I love the Rocky Mount Mills, and the Village Historic District. We are fortunate that there is wonderful information on the subject. To capture your imagination, however, it takes more than googling the subject. Stand quietly with me on the side of the road here on Carr Street and imagine life as it once was in the Mill Village. This is a place where people fell in love, married and raised their children, lived into old age. Can you hear the echo of children’s laughter and the sound of Katydids in the trees? Nothing could be more suitable for the purpose of this blog than honoring the past of the Mills and historic district; they are pearls of great price. We must help support the future that is being created there today.
The “Mill Village,” as it is still called remains one of the most intact mill villages in the Coastal Plains of North Carolina. It illustrates the social and industrial history of a locally owned Southern cotton mill and village with antebellum roots. Originally established in 1818 by local investors who wanted to establish the cotton textile industry in North Carolina, the village grew up after the Civil War when a permanent labor force became attached to the mill. The mill village contains one-hundred-thirty-six well-preserved industrial and residential resources dating from 1835 to the early 1940s.
Much of the mill housing along Elm Street and Falls Road was erected between 1888 and 1892. No record of a contractor or source of design for the mill houses was found. As with most mill villages, the houses were most likely designed and built by local carpenters, some of whom might have been employed by the mill. By 1889, twenty-five one-story frame houses, generally about 16 feet by 32 feet with a rear addition, had been built along East and West Elm Street and along the 1000 block of Falls Road. Three years later, twenty-eight mill houses of the same size were erected on West Elm Street, Falls Road, and Cedar Street.
In 1893 Rocky Mount Mills took formal action to obtain a charter from the legislature incorporating the growing mill village inhabited by its employees as the independent town of Rocky Mount Mills. Before Part Two of this post is published in a few days, get in your cars, take the children, and drive through the streets of the village. Use your imagination, see the past, and what is underway now. The young people have an expression, way cool. The village is really way cool!