features of any town’s retail landscape. But in the 1960s, the concept was still a novel one, especially in a small town like Marion.
In 1963, after years of dreams, delays, and being required to jump through hoops to get a bank loan, Ellen Brown and her sister-in-law opened The Ramble Rack. Soon, just about every mother within a 50-mile radius (and beyond) made the pilgrimage to Marion to shop for back-to-school outfits, Easter dresses, play clothes and grown-up clothes. Mrs Brown recalls her husband reminding her at one point, “You never know until you try.” She did try and was successful for 25 years.
Robert Hawkins has deep family roots in McDowell County and was a mailman from 1954 to 1990. He sat down in his rocker by the fireplace in his Marion home to tell us about his father’s eyewitness account of the 1894 fire that destroyed nearly all of downtown, his grandmother’s story of Union raiders passing through her family’s farm during the Civil War and his own remembrances of delivering the mail (and other things) for 36 years.