Monday: A Perfect Few Hours At The Mill

“Oh, to be home again! Under the apple-boughs, down by the mill!”                                  James Thomas Fields

Sitting outside at the Mill today was DE-vine. The sky was Carolina blue and the temperature heavenly. I love Books and Beans, a beautiful restoration of the old Canteen. With a dear friend, an egg and cheese sandwich on GF toast, and sweet tea, you feel that you could live forever. I would like this October weather to last until Spring, wouldn’t you? The once upon a time story of the Mill lingers in the air, the buildings that were on life support now hail and hearty once again. The energy and new purposes of the Mill seem to radiate from the brick, the windows gleaming with sunlight, and renewed energy that looks out upon a preservationist’s delight. Here is a premier example of revitalization that has brought revenue, people, more private investment to Rocky Mount. The immeasurable contribution of how to do things right is a lesson in a win-win attitude, where everyone benefits. Thankful for a few hours at the Mill on a beautiful day spent admiring the scene. Thank you for providing this sense of place that is vital to Rocky Mount’s story; instrumental to creating its future.         

“The sound of water escaping from mill dams, etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things.” – John Constable

River and Twine – Tiny Home Hotel in Rocky Mount, NC

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Stepheny, who had a playhouse filled with children who came to play. They had so much fun together, and they all lived happily ever after. The end.”  This was my dream as a little girl…to have a playhouse.

Dreams are coming true in Rocky Mount. And so are Tiny Homes! When I think of the Rocky Mount Mills team, I picture them sitting together dreaming. What is possible?  How can we preserve the story yet move into the future? Can we add to a positive experience of the Mills and Rocky Mount by offering new tiny house accommodations?

River & Twine will feature 20 unique, brand new tiny homes adjacent to all of Rocky Mount Mills’ amenities, that include breweries, restaurants, and music. To develop this riverfront destination, Rocky Mount Mills contracted with two builders: Modern Tiny Living and Free Spirit Tiny Homes, nationally renowned for their work on small living spaces. Each home ranges in size from 188 to 244 sq ft, different in style, private, while being part of a cohesive family-friendly environment.

Each tiny home will feature modern amenities including full-size glass door showers, microwaves, fridges and coffee makers in all homes. Complimentary high-speed internet and smart TVs. Heating and air conditioning. The tiny home hotel community will share amenities by pod groupings of five homes, which will include fire pits, grilling stations, outdoor games and children’s play areas.

“River & Twine will offer a one-of-a-kind experience for all visitors to Rocky Mount,” says Tim Rogers, Rocky Mount Mills/Capitol Broadcasting Company. “Whether you’re here for work, sports, recreation or simply to chill, River & Twine will be your go-to spot for a unique get away.” As a little girl who always wanted a playhouse, the Tiny Home movement making its debut in Rocky Mount has my architectural heart fluttering.  If you read in the paper that a little girl was found sleeping in baby bears bed after trying out the chairs and eating the porridge,  you’ll know what it’s about…..Stepheny was playing in the Tiny Homes while the three bears were out having a beer and eating at one of the Mill Restaurants. And you know what, on this trajectory, we’re all living in a place happily ever after.

On Pinterest: Random Tiny Homes – Rocky Mount will soon have their own version THANKS to Rocky Mount Mills


REMINDER: History Project Targets Mill This Saturday, Feb. 25 – Noon – 4:00 – Braswell Library

1620825_276177569210822_1039811236661551242_nTHIS ARTICLE FROM THE TELEGRAPH IS YOUR REMINDER

By Corey Davis
Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Local people are being encouraged to attend an event hosted by a group of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill faculty members this weekend at Braswell Memorial Library to share recordings, memorabilia, and stories relating to the history of the Rocky Mount Mills. The UNC Community Histories Workshop, which brings together faculty, students and staff with local partners to preserve and share community histories will be hosting a “History Harvest” from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the library.

UNC American Studies Professor Robert Allen, who is one of the faculty leaders of the Community Histories Workshop, said the History Harvest is a collaborative, community-based digital project and learning initiative that aims to emulate history. He added the Rocky Mount Mills History Harvest is a collaboration between the UNC Community Histories Workshop, Braswell Library, the Department of American Studies at UNC and A/V Geeks, a Raleigh-based collector and digitization company.
Allen said people are urged to come to the History Harvest to help the UNC Community Histories Workshop identify places and people in historical photos of the Rocky Mount Mills, share memories in oral history booths and have experts digitize 10 to 15 photographs, 10 to 15 documents, and home movie films or videos from such things as VHS tapes or DVDs. 

