For nearly all of the 116 years the Milliken & Co. plant has operated in Gainesville, a member of the Bone family has been on the payroll.
It started with Judge Christopher Bone, who worked at the plant from about 1902 to 1923, his great-grandson, Mike Bone, said last week.
Mike Bone is a 31-year employee at the plant. He started there Oct. 29, 1985.
Mike said his great-grandfather was the maintenance manager at the textile mill and a master mechanic.
Mike has a book of pay records from 1911 that shows his great-grandfather made $3 a day — and that was much higher than the $1 or $1.25 per day most of the records show.
Mike Bone is a maintenance technician at the mill, located at 1750 Jesse Jewell Parkway. He started as an operator and then moved to shift technician.
Jared Morgan, the plant manager, said, “We pretty much try to keep Mike on wherever our focus is.”
“I still work on the same equipment I worked on when I first came,” Mike said.
His grandfather, Homer Bone, worked “at least 28 years,” and his father, James William Bone worked there in the 1940s.
“My daddy went to war from here,” he said.
Mike also said his grandfather was in the plant when a tornado ripped off much of the fifth floor in 1936. His grandfather went to school, got Mike’s father and went home, Mike said.
He said all of his sisters “at one time or another” worked at the plant, and one, Nofee Bone, worked about 45 years. He explained her name, according to family lore, came from the doctor who delivered her at home and did not charge a fee for the birth. Thus, “no fee” became her name.
His wife, Laura, has worked for 16 years for the contractor who has the cleaning operations in the plant. Daughter Deloris, who is now staying at home with her son, Gabriel, worked 12 years at the plant in two different stints.
Mike and Laura have been married 37 years. She came to Gainesville from Florida and five months later they were married, she said.
Deloris said it almost could be six generations of the family because she was pregnant with her son when she worked there last.
He added his family has a niece, Jennifer Meeks, who works at the plant. His brother, John, worked there “for a few months.”
“A lot” of his mother’s relatives worked there. She was Mary Lou Jones, before marrying his dad.
“There were kind of branches on both sides” of his family at the plant, he said.
Jared Morgan, plant manager for three years, said the Gainesville plant has a tradition of family members at the facility “more than at any other plant I’ve worked at,” he said. Morgan has worked at six Milliken plants, he said.
The plant has about 250 employees, Morgan said, and a large modernization project was completed in 2014. The plant operates 24 hours a day, six days a week.
How many more years does Mike, now just past 55, plan to work there?
“I hope about seven more,” Mike said. “No more than seven to 10.”
He pointed out that his aunt, Nofee, who worked 45 years, often said if all her overtime were counted, she would have worked more than 50 years.
He also said a brick between the fourth and fifth floor of the plant has “Bone” carved into it. How that occurred “I have no idea,” he said.
Before he started work at the plant, Mike said, “I didn’t ever really realize I’d had any descendants work here.”