There was a boy got his finger cut off in a machine out there at the Mercury Mill. They brought him out. I saw him when they brought him out with his hand wrapped up. They put him in a car and took him to the hospital.
"NEWBERRY MILLS, S. C. The unguarded wheel and belt
at the left are sinister neighbors for little girls' arms, skirts
- Child Labor in the Carolinas, 1909
Accidents and injury were a constant threat in the cotton mills. Employees worked amidst heavy, fast-moving machinery that could catch the fabric of a dress, a lock of hair, or even a worker’s hand in the blink of an eye. There were few laws in place to regulate workplace safety prior to the 1930's, and as a result, mills were one of the more dangerous places to work.
Accidents were unfortunately common among child workers, who were inexperienced and could at times be easily distracted. James Pharis began working at Spray Cotton Mill near Eden, NC as a child of eight years old. He permanently injured his hand at age nine while riding an elevator system rigged up with pulleys. “We'd ride the elevator rope up to the pulley and slide back down,” he explained. “I was riding one day and was looking round over the spinning room and my hand got caught under the wheel….that thing was mashed into jelly. All of it was just smashed all to pieces."