Francis Clercie Mitchell was born Francis Sizemore on May 27, 1863 in Tennessee. She is of partial Cherokee descent. Her father was a very famous “Indian doctor” named John Sizemore who also went by the name of Dr. Johnny Gourd. He worked closely with the Cherokee population, although he was not full Cherokee. His second wife, Francis’ stepmother Emma Elkins, was full Cherokee though. According to census records, before her birth her father spent time in jail for counterfeiting. Although she was born in Tennessee, Francis’ family traveled a lot, and they were living in Hendersonville, NC in 1870. Many families with ties to the Cherokee communities in the mountains ended up settling in and around Gastonia.
Francis married Hiram C. Mitchell, a man from Georgia, sometime before she turned 18 (when her first son John was born). Francis and Hiram also had a daughter Hester (aka Estee) and another daughter, Bonnie. In 1910 they had moved to High Shoals in Gaston County where she is just listed by her middle name Clercie, and her and her husband are working at the High Shoals Mill. Gaston County had more mills during this time period than any other place in the US. Like the Loray Mill, High Shoals went through numerous changes of ownership, eventually falling into the hands of the Manville Jenckes Company, just like the Loray Mill.
Sometime between 1910-1917 Frances’ husband Hiram died, and she had moved to Charlotte to work at the Hoskins Mill. By 1919, Frances has moved again to Gastonia to live with her son John who was a machinist at the Loray Mill. They lived at 110 S. Dalton during that year. A year later in 1920, Frances and her daughter Bonnie Mitchell (McSwain) are running a boarding house at 109 S. Weldon and her son has left town. She stayed in Gastonia for only a year, and returned to Hoskins Mills to work until the end of the 1920s at which point she joined her son again in South Carolina. Francis’ death certificate mentions a “thrift burial”, common especially during the Great Depression.
Daughter Bonnie Mitchell was born on October 10, 1902. When she was young her parents both worked at the High Shoals Mill just north of Gastonia. In 1919 Bonnie moved with her mother to Gastonia. Her mother ran a boarding house, and Bonnie worked at the Loray Mill as a spinner. Spinners tend to the spinning frame that spins roving into yarn and winds yarn onto bobbins. They then creel the machine and thread the roving through guides, between feed rollers, and onto bobbins. Around 1921 Bonnie Mitchell married William Boyd McSwain and they moved to the Cherokee, South Carolina area. She had her first son in 1922, Boyd Jr., followed by sons Bobby and Jack. Bonnie passed away in Gaffney, SC on August 9, 1929 at only 27 years old. Her husband later remarried.
John B. Weeks from the 1920 census is most likely John T. Weeks. He was born in Charleston, NC near Bryson City where his family was farmers. His WWI draft card had him listed as a farmer near Bryson City as well, but by 1920 John is living in Gastonia working as a carpenter. He returned home to Swain County and passed away in 1928 of complications from epilepsy.
Boarder William C. Burgis (Burgess) was born in 1898 and grew up in Marion, North Carolina near Asheville. He came to Gastonia to work as a carpenter but left the boarding house there after one year to move back to McDowell County. Burgis married his wife Colie and had sons Havard and Johnie, and daughter Mary and Dorothy.
Albert only shows up in the 1921-22 city directory and then never again.
Rachelle E. Allison was born around 1900 in South Carolina, possibly the Limestone area in Cherokee County. His name is alternately spelled Dashel. After spending just a year working at the Loray Mill, Rachelle and his wife Clara settle in the 1930s in Asheville where he worked at a filling station.
John T. Anglin was born in South Carolina around 1880. In 1910 he had moved on to Dallas, Texas where he was married and working as a ticket agent for the railroad. By the time he ends up in the boarding house in Gastonia he was widowed and working as a machinist. The last time that he pops up in records is in 1930 in Yuma, Arizona where he is living in an international boarding house run by a Japanese family. He worked at the front desk of a hotel in Yuma. From the below 1930 US Census record one can see the variety of places people were coming to Yuma from in search of work.
Researched and written by Karen Sieber