African Americans at Banning
The Hanson's Saw Mill

Until the 1950s and 60s, African Americans were usually bared from employment in the South’s cotton factories. At Banning, African American residents found jobs at the local saw mill or worked as laundresses. Oral histories tell us two African American men worked as janitors at the cotton mill at Banning in the 1940s. As such, they earned twice as much as their counterparts in the saw mill. Young African American women were employed as housekeepers, maids, and nannies, for Banning’s wealthy families. Owners and foremen who lived on the outskirts of the cotton mill village were the only residents who could afford such luxuries. Yet, even with their meager salaries, mill hands who lived in company housing could afford to pay black laundresses, usually an elderly widow or her young daughters, a few cents for each week for washing and ironing.

The Hanson family owned and operated the saw mill at Banning from 1880 into the late 1940s. Mark Hanson was born in 1859 and was working as the saw miller at Banning in 1880. He and his wife, Fannie, had six children between 1882 and 1895. Effie, Belma, John R., Henry Luna, Bruce, and Mary all grew up around the Banning Cotton Mill. Sometime before 1920, Mark Hanson passed his prosperous business to his son, Henry L. Hanson, who was listed as the village’s saw miller on the 1920 census. Within the decade, Mark’s eldest son, John R., took over the family business. John married Mattie and the two conceived three children: Horace, born in 1908, Welma, born in 1915, and Henry G., born in 1915. During the 1930s and 40s, John’s oldest son, Horace, was responsible for managing the mill for his aging father.

Mark and Fannie Hanson Family Tree

PARENTS CHILDREN SPOUSES GRANDCHILDREN
  Effie    
  b. 1882    
       
  Belma    
  b. 1849    
Mark     Horace, b. 1908, Clara, b. 1910
b. 1859 John R. Mattie Jessie, b. 1912, Welma, b. 1915
  b. 1888 b. 1884 Maynard, b. 1918, Mattie, b. 1920
married      
Fannie Henry Luna Mary Henry G., b. 1915
b. 1859 b. 1889 b. 1897 Francis, b. 1917
       
  Bruce    
  b. 1893    
       
  Mary    
  b. 1895    

The Hanson’s employed approximately eight to twelve African American men and children within the saw mill in the 1930s and 40s. They provided company housing in the form of two room frame houses and paid the workers every Friday in cash. In the mid-thirties, the starting salary was $3.00 a week. In the mid-forties, the highest salary in the saw mill was $7.50 a week. Employees worked from sun up to sun down Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturday. With the beginning of World War II, the saw mill declined, losing its workforce to better paying jobs or military service. The Hanson’s saw mill finally closed in the late forties.

1930 African American Work Force
taken from the 1930 Census

NAME RELATION RENT OR OWN SEX COLOR AGE MARITAL STATUS

OCCUPATION

INDUSTRY RECENT SCHOOL

READ
WRITE

David Brown Head of household Rent M Negro 26 Married Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Pearl Milner Head of household Rent F Negro 24 Married Laundress Home No Yes
John Brown Head of household Rent M Negro 29 Married Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Laura Holland Head of household Rent F Negro 48 Widowed Laundress Home No Yes
John Holland Son   M Negro 26 Single Laborer Saw Mill No No
Eva Holland Daughter   F Negro 24 Single Laundress House No Yes
Sinie Holland Daughter   F Negro 22 Single Laundress Home No Yes
Jessie Holland Son   M Negro 19 Single Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Joe Holland Son   M Negro 16 Single Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Mary Gamble Head of household Rent F Negro 36 Widowed Laundress House No No
William Gamble Son   M Negro 19 Single Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Hubert Gamble Son   M Negro 16 Single Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Mary Brown Head of household Rent F Negro 50 Widowed Laundress House No Yes
Annie Brown Daughter   F Negro 30 Single Maid Private House No No
Ida Brown Daughter   F Negro 24 Single Maid Private House No Yes
Albert Pitman Head of household Rent M Negro 20 Married Laborer Saw Mill No Yes
Mable Crowder Daughter   F Negro 15 Single Laundress Home No No

