Monday, August 31, 2009

Some VERY Interesting History Here in Town

I was going to say "Family" history, but I think I'll just say that the main person in this story was the husband of my relative, so we're not technically related.

I'm talking about my relative, Dot Cooper, who we called Uncle Dot for some reason even though she was an Aunt. Uncle Dot was the younger sister of my great, great grandmother. She married T. Earl Robertson, whom this bit of history is about. The story below is something I had heard only bits and pieces of and today my cousin, Lisa, who said it took her FOREVER to put enough information together to find this article, sent an e-mail to all of us "cuzins" containing the following. I've changed the wording a bit and removed the names of the deceased and injured. I do not want to offend any readers!

And also, if you take the ghost tour in downtown Spartanburg, you get to go down to where this happened. According to my cousin Andrea, who took the tour the claim is there are voices to be heard and lots of "ghostly activity." Apparently, this was something the city would not forget.

Here goes:

The Spartanburg Journal

August 1, 1929


Shipping Clerk Runs Amuck at Bell Mill Wielding Hand Axe

T. Earl Robertson in Bloody Rampage Fatally Wounds _____, _____, _____, and _____

African American Worker Badly Cut, May Die

Four persons all white men, were killed or fatally wounded, another probably mortally injured and the west end of the city thrown into confusion here shortly after noon when T. Earl Robertson, 55, shipping clerk at the J.W. Bell mill on West Main street became insane and ran amuck with a hand axe.

The dead are:

_____, 30, 170 Pine street, sales manager for the J. W. Bell company.

_____, 58 321 South Converse street extension, bookkeeper and cashier for the J.W. Bell company.

_____, 36, South Church street extension, car repairer for the C and W C railway.

_____, 47, South Church street extension, car repairer for the C and W C railway.

_____, about 40 years of age, residing on Brush street and employed with the Bell company, was at the county hospital his skull crushed also by a blow from the ax. He was resting quietly, however, about 9:10 o’clock this afternoon.

Preparations were being made this afternoon to take the insane man to the Columbia asylum. Physicians who visited him in the county jail declared he was violently insane, although he appeared to have lucid moments. Every precaution was taken by officials to prevent him from doing himself bodily harm.

Effort was being made to locate Coroner John S. Turner, who was out of the city, to learn what action would be taken concerning an inquest.

_____ was killed instantly in the office of the J. W. Bell company and _____ died while en route to the hospital. Their heads were split open by the maniac who crept upon his unsuspecting victims who were defenseless and without an avenue of escape from the building.

_____ died at the Mary Black clinic an hour after he had been carried to the institution. His head was crushed by a heavy blow from the ax in the hands of Robertson. _____ succumbed at the Mary Black clinic three hours after he was struck down by the insane man.

Both _____ and _____ were taken unawares by the ax-slayer as they were eating their noonday lunch in a box car in the yard of the C & W C, a short distance from the J.W. Bell plant.

Reports from the Spartanburg county hospital were to the effect that _____ is suffering from injuries to his head, the evidence being that he was struck two blows. His forehead is cut and bruised but it has not been determined whether or not his skull is fractured. He also has a cut on the top of his head. The man was unconscious when he reached the hospital but a short time afterward revived but was unable to give a coherent account of what had taken place.


Robertson was taken into custody by Constable Frank Johnson of Judge JJ Gentry’s court. The insane man was captured by S.J. Lanier, foreman of car repairs for the C. And E.C. railway, who held him until the arrival of the officer.

Mr. Lanier had noticed the maniac walking along the platform of the Bell company and saw him throw something away, he said. Mr. Lanier had found both the bodies of _____ and _____ and then noticed Robertson.

He met him on the sidewalk near a pole and asked him what he meant by killing the two men. “I don’t know what made me do it,” the maniac replied; and later on “just crazy; just crazy,” he repeated.


He kept begging Lanier to have him arrested, the C. and W. C. foreman said. Lanier caught the maniac about the waist and so held him until the arrival of Constable Johnson.

_____ and _____ were found by J.B. O’Neale, C. and W.C. engineer, Bussey having been slain at his desk.

After Robertson had been on his death-dealing trail, he stood in a door of the establishment and refused to let people come in, It was said. A traveling salesman coming up to the door asked to see Mr. Bell, but was told by the maniac, it was said, “You can’t come in here. I am the only one in this place.”