img_4526Traci Thompson, local history librarian at Braswell Memorial Library, also will help collect materials reflecting the history of Rocky Mount and the surrounding areas. Documents, photos and moving images harvested from the event will be used in future digital exhibits created by UNC Community Histories Workshop. “What we want to do is use new technologies or digital technologies to help people select their favorite photographs that reflect the history of the Rocky Mount Mills and the Mill Village,” Allen said. “Each participant will go home with digital copies of their own photographs, film or documents.”
Elijah Gaddis, who also is a co-founder of the UNC Community Histories Workshop, is leading the history harvest. Allen said it’s important the UNC Community Histories Workshop reaches out to the black community because of the many ancestors who worked at the mill and the first use of slaves in a North Carolina cotton mill was at the Rocky Mount Mills. Allen said there hasn’t been much written in the past about the period of slavery at the Rocky Mount Mills, which is something the UNC Community Histories Workshop plans to dig further into. “People think historians are only interested in the lives of famous people, but public historians want to preserve and share stories and recollections of everyday life, whether it was hard times as well as good times.”

“The rehabilitation of Rocky Mount Mills by Capitol Broadcasting Co. is a perfect opportunity for us,” he said. “We have the archives of the mill and of the Battle family of Rocky Mount, who owned the mill for 200 years in our Southern Historical Collection. Through activities such as the history harvest, we can create a community archive of shared images, memories and stories.”

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Your Oral History Is Needed – Part 2


“My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.”
Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

The first thing you need to know about giving an oral history is that you DO NOT have to know or talk about the larger story that surrounds the time period. Oral histories are about personal memories.

Waterlogue 1.3.1 (72) Preset Style = Travelogue Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Heavy Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Orange Juice Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Fine Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Medium Paper = Buff Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Medium Options Faces = Enhance FacesMilton & Cora West were the first Mill Family I wrote about on this blog, as told through the eyes of Jackie Howell Wall, oldest of their 18 grandchildren. Click here to read about Milton & Cora. The second Mill Family was Annie & Jim Casey, remembered by their daughter ‘Maggie,”Mary Casey Langrehr.  Click here to read about Annie & Jim Casey. Both stories were greeted with great interest and appreciation, because in some sense, they were everyone’s story that grew up in the Mill Village, or worked at the Mill. It triggered many precious stories.

Here is all you need to do.  Gather several friends, or relatives, and sit together REMEMBERING. It’s easier to tell family stories among your peers with everyone jumping in to add their version of the memory. Of course, you are welcome to give an oral history by yourself if you prefer. Set aside about 45 minutes. E-mail Elijah Gaddis and arrange a time for your gathering or individual spot.  The Community History Program from UNC will come to you.  That’s it! Please share this post with your Mill network. Help get the word out about this opportunity.

In Part One of this series, I introduced you to Elijah Gaddis, Project Manager with, He and his associates have started a series of conversations with former RMM workers, their families, and other community members. Once they have recorded these stories and memories, they will use them to make digital exhibits where you can hear, read, see, and learn more about the history of Rocky Mount Mills. This will insure that those connected with the Mill will live on. I am convinced all of us wonder what will be remembered of us when we are gone. Help with this noble undertaking of archiving memories of RMM so that its history will not be lost. Your family stories will be shared widely with school children, college students, libraries, and future exhibits. These stories of all these good folks can serve as a moral compass for those who are building a future for the RMM, and who live in the Village. Don’t miss this opportunity to insure that something of you and yours are remembered and treasured into the future.

Visit: OR contact Elijah Gaddis at

GO AHEAD: Put “Sweet Taters Restaurant and Brewery on the Rocky Mount Map

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Meet the team that is bringing Sweet Taters Restaurant & Brewery to life.

Left to Right: Will Lewis, graphic design intern from Nash Community College. Chris Flora: Owner, Marketing Manager. Chris is working on his MBA and will be taking care of the sales and marketing.  Erin Flora: Owner, Brewmaster, Greg Flora: Owner, Restaurant Manager with vast restaurant experience. You are looking at entrepreneurs that have joined the Rocky Mount revitalization parade.


In their “hard at work clothes” are Erin Flora: Owner, Brewmaster, and her husband, Chris Flora. Don’t miss the fact that Erin in the Brewmaster!

Location – 1121 Falls Road in a fabulous preservation effort and expansion of a Mill House. Phone: 252-220-5355

Join the 1, 704 LIKES on Sweet Taters Facebook page so you stay up to date with what’s happening!


GRAND OPENING  – APRIL 30th 2016  11:00 – 11:00 

Sweet Taters is a restaurant as well as a brewery opening for the first time Saturday, April 30th. Table service will be provided in the 2 dinning rooms inside with the full menu. No reservations necessary! Available on opening day, the taproom and the back deck will be set up for drink service and 1-2 appetizers to order. Entertainment: Live Broadcasting from 99.3 Rock City during the day and Ann Meadows will play from 6 – 8 pm on the back deck. Pray for great weather. 12928438_951668774954146_7754202879233252151_n

Hours after the opening: Monday-Thursday 11-10    Friday-Saturday 11-11  Sunday 11-9. Full service begins. You will be greeted by a hostess as you walk in the main entrance before entering the taproom. There will be full table service for the 2 inside dinning rooms. Table service will be expanded to include the back deck after opening weekend.

