spartanburg map from 1902
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Company. “Spartanburg, 1902 September – Sheet 8”. New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., Ltd. From South Caroliniana Library.

This one-week workshop introduces participants to skills and sources needed to teach and explore community history using Beaumont Mill in Spartanburg, S.C. as a model. Participants will study the New South and industrialism; delve into the experiences of those who built, operated, and managed Beaumont Mill Village; and develop an Inquiry Design Model blueprint they can use to uncover untold stories in their own communities.

The University of South Carolina Upstate’s George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics (“The George”), located in downtown Spartanburg, serves as the workshop hub, but events will occur at Beaumont Mill Village, other textile landmarks in Spartanburg, and local educational sites.

A tentative schedule is described below.


The New South appears far newer when we measure change by paying close attention to concrete differences in people’s lives instead of contrasting the region with the North’s more fortunate history or the claims of Southern boosters. To say that much was new in the South is not to say that things were fine. It is to say that people throughout the social order, top to bottom, faced complicated decisions.

— Edward Ayers, The Promise of the New South

After checking in on Sunday afternoon, workshop participants will attend a welcome reception, during which participants can engage with members of Spartanburg’s textile industry, the workshop team, and each other. Following dinner, Historian Dr. David Carlton, author of Mill and Town in South Carolina, 1880–1920, will deliver a keynote address. Dr. Carlton will discuss his experiences growing up in a Spartanburg mill village and introduce historical themes that will be explored throughout the workshop.

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I think Southerners have such an intimate sense of place. We grew up in the fact that we live here with people about whom we know almost everything that can be known as a citizen of the same neighborhood or town. We learn significant things that way. We know what the place has made of these people, what they've made of the place through generations. We have a sense of continuity and that, I think, comes from place.

— Eudora Welty, 1984

Each morning, participants have the opportunity to gather at The George for coffee and light breakfast prior to formal programming.

The day begins with an overview of the week’s activities, including an introduction to the Inquiry Design Model (IDM) by Dr. Rebecca Mueller and a review of the history of Beaumont Mill Village by Dr. Paul Grady. Participants will then travel to Beaumont Mill Village, where they spend most of the day rotating through small group exercises that explore different facets of Beaumont Mill. Opportunities include an architectural walking tour of the mill village, interior tours of select homes, and a tour of the renovated Beaumont Mill with lead architect, Sara Robinson. Participants then travel to Drayton Mills for a late-afternoon performance by the Greenville Textile Heritage Band, followed by a discussion with the musicians.

Each evening, participants may choose to join workshop team members for dinner and/or local cultural events (e.g., Music on Main, Spartanburg ArtWalk).

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Meantime, while the employees have become thus helpless the employers have grown more powerful. Forbidding their employees to organize in labor unions, the manufacturers are themselves organized in State and National Associations. And as the employees keep poor the employer grows rich and become independent enough to run his mill regardless of a temporary shutdown.

— Alexander J. McKelway, 1913

The day begins with Dr. David Carlton’s presentation on the experiences of child laborers in Spartanburg textile mills, which includes an examination of Lewis Hine photos taken at Beaumont Mill. Ann Merryman will introduce digital resources utilized during the presentation, with opportunities for participants to explore ways they might incorporate the resources into their IDM. Dr. Wren Bareiss will then lead participants in a discussion of how oral histories can be used to investigate the complexity of employer/employee relationships in textile communities. After lunch, participants will travel to USC Upstate’s main campus to view the film, Uprising of ’34, followed by a discussion of the historical narratives presented in the film.

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…If the negro is given a fair trial in a small village, or in a country district where he is so situated in his home life that the operators can control, as they do in the case of the white laborer, the life of families, I believe that the negro will succeed in the cotton factory equally as well as the white man.

— Booker T. Washington, Gunton’s Magazine, March 1901

Participants will travel to Spartanburg Regional Public Library for Dr. Andy Myers’ presentation on Thomas Bomar, an African American brick mason, business owner, and town councilman whose company built the Beaumont Mill and many others in Spartanburg and across the Carolinas.

Ann Merryman will introduce digital resources utilized during the presentation, with opportunities for participants to explore ways they might incorporate the resources into their IDM. Charity Rouse, Director of Local History, will guide participants through the library’s special collections, before Betsy Teeter, founder and executive director of Hub City Bookshop and Press, shares her experiences collecting oral histories and primary documents to create the book Textile Town.

Following lunch in downtown Spartanburg, participants will divide into two groups, spending half the afternoon participating in an archival exercise at the Spartanburg County Deed Room with Dr. Myers and the other working on their IDMs.

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This winter, first of all, one must be a working woman, or if not, she must look as if she were. She must wear clothes designed and made for real work. These style experts and designers have been as busy as bees in a tarbucket and have brought out costumes that have taken the country in a whirl. From Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, from the East Coast to the West, women are hustling into these new work garments.

— Mary H. Phifer, Beaumont E, November 1942

Participants will divide into two groups, spending half the morning in a guided tour of the Spartanburg Regional History Museum and the other in a session, led by Dr. Andy Myers and Ann Merryman, focused on the experiences of women at Beaumont Mill Village during World War II, including an examination of The Beaumont E digital archive. After lunch at the Chapman Cultural Center, Dr. Wren Bareiss will utilize materials from the Beaumont Oral History project to lead participants in an examination of women’s activism related to the textile industry and textile history. Dr. Bareiss and Ms. Merryman will introduce various user-friendly tools before participants have the opportunity to practice oral history skills. The day concludes with time for participants to work on their IDMs.

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In the 19th and 20th centuries, textiles built Spartanburg. Now others are using that industry as the foundation for the community they’re developing for the 21st century. Just blocks away from where thousands of workers toiled daily in the old brick Spartan and Beaumont mills, midrise buildings have been turning downtown Spartanburg into a center of corporate commerce.

— Ed O’Donoghue, Greenville News, 23 March 2004.

Participants will spend the morning on a bus tour focused on mill transformation and rebirth, including stops at the Spartanburg campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (former Spartan Mill), Mayfield Lofts and Art Studio, Glendale Shoals, and Milliken & Company. Upon return, participants will have the rest of the day to complete their IDMs.

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Participants will share their IDMs and discuss ways in which they may apply the tools, skills, and scaffolds explored this week to engage students in investigations of their community’s history.

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