The traveling man noticed something queer about Robertson’s eyes and left.

The slain men were all married and have families. _____ wife and young daughter were expected back from Chattanooga, where they have been visiting this afternoon.

Some signs of Robertson’s having acted strangely had been manifested for several days, several persons said. But J.W. King, traffic manager, who was at lunch at the time of the accident noticed nothing particularly.

Robertson was “worrying possibly a little” at times, but he had not noted queer behavior during the morning.

Robertson explained he hadn’t been able to eat dinner. He had tried to kill himself two or three Sundays ago, he told the physician, by throwing a chain over a high voltage wire.

He had thought of putting his head into a revolving wheel at the Bell plant, he said. He had had no quarrel with anybody, he explained, and he thought _____ and _____ were still at their work.

His breath had been bad and he had been undergoing treatment, the maniac told the physicians he had asked his brother to have him locked up for he knew he was crazy.

On being further questioned he admitted he “might have” hurt somebody during the day.

He had formerly worked with the county and elsewhere, including on a farm. Robertson said he had been with Bell several years.


Robertson lives with his wife and son in East Spartanburg. He was interviewed at the jail by Dr. L.J. Blake and Dr. J.E. Cudd, county physicians.

When asked his name he replied he didn’t know, and again gave a negative answer when the question was repeated. He has two brothers he said living above the city, Andrew and John.

The only thing he could remember about the incident the maniac first claimed was asking someone to arrest him.

Mrs. Robertson and their son T.E. Robertson, Jr. arrived at the jail about 3 o’clock and visited Robertson in his cell.

Her husband had been having spells for several weeks, Mrs. Robertson explained. Their home is on the Union highway near the junction with the Spartanburg Country Club road.


John Simpson, employee at the Bell plant was probably the nearest to the warehouse victims and gave a coherent account of the events, although he was not an eye witness. He was eating dinner near the platform of the warehouse and was facing the railroad track.

The man said he heard a loud cry for help issue from the interior of the building. Soon Robertson appeared carrying the handax in his hand. It was stained with blood and he had blood spots on his face he said. As he approached him Simpson said he became frightened and moved away.


Simpson said he evaded the man who walked around several freight cars and again entered the building. It was then that Robertson attacked several of the employees who fled from the building. Among the number was Clarence Guess, who narrowly escaped the fate of _____, who was struck twice by the insane man.

Simpson said he fled toward Main street but turned around in time to see Robertson emerge from the building behind several of the workmen and walk directly across the railroad track to the car in which _____ and _____ were seated. He then went to the telephone and called the police station, he said.


Robertson had been in the employee of the Bell company for about 8 years in the capacity of shipping clerk. He lived at East Spartanburg and for a number of years was employed as street car motorman. He is married and has one son. His wife visited him in the jail shortly after being apprised of the tragedy.

AUGUST 2, 1929

…………While the city was reeling under the shock of the tragedy precipitated by the erstwhile meek shipping clerk, the man who in his frenzy snapped out four lives, was being spirited away to the state hospital for the insane at Columbia. The party, in charge of Chief J.H. Barnett of the county rural police, left here about 3:30 o’clock after making hasty arrangements for the commitment of the mentally unbalanced man to the institution.

They arrived in the capital about 4:15 o’clock when he was immediately admitted to the asylum and placed under observation.


Three times during the trip Robertson attempted to kill himself, the officers said, but each time his efforts were restrained. He kept muttering, they said, that he wanted to die. Every precaution was taken by those in charge of him to prevent him from doing himself bodily harm and hospital attaches are exercising every care with the same object in view, according to reports from Columbia.

Wish I could figure out why they mentioned that "his breath had been bad." Such an odd comment, don't you think?

I understand that Earl Robertson's son, who was also named after him, worked all of his life to "pay the families" of the men who were killed. I'm sure this must have been something to deal with during that time. My grandmother, who was 7 years old when this happened, said she can remember someone coming to the house to inform them all of what happened. It's so tragic and sad and an unfortunate part of Spartanburg History.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Funnies (or not so funny) in One Day

Jake said on the way out to school today:

"I wish a big rock would drop on school!"

Nice, right?

Jake said later:

"School is like a microwave....BAD!"


