Household Spotlight: Fulbright Family

William Fulbright and his wife Alma had eight children, sons George, Roy and Ralph, and daughters Beulah, Gracie, Maggie, Clara and Annie. The Fulbright family came to the Loray Mill in Gastonia from Webster, NC, where they were farmers, but the majority of Fulbright family members remained in the Gastonia area working for the mills.  Here are their stories…

William Fulbright

William E. Fulbright was born in 1877.  He married his wife Alma Moffett (or Moffitt) in 1899 and had 8 children with her. Prior to moving to Gastonia they lived on a farm in Webster in Jackson County, NC.  In the 1910 census, the majority of the surrounding farms were owned by other Fulbrights, likely family members. William only had an education through the 3rd grade, likely halted to help on the family farm. When the family moved to Gastonia to work in the mills, he worked as a sweeper, removing trimmings and scraps from the floors of the mill.  While some of his children moved around between mills, William remained true to the Loray Mill, working at the Firestone Mill after the conversion. Throughout his years in Gastonia William (and family) lived at 103 S. Weldon Street and 411 Firestone as well as this home on Liberty. William passed away in 1943.

Alma Fulbright

Alma Moffett Fulbright was born July 30, 1882 in Sylva, NC to Houston Moffett and Mary Coward.  At 17, she married William Fulbright and they moved to Webster in Jackson County to start their family.  The family moved to Gastonia in 1919 or 1920.  Alma stayed home to tend after Clara, twins Ralph and Roy, and baby Annie while her eldest children and husband worked in the mill.  After her husband’s death, Alma lived on her own for a while before moving in with her son George. She lived in Gastonia until her passing in 1961.

George Fulbright

George McCullough Fulbright was born on December 10, 1899 in Webster, NC.  He went to school through the 4th grade and then stopped to help his father work on the family farm. His sisters however were able to continue with their schooling until a later age. In 1919 or 1920 the family moved to Gastonia to work at the Loray Mill.  In 1925 he married his wife Marie.  They had a daughter named Alma in 1926, named after his mother, as well as another daughter Juanita and a son Kenneth. He remained employed at the Loray Mill past the strike and into the 1930s when it became the Firestone Mill. After 2 of his brothers get jobs at Gossett Machine Works in the 1940s, George follows in 1949, remaining in Gastonia but no longer living within the Loray Mill Village. By 1960 he is living at 108 South Highland, mere blocks from where his family had started, but he was now working for Trenton Mills. George remained in Gaston County until his death in 1972.

Beulah Fulbright

Eldest daughter Beulah Mae Fulbright, a twin, was born in May of 1905 in Webster, NC. After growing up on her family farm, Beulah moved with her family to Gastonia in search of work at the Loray Mill.  She remained in school throughout high school, which was rare at the time. Although her twin sister Gracie and her younger sister Maggie both worked as spoolers at the Loray Mill, Beulah was not listed as an employee in the 1920 census. She married Robert Harley Dockery near Cherokee on July 7, 1923, and had son James Walter the next spring and daughter Helen soon after. Her husband’s profession was listed as running a coca cola stand at the mill in 1930, but by 1940 they are living where he grew up in Murphy. After her husband’s death she returned to the Gastonia area, in nearby Bessemer City, until she passed away in 1997.

Gracie Fulbright

Gracie Faye Fulbright, twin sister of Beulah, was born in May of 1905. After growing up on her family’s farm in Webster, she moved with them to Gastonia when she was 15. She worked at the Loray Mill as a spooler with her younger sister Maggie. Spoolers tended to machines that wound yard from skeins onto spools or cones. They would first hang the skeins of yarn on racks and beat, shake out and straighten the yarn to facilitate the winding. After inspecting the yarn for defects, they would then thread the end of the yarn through guides and turn it around a spool or cone to begin winding. She married James H. Hampton in the early 1920s and had a son named Charlie and a daughter named Ruby.  Her husband worked as a painter, and she stayed home to care for the kids. They lived with the rest of the Fulbrights through 1935 and then moved in with a relative of her husband’s named Delmar Hampton on Little Avenue before returning to Murphy where his family was from. Gracie died in 1990.

Maggie Fulbright

Maggie Evelyn Fulbright was born in 1908 in Webster, NC. Upon moving to Gastonia with her family, she worked as a spooler in the mill starting at age 12, although she remained in school. Spoolers tended to machines that wound yard from skeins onto spools or cones. They would first hang the skeins of yarn on racks and beat, shake out and straighten the yarn to facilitate winding. After inspecting the yarn for defects, they would then thread the end of the yarn through guides and turn it around a spool or cone to begin winding. She worked in the Loray Mill through the 1930s. Maggie was married in 1937 to a man with the last name of Reed, although she disappears from records after that until her death in 1997.

Roy and Ralph Fulbright

Roy and his brother Ralph, born September 29, 1915 made the second set of twins in the immediate Fulbright family. Both boys were too young to work in the mill when their family moved there from Webster (only 4 years old), but unlike most rural migrants coming to mill towns to work, the Fulbright family stuck around for the most part. Both twins spent their life working in mills and machine shops throughout Gaston County.

Roy Wayne Fulbright only stayed in school through the 4th grade. While there is a well-documented history of child laborers at Loray Mill, Roy doesn’t show up as an employee until his teens. Roy married Nancy Regina “Jean” Hembree in the late 1930s. He is listed as working at Clara Cotton Mill on his WWII draft card. By the mid 1940s he was given an honorary discharge from the Army and was back at the (now) Firestone Mill working as a spooler with his twin brother Ralph, and living with him and his wife on Henry. Roy and his wife Nancy Regina died within a week of each other in 2003 in Gastonia.

His twin Ralph Blaine Fulbright worked in his teens at the Loray/Firestone Mill.  He married Sarah Jenkins in 1936. After the WWII he and Sarah lived with his twin brother Roy and his wife working in mills for a few years, but then he worked the remainder of his career as a machinist and lathe operator at Gossett Machine Works in Bessemer City. He died there on December 3, 2003, the same year as his brother.

Clara and Annie Fulbright

Daughter Clara Kathleen was only 8 when her family moved from rural Webster, NC to Gastonia to work in the mills. As Clara got older, she joined her family working at the Loray Mill as a spooler according to the 1930-31 city directory, but then disappears from records. Daughter Annie M. was born May 1, 1918 in Webster and died in 1987, although no other information is available on her life.

The Fulbright family’s surname was spelled incorrectly in the 1920 US Census as ‘Fullbright.’

Researched and written by Karen Sieber