The Lane household is representative of both the population migration made by many southern whites from Appalachian regions to mill towns in the South and the importance of family connections in these relocations. The Lanes moved to Gastonia from Cocke County, Tennessee, but they did not travel alone. Instead, several of their relatives immigrated with them and lived with the family in 1920. Household members took advantage of the economic opportunities offered in the mill town by working for the Loray Mill in various capacities. The children also were able to experience educational opportunities that were not available in rural East Tennessee.
In 1920, the Lane family rented a house at 317 South King Street, near other families from Tennessee. There George Lane lived with his wife Kate and their seven children: Shirley, Eva, Buford, Oliver, Rhoda, Glenn, and Jess. Kate’s younger sister, Thula Phillips, her niece and nephew Cecil and Mary Phillips, and Bee Hurst, not a member of the family but from Cocke County, also lived in the house as boarders. The Loray Mill was the primary source of income for the family. George operated a lacing machine; Bee was a carder; Shirley and Cecil were spinners; and Lula and Mary were warpers. Although they did not work in the mill, George’s children also benefited from the family’s time in Gastonia, as they were able to attend school and learn to read and write, skills their father did not possess.
The Lane family had strong ancestral ties to East Tennessee, so the move to Gastonia must have been a significant impact on them. George was born around in Cocke County, Tennessee, to his single mother Catherine Jane Lane. It is unknown who his father was. Catherine died soon after the birth of George’s brother, so he grew up in the home of his grandmother, working as a farm laborer rather than attending school. In 1906, George married Mary Katherine “Kate” Phillips. The two likely grew up together, as Kate’s mother lived near George’s grandmother. By 1910, the couple had four children, and George owned his own farm. The family also lived in close proximity to Kate’s family, including her sister Thula who would move to Gastonia with the family. Yet some type of financial pressure must have driven George to seek employment in the Loray Mill, and the family moved to Gastonia in 1919.
The Lane family did not remain for long in the Loray Mill Village. On December 6, 1920, Shirley Lane married Alva Norton at the Lane home, and the rest of the family must have left soon after, as George and Kate’s daughter Dolly was born back in Tennessee in 1922. Except for Shirley, who moved to Georgia with her new husband, the Lane family’s time in Gastonia seems to have had little effect on the family, if anything it might have hurt their financial prospects. Once again living in East Tennessee, the family did not own its own farm, like had been the case before they moved to Gastonia. Instead, George rented a place in Jefferson County, and his sons worked with him on the property. They would continue to do so until George’s death in 1944 of stomach cancer. Kate and the other children remained in East Tennessee for the rest of their lives.
Bee, Cecil, Mary, and Thula also left Gastonia soon after 1920 to return to East Tennessee. Cecil was likely the first to leave. He died in Cocke County, Tennessee, in a car wreck in February of 1920, only a month after the census enumerator recorded him as living with his aunt and uncle. Little is known about Mary after 1920. Bee returned to Cocke County to live with his elderly mother and work as a hired farm laborer. He and Thula obviously kept in touch, and the two former housemates married in Newport, Tennessee, in 1931. Bee would go on to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a significant employment agency established as a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.