Physique 57

Thanks so my friend, Tami, I found out about this give-away! I'd love to win this! For a chance, visit Fitness NYC!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bubbles, SpongeBob and Six-Year-Old Feet,

In just another 2 months my baby boy will be 6 years old. I really cannot believe it. He's only a foot or so away from being my height. I can't keep him in shoes for more than a season or pants either for that matter. I know everyone says they grow up too fast, but I had no idea how true it was until I had a child of my own.

Yesterday, Jake and I played outside, drawing on the driveway with chalk. I had to draw everything SpongeBob Squarepants and hopscotch, of course.

Do you recognize the houses of the SB characters? I even added the Krusty Krab! haha!

Today, we were out again with bubbles. He received some as a party favor over the weekend.

Notice they are peppermint scented.

I love the cheeks in this one.

After I had enough bubble pictures, I once again started to wonder how many pairs of shoes we would go through before his feet stopped growing. Those thoughts led to these:

Bubbly Boy Feet

Squatty Boy Feet.

Right Boy Foot

Size 13 Boy Feet

Dear Nike,
Please send shoes. Thank you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fun Weekend!

This Saturday was Carson's first birthday! She invited Jake to a pool party at her Marmie's house and we had lots of fun.

Here's the birthday girl and her mommie!

Having a little snackie.

There were hotdogs and chips, ice cream sundaes, and of course birthday cake!

Carson had her own, of course!


Sweet Carson got lots of presents including a tea set, a baby doll, and a trike!

Jake is learning how to swim and did great with the swimmies. At first I wasn't going in with him, so Hope volunteered to help out.

It was so hot, though, I broke down and went in the pool. The water felt great, but after playing with the kids, lifting Jake out of the pool so he could slide into the water about 100 times, and of course getting more sun than I needed to, I was pooped! I really wanted to do this:

Instead, I had to deal with this little guy:

Don't you love those goggles? : )

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why is it....

that the taste of that tiny McDonald's hamburger is so wonderful with those McDonald's fries???

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bringing it Back to Life, Part 3 - Inside Prior to Demo

The point of my blogging about the house is to get the story down for the family. I plan on showing my grandmother what I've written and have her add or delete anything needed. I've asked other family members to write down their memories of the house and the family members who lived there as well. I want every detail, "lest we forget."

That being said, you may want to return to previous posts where I've added another picture or two or little tidbits that I've discovered. I'll try not to backtrack from here on out though.

On the agenda this week is to borrow all the pictures my dad and his wife, Mackie, took along the way and copy them for my collection.

In the meantime, how about a look at the inside of the house before demolition started?

After my aunt and uncle moved out, they did rent the house a couple of times. We all know that can be bad or good depending on your tenants. Basically though, the house needed an overhaul of huge proportion in order for it to survive and remain a family landmark.

The layout of the house I remember looked like this: (Sorry for the blurriness.)

The day demo was to start, I went down to help pull up carpets and also to take pictures. Wow! Let me just say, there was never a shortage of dogs who also shared the house, and the carpets had some more odor! Floors were rotting, it was filthy, and lots of junk was left behind by previous renters. I personally wondered how on earth my dad was ever going to manage such an undertaking. I might have been too overwhelmed after that first day and called it quits, but not my dad.

My dad and his brother looking over the hallway. Masks were certainly a necessity!

This bedroom is now part of the new kitchen.

This photo was taken from the oldest part of the house, the dining room, straight through to the front door.

Here you see how the plaster was done originally in the house.

This is the front bedroom. I'll have some more detailed photos of the original ceiling in this room, but it's beautiful! The straps that held a quilting frame long ago still hang there. The door you see in this photo now leads into a new bathroom.

The fireplace in the living room. The brick was added sometime in the 1970s and then the wood stove later.

All of the carpets were taken up, and the cabinets in the hallway were taken down. Both sides of the hall were lined with cabinets similar to this one, all added in the 1970s.

Here's the kitchen as it was. This is in the very back room of the house and for now is still this way. It's in the oldest part of the house that my dad has done nothing with yet. I think I mentioned, he may not be able to save the older rooms.

Basically after that day, my dad moved in. He knew once he began bringing in his tools, saws, and supplies that he would need to be there so nothing was stolen or ransacked once he started working. He worked during the day and into the evening and then after a trip up to my grandmother's house for a shower and dinner, he would go back to the house to sleep. I'm not sure how he decided what to do first or how he did anything without sketches, but he had everything in his head just how he wanted it to be. Just wait...