Gaston County, NC

Alleged offense: labor organizing
Race: White
Gender: Female
Age: 29
Legal intervention (in alleged offense): N/A
Legal intervention (following lynching): Yes
Mob size: 7
Mob members: None named
Alleged victim: N/A
Household Status: Divorced with children
Occupation: Textile worker

Shot and killed in 1929, Ella May Wiggins, a white female textile worker, was one of many workers protesting a “stretch-out” in textile factories such as Loray Mill in Gaston County. Wiggins joined the efforts of the National Textile Workers’ Union (NTWU) to unionize Loray and establish workers’ rights, becoming known for her ballads, which were critical of mill work. In the spring of 1929, organized strikes for unionization were quelled, but the NTWU stilled planned rallies to protest unfair working conditions at the mill. On Saturday, September 14th, Wiggins was on her way with other workers from Bessemer City to such a rally in Gastonia. At a roadblock outside of Gastonia, anti-unionists, who were also against what they deemed as Communist influence in unionists, stopped Wiggins’ truck and instructed them to turn around. On the way back to Bessemer, Wiggins’ truck was pursued and chased off the road by armed men in other vehicles, who opened fire onto the passengers. Their fire hit Wiggins, who died of a gunshot wound that afternoon. Although there were a number of men later indicted for the murder, no one was convicted.


Death certificate: Death Certificate: Ella May Wiggins
Census: 1920 Census Ella May Wiggins

News coverage:

Seven Men Held for Mob Murder of Woman Striker

Seven Accused in Strike Death

Seven Men Jailed On Murder Count in Strike Rioting

Gastonia’s Latest Outrage

Nab Seven in Mill Mob Killing

Nab Seven in Mill Mob Killing cont.

Nab Seven in Mill Mob Killing cont.

Nab Seven in Mill Mob Killing cont. 2


Town: Gastonia, North Carolina
Latitude/Longitude: 35.261687, -81.216421
Rationale: While an exact location could not be determined, a marker was placed on the Bessemer City Road that Wiggins most likely traveled on the way to Gastonia, and which was mention in the article about Wiggins’ murder in The News-Review (Roseburg, OR).

Additional Resources:

Find a Grave; From NCPedia; From Digital NC

This killing has been widely described by historians and others.

Researcher’s Note: