Remembering A Mill Village Family – Milton and Cora West

“History is the essence of innumerable biographies.”

Thomas Carlyle


22 Carr Street

1940 historic marker on the house

Originally from the Lumberton, NC area, Milton West & Cora Register West made The Mill Village their home for sixty-plus years of marriage.  They raised five children, three sons and two daughters, living at one time or another in a house on E. Elm, on W. Elm, and at 22 Carr street, the only one of the three homes that remain. The monthly rent was $25.00. I doubt that Milton and Cora could have imagined that as we look back at their seemingly ordinary lives, they are no less than iconic versions of their time and place.

We enter their story through the heart of Jackie Howell Wall, the oldest of their eighteen grandchildren. Her mother, Myrtle West was one of Milton & Cora’s daughters. Jackie’s father, Jack Howell, grew up across the street from Myrtle where eventually they fell in love and married.  Jackie is one of four children. She remembers her grandparents well. A favorite memory is taking her grandfather’s lunch to the Mills where they would eat together in the Bell Tower.

Milton was tall, mischievous and loved to pull jokes on others. A committed Christian, he sang in the church choir with a beautiful bass voice. A hard working man, it was always clear that his family came first. At holiday time the family gathered at the Mill Village and during summertime the various grandchildren looked forward to staying with Milton & Cora.

Cora was short and stout, a great cook and baker. There was always something cooking on the stove; a plate of food on the table with a cloth covering it. She insisted on feeding you before you left. Jackie said, “No matter how old we got, we always wanted to go to Grandma’s.” Here were two people with a strong faith who instilled in their children and grandchildren a sense of family that endures today.

When Milton retired from the Mill he was given a gold watch, $25,00 a month retirement pay, and a letter of commendation from Mr. Hyman Battle. In old age, widowed, Milton went to live with his daughter, Evelyn in Raleigh, NC. When the house on East Elm burned soon after his move, they found the picture of Jesus that that had hung near the fireplace without a scorch mark on it. A nice story to end with. A brief Part 2 scheduled for Wednesday.

IMG_2455Elm Street lot where once a Mill house was home to Milton & Cora WestIMG_2452 IMG_2453

Jackie remembers the hot dog stand that is still in operation today owned by Skippy Ezzell and Capps Grocery, now closed.

This post is written in honor of Milton & Cora West, A Mill Village family that should not be forgotten for their hard work and god-fearing ways.  They are wonderful examples of a time and place in our Southern Mill history, a time that may have passed us by, but worth emulating in the Village today.

12 thoughts on “Remembering A Mill Village Family – Milton and Cora West

  1. My Vick family lived in the big house on Elm St. right behind the mill. It was one with 2 stories. My boys grew up in that house because Daisy and Ben were like their parents/grandparents. Daisy lives over near 301 now for about 12 years I think… maybe more… I lose sense of time. Her husband Mr. Ben just passed last week. All their children were raised in that Elm St. house, too, and Daisy and Ben worked in the mill until it closed.


  2. TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE WRITTEN COMMENTS SO FAR on ‘Rocky Mount Way Back When’ Facebook page here is my reply…..I hope you have been getting to know me through this blog I began writing in July called Main Street Rocky Mount. I’m delighted to published the first of the Mill Village Family posts that I intend to write. (Milton & Cora West.) If you knew me better you would be saying to yourselves, “there goes Stepheny again, dabbing at her eyes, crying a bit over all we have written here in response to her writing.” I am running around in my mind hugging all of you for writing these fantastic comments. I mean, when did you have so much fun! I will be in touch with all of you hoping you will be a part of honoring the past with these wonderful stories about your families & friends. With your help, I think we can do this! There are others who are interested in the history of the Village, and it is my prayer to organize this in such a way that those who are interested can collaborate so it all makes some sense. For the moment let me just say that in a world that is in disarray, the loss of values, the politically correct approach to what we once held so dear, the story of these seemingly ordinary people you have mentioned is like a pearl of great price, precious. Don’t you agree? Let’s not loose these stories that can help us emulate all the hard work, pride in home and family, our religious underpinnings, that your family and friends taught us. Thank you for sharing these memories with all of us and connecting dots. We are all grateful. You have my word I will do my best to write for you and for the Mill Village families of yesterday a great story one at a time. Are you all in?


    1. I have a subscription to and I have found the Rocky Mount Mill Village on the 1940 U.S. Census. For instance, I see on the District #64-33 Rocky Mount U.S. census taken on April 9th, 1940, Milton & Cora West renting 27 West Elm St.. for $9 a month. It shows Milton D. West age 43 as a “cart runner” at the Cotton Mill earning $1000 wages the year before, his wife Cora age 41, and their 4 children, Paul age 22 a “dolpher” at the Cotton Mill & earned $500, Myrtle C. age18 $260, Charlie M. age 16 $160, and Milton E. age 10. There are 10 pages of the village (River, Carr, & West Elm) in the 1940 census that I can save to my computer and send all or of a name to whom ever, just let me know. If your relatives lived in the Village in 1940, you should be able to find their names, how much they rented their home, for, what they did at the cotton mill and how much they earned the year before. Stepheny, if you want to post these census pages here on the blog or on the Facebook page, they may be of interest to descendants. Let me know.


      1. Nancy, this is great information. I appreciate your sharing all of it with the blog. After publishing this particular piece there was a wonderful response with all kinds of people weighing in. I have an appt. with Evan Chavez at the Brewmill to discuss the best way to gather this information from the people who lived in the village. No point those of us who are interested running around bothering people if we could organize how to go about this. The blog only allows for brief posts like this one because people don’t have time to read a long piece. The gathering of this history is essential before we lose people who KNOW through age. Would you have time for me to come and see you? You are obviously interested and I want to be sure you are a part of what is happening. For privacy reasons, I will try to reach you through Facebook private messaging if you have a page. THANK YOU.


      2. My parents and my brother and I lived in the mill village in the fortys.I lived there until I was seventeen and got married. I would be interested in receiving that census information. Please let me know how I can get it. Thank you so much for your interest in the people of the mill village.


      3. Hi Matt: Let me see if I can get that information for you or at least, how to find it and we’ll both pursue it. We should talk about your memories and let me write about this story on the blog. Would you be interested? Thanks for leaving your comment. I hope you are following the blog so you don’t miss anything. I am ready to write about a Mill Village family once again.


  3. Nice post, Stepheny. Jackie Howell Wall is my cousin, slightly older than me, and certainly a good source regarding Mill Village life. Your posts always kick a lot of good memories into gear. Thanks.


    1. Thank you David. I certainly hoped the family would be pleased with the results of time spent with Jackie. A follow up is scheduled for Wednesday. Quite a legacy Milton & Cora have left to a large family. Delighted to have written about them first off.


      1. Stepheny, I am one of those 18 grandchildren. I stay with my grandparents a lot because my mom & Dad worked ans I had stayed with them alot. I would rather stay with them than with my parents. One of my memories was when my Granddaddy West dug potatoes. He would give me the baby potaoes i washed them outside and ate them . Also i remember my Granddady wrote a bike to work & Grandma let me go up path to wait for him,& he would rise me to the house in the basket . I love my Grandparents with everything in me!! the Mill Villiage was a big part of my life..Thanks Jackie for posting this about two of the best people that ever lived.. Shirley West Sizemore ( Daughter of Milton D. West Jr & Toydee Boone West.)


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