Excerpt of interview with Charles Gamble, former saw mill employee:

TB: Now you said that it was Mr. John Hanson who was the owner?
CG: John Hanson who owned the whole plantation.
TB: Could you tell me what you remember about him? What kind of employer was he? And how was the interaction?
CG: Yes, he had two sons and the oldest son he kinda run the thing. Mr. Hanson, Mr. John Hanson would own the place. He was, well, he cussed a lot. We would meet there at his house every morning and then leave and go to work. If it was raining then we would go into the barn and shuck corn and do things like that inside when it was raining. And if it wasn't raining then, you had to be in his yard, you know, sun up. You know, where we could get on the trucks and go different places. We had a lot, he had about 4 trucks. And uh, he was right nice, right nice, he believed in you working hard and working Fridays and a half, till 12 o’clock on Sat. Fridays all day, then Sat. we worked a half a day. And uh, then at 12 o’clock that Sat. we’d leave and he’d pay us off. Then we was off all Sat. evening and Sunday. But, if any of them, I remember, I was young but, I remember if any of them got into jail over the weekend in Carrollton or Newnan, all they had to do is tell them you worked for John Hanson. They gonna let you out. They would let you out; make sure you’d be there Monday morning and go to work. And I mostly helped his son on the truck before I got old enough to drive when I was saying I was (End of Side A).
TB: (Side B) Um, I guess how could you describe, what were race relations like between the community?
CG: Well, the race relations, is uh, how you say, you know what your supposed to do and what your not suppose to do and you say, Mr. whether there young or not, you say Mr. so and so, Mr. this or Mrs. This. So uh, but they always, you know they was going to, they made more than the blacks, you know. If, uh, Miles and them, piton of what they were making at the cotton mill. I think we were making 7.50 a week, he was making 15 dollars a week. Ya he was making that much more than we were. [Miles was a black man working at the cotton mill. He makes more than his counterparts at the saw mill, but less than the white workers in the cotton mill.] He made 15 dollars a week and the white people were making more than that, they were making probably 25 or 30 dollars a week. So that’s, you know, a little difference. That was. But, you know, they was, everybody was trying to make a little more so the cotton mill where Miles was working making 15 dollars a week and him and I was, you know good, we’d go out every weekend, double dating. He had a car and I didn't have one.
TB: Oh, he had a car!
CB: He had a ‘36 black Ford. And it was sharp!
TB: (Laughing)

CG: So we had a lot, we could pick up those girls. So, but ya, he made, while I was making 7.50 he was making 15 dollars a week. And that’s where most of them, you might be doing the same job but you still, their making you know, 15 to 20 dollars more. So. I mean that was life back then, that was life. Everybody was use to it. As long as you give everybody respect, you get along with them. I use to eat at Mr. Hanson’s house. And a lot of people, you know, eat on the back porch but I use to eat in there with them. They let me eat in there with them. And not many people, you know, they would, you can eat outside or on the back porch and they eat inside. But I ate in there with them. Ya. So, I never had no, none of my peoples never have no problems with anybody. You know? Just worked and never been in no kind of trouble. But I don’t know any of my people down there that was in any trouble to them. Like, now the children's always in trouble or doing something, but, and that is why I thank the Lord everyday that raising our six children and they never was in no trouble and they all did never have to go to school and you know, so get in a lot of trouble or something like that. Cause my boys use to tell me, they thought I was the meanest daddy in the world. But they thank me for it now. They thank me for it now. They come over and they laugh about it. I use to keep them from going to Friday night ball games. Some areas of Atlanta would be real bad, where they’d be playing basketball, I mean, ya, football and I wouldn't let them go. They’d be pouting around there for a couple of days. If I let them went I carried them and they didn't want to do that, they wanted to ride on the bus, you know, with everybody else. But, I just tried to raise them right. You know, the way the Lord says to raise them.

Charles Gamble with wife at home in Atlanta, 2003.