Stacks of Memories

Block Number: 37


By Martha McCauley

(Nora Worthen contributed to this story)

On Thursday, May 17, the McDowell Quilt Trail installed its 37th quilt block at McDowell Cornerstone Credit Union on 2031 Rutherfordton Road. This credit union was first established in 1967 for the employees of the Marion Manufacturing Company. The vision for, and the driving force behind, the establishment of the credit union was that of Harvey “Sparkie” Parker, personnel director of the plant. Workers could become a member of the credit union by opening a savings account with a deposit of $5.00.

The credit union has helped many mill workers buy their first homes, pay for their first vehicle, send their children to college, and/or pay for their weddings. Many previous mill workers are still reaping the benefits of their investment in the credit union from years ago.

Since the credit union was first established for the employees of the Marion Manufacturing Company, Amy Johnson, manager, and Renee Whitson, assistant manager, of Cornerstone Credit Union, collaborated on the name and design for the quilt block. They chose the name, “Stacks of Memories,” with the knowledge that the old mill, indeed, houses ghosts and memories of the past. The block design depicts features of the exterior of the old brick building, which once housed the textile mill, and continues to stand sentinel over the homes on the hill above.

The quilt block’s border, in a heritage red hue, replicates the roofline of the facade of the mill. Currently, there is an empty space on the face of the building where a clock was once located. The black circle in the middle of the quilt block depicts that clock, which in days past could be seen from the village above. This clock, and a whistle that blew ten minutes before shift change, notified the workers when to report to work. The four small circles with clock hands and painted in a light blue paint depict the different shifts worked at the plant.

The wagon wheel design that makes up the center of the block includes eight alternating burgundy-colored smokestacks, each with its white triangle, and eight windows, complete with a red arch on top. The windows are seated on eight yellow triangles, representing the eight-hour shifts worked at the mill. The white background on which the wheel design rests, along with the black squares in the four corners, represent the day and night operation of the plant.

Marion Manufacturing Company was established in 1906 as a textile mill with Adam “Super” Hunt as mill superintendent. As the surrounding community grew, its life evolved around the mill, which came to include its own company store, its own school, its own community recreation building, and its own church. The first church was located in a 3-room house on 6th Street that was donated by “Super” Hunt. It was called the Union Church and church affiliation didn’t matter. When a church building was erected, it became known as East Marion Methodist Church. Since the village didn’t have a permanent minister, Hunt asked the Presbyterian minister, Rev. J. C. Story, to preach for them on Sunday afternoons. Rev. Story did so for several years until a permanent minister could be found.

Generations of families lived, worked, and died in this mill community, and the camaraderie was unlike any other. The mill village was a close-knit community, and the textile workers were known as “lint heads” because of the cotton lint that would get in their hair.

With the closing of the mill, the credit union changed its location a couple of times, and later its name. What was once known as Marion Manufacturing Credit Union is now known as Cornerstone Credit Union. According to Amy Johnson, the name Cornerstone was chosen because for such a long time the mill was a pillar for the community and a cornerstone for the workers. Judy Frady was the original manager of the credit union. Jan Mace, member of the supervisory committee, remains affiliated with the committee today.

Upon deciding to participate in the quilt trail program, Amy Johnson and Renee Whitson stated they wanted to commemorate the memories of the credit union’s roots and the sacrifices made by earlier generations so future generations could have what they have today. Even though the mill is no longer a vital working part of the community, all one has to do is gaze at the quilt block on the south-facing wall of Cornerstone Credit Union to remember the times when Marion Manufacturing was the “force” behind everything good in the community.

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