A Young Workforce In 1911 Was Under Scrutiny

By Jack Gurner

In May of 1911 a man who was to become one of America’s most important photographers came to Water Valley. His name was Lewis Hine and his assignment was to photograph the work force at the Yocona Mills for the National Child Labor Committee.

The Committee was organized in 1904, incorporated by an Act of Congress in 1907 and worked with laws and regulations to prevent harm to children in the workplace. Hines traveled over most of the eastern U.S. quietly photographing the conditions under which children were being used as labor.

Yocona Mills was located in Northeast Water Valley east of the railroad and just north of North Court Street. It was established in 1879 and burned on April 27, 1926.

The fire alarm was turned in by long-time Water Valley resident Bill Trusty who, along with friends Sam Heron and Olin Gore, had just left the newly constructed Water Valley High School building on North Main Street.

According to an article in the North Mississippi Herald at the time, Yocona Mills, under the management and ownership of Wagner and Company, had become the largest twine mill in the world and its products were marketed all over the United States. It employed about 150 people.

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