Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Fall/Section010/Enoch Ball

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Cow belonging to Pleas Rodden's family

Overview[edit | edit source]

Enoch Ball was born in the early 1900s, Ball worked for the salvation army, coal mining factories, and started his own barbershop. Settling in Little Turkey Creek, N.C, he was interviewed by Anne Winn Stevens for the Federal Writers Project in 1938.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Consolidated Coal Company, Lake Creek Mine, J
ohnston City, Illinois.

Born in rural North Carolina, Ball lived with his mother and father; his father for the most part was a day laborer who was able to purchase a farm. Unfortunately, his fathers’ alcoholism drank the farm away, causing him and his mother to begin living with his grandparents. Sadly, at the age of six, Ball’s mother would pass away, and his father would abandon him, leaving Ball in the total care of his grandparents. Under their care, Ball would attend a subscription affair school which only lasted three months out of the year. The school consisted of one classroom, one teacher, no school buses, and no age requirement. Ball would prematurely stop his pursuit of education at the age of ten, to begin working on the farm of his grandparents. In a turn of events, his father would come back into his life, Ball would then move into the inner parts of town, where his father would work for a power company and where he would begin working for a cotton mill to financially provide for his family.

Adult life[edit | edit source]

At the age of 18, Ball would leave his fathers’ home and began living in the house of a friend in a mill village where he worked. There, just like his father, he would pick up the habit of drinking alcohol and would later become an alcoholic. He would often go to the local pub with his friends, drink, and cause trouble. Four years later, the night before his wedding, Ball and his fiancée would attend a Salvation Army meeting; on that very night, they would both turn to Christianity. After converting, he would stop drinking and would later join the Salvation Army. There he would climb up the ranks and would be sent to different locations to work, such as South Carolina, West Virginia, Atlanta, Washington, and New York. Once, when he was sent to Bluffton, South Carolina to collect funds for the Salvation Army, he learned that there was an outbreak of typhoid in Bluffton because of the unclean water and horrible sanitary conditions.


During his departures, he would preach to the masses and on special occasions, his family would join him and perform for the Salvation Army using the instruments they had. As he continued to work, he would slowly begin to acquire materials that he needed to start his own barbershop. After purchasing a shack-like building and getting a few essentials, he would depart from the Salvation Army but would continue to preach to the masses. Working as a barber, due to the large unemployment and low wages, Ball would charge children, high school and college students 15 cents for a haircut; this allowed him to make $35 - $45 per week, which was much more than the $9 - $18 he was making at the Salvation Army.


After having 14 children, unlike himself, most of his children were able to obtain a formal education. He has prided himself for never catching his children drinking, smoking, or dancing around because of his strictness. Just as he taught his children not to drink alcohol, he would proclaim the same message to those in his community. Ball would even write in a newspaper forum (which was yet to be published), using mostly bible verses, to claim his stance for the prohibition and against the A.B.C stores which were increasing in numbers across the nation.

Social context[edit | edit source]

Prohibition[edit | edit source]

During the mid-1800s and early 1900s, there was a growing movement advocating for the abolishment of alcohol in the United States. This movement was led primarily by evangelical Protestant churches; they believed that prohibiting alcohol would lower crime and decrease alcohol-related illnesses. Once prohibition was enacted, rather than lowering crime, it led to the organized crime of bootleg liquor selling. This illegal distribution of alcohol was due to lax policing and “widespread corruption of police and public officials.” (Wayne 2010, 5) Prohibition would later be repealed after the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the latter years of the Great Depression.

Public Education[edit | edit source]

Public education in America was rarely known until the 1830s, before then, education in America, specifically in the Northeastern regions, was conducted and taught by communities. The advocates for public schools were Horace Mann and other reformers who sought to teach children in common schools the “three R’s,”: reading, writing, arithmetic, and “a strong moral instruction… to instill civic virtue.” (Nancy, 2020, 3) Naturally, public schooling was able to spread more into cities as opposed to rural areas which were difficult to reach. The push for public education was able to increase the 55% of children who attended school at ages 5 - 14 to 78% by 1870. (Wayne, 2020, 4)

Child Labor[edit | edit source]

Child labor was common before the industrial revolution due to a Puritan ideology of keeping children from “the sin of idleness.” (Abbott, 1908, 1) The societal agreement of children working was able to be applied to factories and mill corporations. Families would work on mills together and even send their children to work in mill villages. The mill work was done mostly by women and children; the women were paid less than men and children less than women.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Hall, Wayne. 2010. “What are the Policy Lessons of Nationa Alcohol Prohibition in the United States.” Wiley Online Library Wiley & Sons, Ltd. March 10, 2010.

Edith, Abbott. 1908. “A Study of the Early History of Child Labor in America.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press. July, 1908. 15-37. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2762758?pq-origsite=summon&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

History.com Editors. 2009.  “Child Labor.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. October 27, 2009; Last updated: September 1, 2020; Access date: October 5, 2021. https://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution/child-labor

History.com Editors. “Prohibition.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. October 29, 2009; Last update: January 21, 2020; Access date: October 5, 2021. https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/prohibition

Kober, Nancy and Diane Stark Rentner. 2020. “History and Evolution of Public Education in the US.” Center of Education Policy.