Adaptive Reuse, Community History, and Archival Practice

The Community Histories Workshop proudly announces publication of the whitepaper Adaptive Reuse, Community History, and Archival Practice, which outlines the scope of “Rocky Mount Mills: From Adaptive Reuse to Public Engagement,” a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives and Records Administration, Project #DP100110. The whitepaper can be found on the Digital Rocky Mount Mills website. ...
Read More

Gathering with Other Community-minded Projects at the 2018 NCPC Conference

The 2018 North Carolina Preservation Consortium conference focused on preserving community heritage. At the November 16, 2018 conference held at the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State's campus, representatives from UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, A/V Geeks, Catawba County Library, and the State Archives of North Carolina described their community-engaged projects and their methods for building and fostering public interest and involvement. CHW Director Bobby Allen introduced the organizational mission and discussed how CHW came to be. Nicole Coscolluela then followed by detailing the Rocky Mount Mills initiative and how it focuses on K-12 learning and producing genealogical resources useful to descendants of Battle Family slaves. Sarah Almond then closed the presentation by briefly discussing the Dorothea Dix project and the remarkable nature of its admissions ledgers and case studies. The conference room was packed with over 90 registrants, above double the typical NCPC conference attendance. This presence makes evident the many dynamic community projects all around the state with staff...
Read More

Presenting at the National Humanities Conference 2018

CHW - represented by Elijah Gaddis, Nicole Coscolluela, Lucas Kelley, and Morgan Vickers - traveled to New Orleans to present at the 2018 National Humanities Conference, which was organized by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The conference took place November 8-11, 2018 at the New Orleans Marriott hotel. There was representation from all over the United States and sessions were on such topics as immigrant engagement, pedagogy, development/advocacy, prison initiatives, and rural outreach. It was clear that there is varied, innovative, and passionate humanities work being done across the country. Moreover, the National Endowment of the Humanities was present in order to promote the "Humanities for All" initiative and the Academy of Arts & Sciences also had a booth to present "Humanities Indicators," their project that studies areas in work and life that humanities studies contributes to. The CHW panel was on the first day of the conference, Thursday, November 8. The session titled "Historians and Developers, Pitfalls and Potential" welcomed approximately...
Read More

CHW in Action: Delving into the Rocky Mount Mills Storage Room

On June 29, I took another look at the storage room of Rocky Mount Mills with the Southern Historical Collection to determine what materials are present and their archival value. CBC moved many items pulled from some mill houses and the mill itself to the basement of a church they had bought a few blocks away. Inside are a plethora of materials, including posters, blueprints, surveys, handwritten documents, and even fabric and yarn samples!  An archivist's and historian's dream! SHC noted which items are of most archival value, which I then forwarded to CBC, who will then make the call on whether to donate them as part of the Rocky Mount Mills Records or keep them for now. They will do the latter and use some of the material for interior design. So, keep an eye out for historical material on your visit to Rocky Mount Mills!               ...
Read More

WRAL Reports on CHW’s Work in Rocky Mount

Recently, WRAL's Brian Shrader was present at a meeting in Rocky Mount between CHW, Capitol Broadcasting Corporation, and Belk Architecture, the architect for the Rocky Mount Mills project, to discuss the design of the redeveloped space, traffic flow, and visitor experience. Knowing this information assists CHW in determining what historical material would be best where and how visitors might engage with it. Shrader interviewed CHW Director Bobby Allen and Rocky Mount Mills Development Manager Evan Covington Chavez about the efforts to preserve the site's history and stories of the people that worked at the mill and lived in the mill village. To read the story and watch the video, click here.    ...
Read More

The Saga of James H. Ruffin of Rocky Mount Mills

On February 9, 1899, James H. Ruffin, former manager of Rocky Mount Mills, attempted to end his life on his way to New Orleans via train to attend a carnival. People found him in the restroom nearly dead from loss of blood after slashing his wrists. He had $21,450[1] in cash and checks on his person. He expressed that he was tired of living and had no immediate family.[2][3] He had resigned as manager of the mill in 1898 citing ill health. The summer of that year, Ruffin had an “attack of nervous prostration” due to overwork.[4] He took two trips to improve his health but his ill health continued, forcing him to resign. Thomas H. Battle replaced him at Rocky Mount Mills. Ruffin’s official diagnosis was “melancholia superinduced by nervous prostration.”[5] Ruffin was named treasurer and superintendent of mill operations in 1886 during a period of administrative reorganization. In this period in the 1880s, the Battle Family relinquished financial control...
Read More

CHW Recently Tours Rocky Mount Mills

On April 19, 2018, several members of CHW took a trip over to Rocky Mount to meet with Rocky Mount Mills Development Manager Evan Covington Chavez in order to discuss progress of our work, future directions, and what CBC has planned in terms of programming and public spaces. We toured the site, which is quite a busy construction zone. What a difference between April and October! October was the last time we toured the property. Then, the mill interior was empty and cavernous. Now, the frames for the apartments are up, a new parking lot is being built, the hydroelectric generator room is cleaner, and new windows are going into the future event space. Another purpose of our visit was to examine the contents of CBC's storage room, which contains a lot of material they pulled from the mill and the mill village. What treasures! The rooms were stacked full of prints, machine parts, antiques, manuals, and file cabinets full of...
Read More

Teacher Fellows Featured in The Rocky Mount Telegram

Renny Taylor, history teacher at Nash Central High School, and Elijah Kane, history teacher at W.A. Patillo Middle School, have been featured in The Rocky Mount Telegram. The article documents their efforts in bringing to life the history of Rocky Mount and Rocky Mount Mills for their students. They are instrumental parts of Carolina K-12's initiative to bring the resources of UNC-Chapel Hill to area educators and key role players in utilizing and sharing CHW's oral histories, historical findings, and digital platforms. Read the article here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/News/2018/04/16/Local-teachers-trace-history-of-mill.html...
Read More

The Land & Rocky Mount Mills

The Rocky Mount Mills team recently published a historical narrative about the mill that considers how the environment shaped the town and industry of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Rocky Mount's Tar River especially encouraged initial human occupation of the land and was central to 12,000 years of continuous settlement. Some archaeological studies have even uncovered evidence of Native American occupation for thousands of years prior to the city or the mill. Read more about the fascinating connection between the environment and its various occupants on our Rocky Mount Mills project website.  ...
Read More

The Civil War Comes to Rocky Mount Mills

In the predawn hours of July 20, 1863, Union troops under the command of Major Ferris Jacobs of the Third New York Cavalry rode into Rocky Mount, North Carolina, intending to destroy the vital railroad bridge across the Tar River. They successfully burned the bridge, before turning their guns and torches to the rest of Rocky Mount. By the time Jacobs’s forces left town, they’d burned a railroad train and the city depot, the local telegraph office, a smaller county-operated bridge across the river, a four-story tall flour mill, Confederate supplies waiting for shipment, cotton bales, and around thirty wagons. In Jacobs’s own words “the destruction of property was large and complete.”  Among the most important of their targets was Rocky Mount Mills. Union  burned the building to the ground, stalling operations for years and changing the course of the mill’s history. Military raids were common throughout the Civil War, but the situation in eastern North Carolina during 1863 meant that...
Read More