Mill workers hope to preserve their history
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó When former mill workers complain about David H. Murdock and the way he destroyed their abandoned textile mill, Phil Goodman reminds them of a story.
In the late 1800s, Goodman says, a stranger came to the area and started buying up farmland.
The stranger heard many complaints from people who rejected his new industry, says Goodman, president of the Kannapolis History Associates.
But James W. Cannon persisted and built a textile mill that provided education, homes and stability for Kannapolis for 100 years.
Murdock’s new industry, the N.C. Research Campus, could provide the same for the next 100 years, Goodman said.
“Biotechnology is our future,” Goodman said Saturday night at a millworker reunion at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium.
Goodman, who had many relatives working in the mill when it closed in 2003, said he understands the sadness people felt when Murdock tore it down a few years later.
“It was like when a parent passes away,” Goodman said.
The Kannapolis History Associates plans to build a museum to memorialize the mill and town fathers J.W. Cannon and C.A. Cannon.
“We’re doing the research and the legwork,” Goodman said.
Murdock, the billionaire owner of Dole Food Co., said last year at a press conference on the Research Campus that he would “build a facility” for textile artifacts.
But it became clear during conversations with Research Campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina that at most, Murdock would provide a hall or room for artifacts, Goodman said.
“We want a permanent home,” he said.
The history group has not asked Castle & Cooke, the real estate giant also owned by Murdock, for financial help with the museum, Goodman said.
“We are in the early stages of planning,” he said. “We don’t have land yet, but we have feelers out. We are getting professional assistance with how to proceed.”
The history group enjoys a good relationship with Lynne Scott Safrit, president of Castle & Cooke North Carolina and director of the Research Campus, Goodman said.
Safrit speaks warmly about the group and Norris Dearmon, its past president. A former mill worker herself, Safrit has said that preserving the city’s textile heritage is important.
Goodman and his colleagues are encouraging children who come back to Kannapolis when a parent dies to carefully sort through belongings for any textile artifacts.
Often, important documents, tools and other artifacts are sold at auction or end up in the trash, Goodman said.
“They have no idea the value of it,” he said.
Anyone with textile items should call him at 704-796-0803. He’s interested in recording oral histories from former mill workers to archive at the new museum as well.
The new museum also will include the N.C. Research Campus, Goodman said.
“It’s history in the making,” he said.
Contact Emily Ford at email@example.com.