A Family Leaves A Legacy – The Battle Family


You are familiar with how a rosary looks; a string of beads made up of five sets of one large and ten smaller beads, called decades. A person prays their way around the rosary, holding each bead between their fingers. The image of a rosary struck me as a perfect metaphor for todays post. I want to repeat in order some illustrious names involved with the Rocky Mount Mills. Except for a two-year period in the 1880s, the Battle family owned or operated the Mills; a family that has left a splendid legacy. I have added a few significant names that are not Battle to this recitation.  Another time I’ll tell you some stories about these important men. Today it will be enough to pause, mention their names, one bead at a time, as a way of honoring them.

How different a place Rocky Mount would be if not for the 17 names mentioned here. These men are remembered for their outstanding lives of service and leadership. Today, we are fortunate that there is a new list of names that will now be associated with the Brewmill. The Mills are indeed having a second half of life. It makes me think of Robert Brownings famous lines. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”  

Joel Battle (1779-1829)   Peter Evans & Henry Donaldson, who between 1816-17 constructed a cotton mill building and named it Great Falls Mill. William Horn Battle (1802-1879) oldest son of Joel succeeded after his father’s death. The property became known as “Battle & Bros.” John Parker, trained cotton mill superintendent, helps the mills to continue to prosper.  

Benjamin Dossey Battle, 2nd oldest son of Joel along with William operate mill until 1847. James Smith Battle (1786-1854, cousin of William and Benjamin) and his son, William Smith Battle (1823-1915) take on the mill and the name is changed to Battle Mills in 1847. Superintendent Crowder persuaded Union troops who burned the mill to spare the 1835 Benjamin D. Battle house at 1151 Falls Rd. In 1885 trustees reorganize the mill under the name of Rocky Mount Mills. Thomas H. Battle (1860-1936), great grandson of Joel Battle elected secretary of the mills. James H. Ruffin in 1886 hired as superintendent and Paul Cameron, largest stock holder at that time take on leadership roles. When Ruffin retires, Thomas H. Battle is elected Treasurer and takes roll of mill manager. R.H. Ricks succeeded Thomas until his death in 1920. Hyman L. Battle, 5th generation Battle family succeeded his father as treasurer-manager in 1933. Kemp Davis Battle (1888-1973), son of Thomas H. Battle,  served as Vice President during the war. He served 55 years in various capacities. Thomas B Battle, son of Hyman L. Battle took over the mills until 1993 when John M Mebane, Jr., grandson of Thomas H. Battle was elected president and chief executive officer until the closing of the mills. We take this moment to salute and thank these important men in the history of our community!

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