Book Club Calendar…

Spring 2013 Topic (April 6th to May 10th)

Contact Larry at (336) 883-3637 or if you have further questions or need a copy of the book of your choice.

“Farewell to the Old Farm:  How Factories Changed the Southern Way of Life, 1880-1930″– 

Today, our economy is going through a global  technological and knowledge-economy revolution.  Many have benefited; many others have been left behind.  A similar upheaval occurred a century ago.  Our Spring topic focuses on the huge changes in Southern life brought about by railroads and industrial entrepreneurs, both home-grown and imported, after the collapse of the plantation economy.  Textile and furniture mills, lumber mills, tobacco manufactories, and coal and iron mines spread across the region.  Many individuals were displaced from a simple rural life into an unfamiliar world of wage labor.  Small farmers struggled to maintain their independence in the face of hard times.  Much was lost, but some habits  of thought and action were preserved from the ante-bellum world. 

 We will explore many questions in this three-meeting cycle, not least of which are these.  Why did industrialists seek to set up shop in the South?  What qualities made them successful?  How did they organize their systems differently from Northern factories and why?  Why did Southern farm laborers end up moving to factory towns and what kept them there over many years?  Did industrialization improve the lives of Southern people and, if so, in what ways?  What challenges and problems arose because of it?  Why did unions—so strong elsewhere–never take deep roots here?  How did the political system serve the interests of Southern industrialist entrepreneurs?  How did black people, women and the poor and uneducated make out in this alliance of power?  Who were those who disagreed with the changes and how successful were their challenges?  And most importantly, what can we learn about how to handle the current economic shift from the example of our predecessors of the late 19th century?

We have chosen four books for this topic.  You can pick one or more from the line-up.  Since we won’t all be reading the same book, we won’t try to establish a strict schedule.  Please just try to have about 1/3 of what you want to read done by our first meeting and an additional 1/3 by each of the next two meetings.  Remember, that you don’t have to read every word.  Skimming and skipping is permitted (although it is possible to skip too much.)

Friday, Apr 12th–Inaugural meeting, 10:30 to 12:00pm, 3rd Floor Book Lover’s Room.

Friday, Apr 26th–Midpoint meeting, 10:30 to 12:00 pm, 3rd Floor Book Lover’s Room.

Friday, May 10th– Wrap meeting, 10:30 to 12:00 pm, 3rd Floor Book Lover’s Room.

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Book Club Selections


Farewell to the Old Farm

Four books have been chosen for this session.  Each participant may desire to read one or two of them.

 Edward L. Ayers, Southern Crossing:  A History of the American South, 1877-1906.  304 pp.

This book brings the teeming late nineteenth century South to life, showing it in all its complexity and variety, from race relations to family life, from political struggles to industrial transformation.  Ayers believes that the patterns set here shaped the next fifty years of Southern history, particularly the disfranchisement of African Americans.  This book was a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award, the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for history, and the 1993 Southern Book Award.

 Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Like a Family:  The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World.  1987.  544 pp.

This classic and very readable history draws on the accounts of ordinary people to draw a rich picture of cotton mill village life in the Carolina Piedmont from the 1880s to the 1930s.  The book shows how the life of the mill village was influenced by old rural ways and values that helped everyone survive hardship and protect themselves from managerial abuses.  A wonderful read by all accounts.

 Paul D. Escott, Many Excellent People:  Power and Privilege in North Carolina, 1850 to 1900. 1988.  366 pp.

This book focuses on the radical changes in North Carolina society and economy at the end of the 19th century.  Escott concentrates on five counties in particular and shows how despite the social and economic upheaval under Reconstruction and industrialization, the people on top managed to retain their hold on power to the detriment of many lower down the ladder – particularly African Americans.  He samples not just from statistical data but also from a rich tapestry of  letters, journals and diaries to describe the relationships and attitudes of the various classes of people.  A rewarding read particularly for those interested in our state.

 Michele Gillespie, Katharine and R. J. Reynolds:  Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South. 448 pp.

This wonderful new book has received many positive reviews.  It gives the perspective of the managerial elite on the making of the New South.  Gillespie sees the Reynolds as a power couple who created an empire and a life together.  It is a dual biography, but it also tries to explain how the Reynolds were very much products of their time and took full advantage of the opportunities on offer to them.  Not only money-makers, they recognized some of the problems created by industrialization and the growth of cities and attempted to shape their business model and philanthropic efforts accordingly.