I look forward to rocking in the chairs on the front porch, sitting at the picnic tables on the grounds, enjoying the preservation of this architectural gem, AND celebrating the dream of Erin, Chris and Greg, along with everyone who has had a hand in this new day for the Rocky Mount Mills and the community. An amazing accomplishment.

“A man`s success is hidden in the place of his labor.”
Sunday Adelaja

Who Was Robert Henry Ricks? (1839-1920)


I photographed this plaque on a recent tour of Rocky Mount Mills. Robert Henry Ricks’ name is mentioned in an earlier post I’ve written about T. H. Battle – A Family Leaves a Legacy. I want to tell you more about Mr. Ricks after writing about The Ricks Hotel -Part 1 & 2. I know more about Robert now, but that ‘knowing’ is limited, which I regret. It seems appropriate to recall the Bible verse from Matthew.  “You will know them by their fruits.”

Here is a partial list of Mr. Ricks’ legacy.

+ Director (1889) and then president (1899) of the Rocky Mount Mills.

+ 1894 named director and vice-president of the Bank of Rocky Mount.

+ 1902, vice-president of the Washington Cotton Mills in Virginia.

+ In Rocky Mount he established the Ricks Hotel firm and the Thorpe and Ricks Tobacco Company and was involved in many other smaller business enterprises.

+ A four years member of the Nash County Board of Commissioners.

+ State house of representatives in 1903 – State senate in 1905.

+ He was one of the first trustees of the North Carolina Agricultural and Mechanic College at Raleigh (now North Carolina State University), and Ricks Hall on the campus honors his memory.

th-1“Great men, even during their lifetime, are usually known to the public only through a fictitious personality.”― Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

At his own expense Ricks erected a marble monument to the memory of the Bethel Heroes, the Nash and Edgecombe men who fought at Bethel Church, an episode in the Peninsular campaign in Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War. The monument is  placed in Battle Park on the north side of the falls of the Tar River, located a hundred yards from the first post office of the then village of Rocky Mount. The monument was unveiled on Confederate Memorial Day, 10 May 1917. th-2

Ricks married Miss Temple Thorne of Nash County in 1874; they had no children. The couple lived in a Victorian mansion that they built on the Thorne ancestral property near the village of Gold Rock, northwest of Rocky Mount. They are buried there.   At the time of his death, Ricks was one of the wealthiest men in eastern North Carolina. I wish I could tell you Mr. Ricks favorite color, what music he listened to, the books he read, what angered him or brought a tear to his eye, or that I could write about his political views. I wish we could read love letters I hope he wrote to Temple Thorne while courting. We will have to settle for knowing that this community-minded man made a difference in the life of Rocky Mount. He is not forgotten. This post is written to honor the past and…..R. H. Ricks.

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.

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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People Making a Difference in Rocky Mount

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Evan Covington Chavez

With so many interesting things to write about, it was hard to decide where to begin until I spent time with Evan Chavez, a bright and capable woman who is making a difference in our community. She’s like the poster child for this blog because she holds firmly in her hands, a two-sided coin, one side that represents the past, the other, the future. Metaphorically, it is like Evan has stepped out onto a bridge that is under construction, and when the bridge is complete, she will have helped span the gap between what once was, what is happening now, and what will be.

Evan is the Development Manager, Capitol Broadcasting Company, for the Brewmill, once the Rocky Mount Mills. Her title doesn’t begin to describe the fact that she is the heartbeat of the project, along with others we will visit over time. Raised in North Carolina by a father who is a historian, he taught his daughter well. Evan’s eyes shine when she talks about the history of the Mills, proudly explaining how the buildings were once used. She has the knack for story telling that makes the project she is now shepherding come alive before your eyes.

Evan is in the business of helping to create a new world here in Rocky Mount. Hers is an enviable job, different everyday, innovative, and challenging. One moment she stands quietly overlooking the river that flows at her feet, the next explaining what brewery incubators are, and what turn key (space) means for micro breweries. She talks about the Brew Master – Sebastian Wolfrum, tells you about Koi Pond Brewery/Eric Gailoni, and SpringBoardINC, supporting entrepreneurship, the first two Brewmill tenants. Evan Chavez has a heart for it all….82 acres of land, houses & mill; a unique space providing opportunities for the breweries, small businesses, restaurants and residential living. What could be more exciting than building a future on the firm foundations of the Rocky Mount Mills. IMG_2247

Looking Through the Rocky Mount Mill Windows Into The Future