The Story: The Mill Village

  1   |  2  |   3   |   4   next

Only the best of help is employed in this mill, and people who drink whiskey and are guilty of any immorality either have to reform or leave the mill village.

Mill News: The Great Southern Weekly for Textile Workers, 1920

Blueprint of a typical mill village house
Blueprint of a typical mill village house -
Cotton Mill: Commercial Features
by D.A. Thomkins, 1899

The mill village was a key element in the success of the Southern textile industry. In order to persuade workers used to a close-knit rural life to move off the farms and into town, the mill owners built their own miniature communities around each mill. The mill village, also called the mill hill by residents, consisted of houses for workers, churches, schools, stores, community centers, and other buildings. The village was meant to cultivate a sense of community, while also providing mill owners a way to directly or indirectly supervise their workers’ lives outside work. Zelma Murray recalls that the mill charged “fifty cents a week for a five room house, and thirty-five cents for the three…and they furnished the electric lights, and they put them out at nine o'clock. They said that was time to go to bed.” Although the rent charged by the mill companies was relatively low, residents had to abide by the mill’s rules and regulations to live in mill housing.

The Murrays were fortunate to have had electric lighting. In 1916, only half of families living in mill villages had electricity. Only 24 percent had running water and 22 percent had flush toilets.

Most mills required that a family provide one worker for each room in the house they were renting. Families renting a standard four-room house, for example, had to send at least four family members to work in the mill. Not surprisingly, several of these family members were often under the age of 16.

  1   |  2  |   3   |   4   next