Honea Path and the End of Summer

Claude Cannon, Lee Crawford, Ira Davis, E. M. “Bill” Knight, Maxie Peterson, C. R. Rucker and Thomas Yarborough all celebrated Labor Day for the last time on September 3, 1934 in the small town of Honea Path, South Carolina.  Three days later six were dead and one was mortally wounded.

The general textile workers strike of 1934 strained relations between mill owners, management and workers throughout the eastern United States.  The strike began in the south on September 1st and grew to become the largest general strike in U. S. history.  In Honea Path, three days into the strike, hundreds of workers from the Chiquola Milll were picketing outside the mill when violence erupted. What happened to start the violence remains unclear.  Whatever the flashpoint, when the guns fell silent six mill workers were dead (the seventh died days later) and  dozens were wounded.

Fox Movietone News Story 23-157 documents the funeral held for the murdered textile workers on September 9th.  George L. Googe, Southern Regional Director for the American Federation of Labor, spoke at the funeral as did John A. Peel of the United Textile Workers.

The scope of the funeral is itself a testament to the significance of this event.  According to one source, over 10,000 people attended–a figure that is plausible based on what is visible in this film (note: the film’s audio was poorly recorded at the time).

A large crowd assembles for the funeral of the six men killed at Chiquola Mill

The full story of the Chiquola Mill massacre remained unknown for most of the 20th Century.  Frank Beacham (grandson of Honea Path’s mayor at the time) has written movingly about how in 1994 he came to learn the truth about the killings, killings which he acknowledges may well have been ordered by his grandfather.

Labor Day began as a celebration of the dignity of labor and while most Americans (including me) see the day foremost as the end of summer we ought to remember that the labor of men and women over the generations has help make this country great.  Some, like Cannon, Crawford, Davis, Knight, Peterson, Rucker and Yarborough gave their lives to make our nation better.

— Greg Wilsbacher



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    • carl e. anderson on October 23, 2013 at 9:57 pm
    • Reply

    “the Uprising of ’34” PBS broadcast of 1995 which SCETV declined to air avoided uncovering the dark past of the textile industry’s reliance upon economic slavery.
    The Honea-Path Massacre of September 6, 1934 is not an event that the average South Carolinian would be aware. Nothing exists in textbooks and only a few “liberal” history sources mention this event along with the “Battle of Blair Mountain” and “the Homestead Mill strike”. All three of these events were milestones in the history of management and owners violent repression of the labor movement.
    The failure of SCETV to broadcast “the Uprising of ’34” due to political pressure from any source was a failure to document and reveal the foundations of South Carolina’s history of repression of worker’s rights. The reminder of this heritage is the current “employment at will” laws in SC. This stance is better described as “unemployment at will of the management”. The current cluster of nationally influential”labor law firms” in the upstate certainly belies the persistent anti-labor sentiment that has been pervasive in SC since the Civil War ended “slavery”.
    It is time for SCETV to re-broadcast this 20 year old PBS program. The recent Greenville News front page article about Frank Beacham’s history of the Honea-Path Massacre should bring renewed interest. From a civil-rights point of view, this event is at least as important as the murders of 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. Unfortunately there are no survivors to prosecute or living owners to pay for lives lost 80 years ago in Honea-Path

    • Kathryn Michaelis on August 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Carl,

    You and others might be interested in this resource:

    Georgia State University has recently digitized all of the footage used to make the Uprising of ’34 documentary and almost all of it is available online: http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/uprising

    If you go to the above page and click “Browse,” you can narrow your search by location and find Honea Path in the list if you want to see interviews of people from Honea Path.


  1. My daddy, grand mother, and grand father were born in the South. Daddy and grandma were born in SC. Grandma Canupp was a lint head in the Lockhart SC cotton mill during the time of the strike. My father, grandmother, his sister, and half sister all lived in a tiny mill house in the company town of Lockhart. I spent many years growing up in the South. As a labor historian, I’ve often felt that this tragic lost strike needs widespread publicity. Now is the time with all the commotion over the CSA monument removals. The history of Southern working has too long been suppressed by the very same type people who oppressed people of color so long ago. It’s time to organize a campaign, use a “go fund me” type of fundraising campaign and build a powerful tribute or monument. It will bring tourist dollars into this depressed area and finally bring social justice to the state of my family. By the way as founding director of the Labor Heritage Society of West Michigan I raised $200,000 and was co-founder of the Spirit of Solidarity National Immigrant/Labor Monument in Grand Rapids, Michigan, honoring the lost furniture strike of 1911. It took us from 1997 – March 2015 to pay off the $1.3 million cost. It is the only labor monument in North America in front of a presidential museum.

    • Destiny Cannon on February 15, 2018 at 8:54 pm
    • Reply

    My great grandfather worked thier and i grew up not to far away from it the way i was allways told was that my great grand father and great grand mother were in the house and they heard yelling coming from the mill and then they heard gunshots my grandfather told my grandma to stay in the house that he was going to see what was wrong he went to the mill and was shot by the owner. He lost his life at a very young age and my great grandmother never married again . I just want to clear up your article a little bit . MY GREAT GRANDFATHER EDWARD CANNON DID NOT CHOOSE TO BE IN THIS RIOT ! HE WAS SHOT BY THE OWNER NOT THE RIOT AND LEFT MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER ALONE WITH THIER BABY SON!

    Sincerly, Destiny Raquel Cannon , Great granddaughter of Edward Cannon

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