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About our clubs…

The Heritage Research Center of the High Point Public Library (High Point, N.C.) sponsors the Heritage Book Club, moderated by Larry W. Cates.  Roughly quarterly, the club chooses fiction and/or non-fiction books related to a particular historical issue or topic that would be of interest to genealogists exploring ancestors in the Southeastern United States.

Sometimes participants will all be reading the same book or books.  Sometimes they will have the option to pick from a list of books and bring the the information from their individual choice to share with others on the forums.  One need not always read the books recommended.  As long as a book is directly related to the topic, members may suggest their own selections.

Our in-person meetings will focus on how the various books we are reading relate to one another and the topic we’ve chosen.  We will also reflect upon the circumstances, challenges and decisions faced by our ancestors.  It is very important that we connect what we are reading to our family history research.

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Our goals…


  • We will learn about key events and processes in the social, economic and political history of the Southeastern U.S.
  • We will then apply our knowledge to the circumstances of our ancestors.
  • We will identify the sources employed by the author and use these or similar sources in our personal research.


  • We will assess the accuracy of the author in portraying historical details, and evaluate his/her effectiveness in creating atmosphere and context using these details.
  • We will learn to empathize with the circumstances of ancestors by inhabiting the world created by novelists.
  • We will determine how plausible fictional narratives are by comparing them with known historical information.
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Participant guidelines…

PARTICIPATION: The Heritage Book Club is open to anyone with an interest in the history of the American South and how it applies to the family history of that region.  You need not live in or near High Point to participate.  In fact, we hope, eventually, to attract participation from across the country.

All visitors to the site have access to all the posted content, but may not post until they have registered.

ACCESS TO THE BOOKS: Book titles will be announced in ample time for participants to obtain copies of them.  You may do this through any number of on-line retailers or by ordering through your local bookstore.

For those who live in the vicinity of High Point, we will obtain a few copies of each book to keep in the Heritage Research Center and loan to participants, informally, in addition to any lending copies that may be available on the nonfiction or fiction shelves.  You need not have a library card to borrow one of the HRC copies.  But the copies in the regular collection require you to obtain a library card before borrowing.  Remember to reserve one of the four or five copies available in the library early, if you don’t want to purchase your own.

THE BLOG: The book club website is divided into a blog (which you are currently viewing) and a message board, linked to the blog.  The blog is a place where the moderators will post general information about the club and an on-going calendar of reading assignments and events.

Members will use the linked message board to discuss books with one another.  To post here, each member will have to establish a user name and password and specify a valid e-mail account.  You can do this by following the link to the message board and clicking on the “Register” option, providing the requested information, and agreeing to the terms. 

The message board is divided into two segments–one for fiction and one for nonfiction.  Topics and points of discussion will be posted weekly by the moderator.  Book club members are encouraged to respond to the moderator’s comments and to those of other members.  Everyone is also welcome to create new topics.

COURTESY: Our club members will not be surprised to learn that discussions about historical subjects sometimes arouse the passions of the participants.  Often they even tend to bleed into hot topics facing Americans today.  Passion is certainly good up to a point and it is certainly valid to use history to guide our understanding of present circumstances.  We simply ask that everyone who posts here:

(1)  Frame his/her postings in measured, respectful language–allowing that he/she may not necessarily have all the answers or the correct and only way of viewing a situation.

(2)  Avoid obscenities.

(3)  Avoid assuming that others will agree with his/her interpretations of the past or how it applies to the present, and thereby, respect the integrity and good faith of those who disagree.

(4) Try to avoid letting the discussion drift entirely into one about current events–understanding that our principle goal here is to understand the world of our ancestors, their behavior, and their stories.  If sufficent interest is shown, and participants request, the moderators will create a “current events,” forum, so those posts will not interrupt the historical comments.

CONSEQUENCES: The moderators reserve the right to remove any posting which contains obscenities or personally abusive language.  They also are empowered to issue warnings to individuals or deny them access to the boards.   The moderators will use this power sparingly.

ARCHIVING: When a discussion is finished, the old message boards will fall to the bottom of the list.  They will be locked so that no one may post new information to them, but they will still be available for viewing so that future readers interested in old topics can read the books and think about the issues raised by previous readers.

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