Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall, 2008 Page: 22 of 68
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Hudson Stuck, Dean of St. Matthew's Cathedral, inspired Edwards by founding a night school
for workers at the Dallas Cotton Mill and launching a campaign against child labor.
beginning to change. Once a "center of a great
farming and cotton community," Dallas now
boasted "fifty manufacturing plants ... representing
an investment of more than 9 millions of
dollars," with a "total output" of "more than
$19,000,000."Altogether, the factories employed
"more than 4,000 people," with an annual payroll
of"more than $3,000,000."'
The Dallas Cotton Mill, which encompassed
an entire city block, dominated the South
Dallas factory district. The surrounding neighborhood,
where the workers resided, consisted
of unpaved, dusty streets lined with row upon
row of wooden shacks. The mill employed
approximately 350 operatives of all ages and both
sexes.12 Many were boys and girls who would
have been in school if their families had not
needed their meager wages.
When the free night school opened for
classes during the winter of 1901-1902, with
Edwards as the only regular instructor, he and his
pupils met twice a week "from 7:30 to 9 P.M."
Using primers, chalk, and pencils that the idealistic
young teacher "scraped up," from forty to
sixty mill operatives-youngsters and grown
men and women alike-filed into a "drab little
building" near the mill, to learn the alphabet by
the light of kerosene lanterns.13
Nearly all of Edwards' students, who ranged
in age from twelve or less to grown men of thirty,
either dipped snuff or chewed tobacco, and
some as young as "9 and 10 brought along tin
cans to put by their chairs to spit their tobacco
juice in." In contrast, the older students, a group
that included the parents of some of the
youngest boys, politely refrained from tobacco
use during the lessons. Those who did chew and
spit neatly lined their tin cans up on the window
ledge each night before leaving.14
Not surprisingly, some students were simply
too exhausted after a day's work to show up for
every session. Despite their long hours of toil,
others came nearly every time. Edwards later
admitted he was amazed not only by his students'
tenacity but also their ability to learn.
When spring arrived, the young teacher was able
to report, "that many could proudly . . .write
In June 1902, Edwards' earnest appeal for a
publicly supported free night school "was dis
20 LEGACIES Fall 2008
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Dallas Heritage Village. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall, 2008, periodical, 2008; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46806/m1/22/: accessed November 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.