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Historic Aldora Mill village soon to be a thing of the past

By Walter Geiger In the late 1800s, cotton was king in the South and textile mills sprung up to turn the bolls the weevils didn’t eat into consumer goods. As the mills flourished, mill villages were constructed nearby to house much sought after employees or operatives as they were called at the time. One such village was the Aldora Mill village adjacent to the mill that bore its name. Aldora began as the Barnesville Manufacturing Mill in town proper. After the turn of the century, it moved to the west side of town. It was operated for years by General Tire and is now a division of Continental Tire. The tire cord facility continues to thrive and expansion is on the horizon. As 1919 wound down, Aldora Cotton Mills was capitalized at $200,000 and operated 14,000 spindles and 254 looms, according to the Dec. 25, 1919 edition of the Southern Textile Journal (STJ). The plant was fueled by hydroelectric power. The plant turned out high quality cotton duck and was a beehive of activity. Aldora Village boomed with it. Here is how the STJ article described the village at the time. ’The employees make their homes in the mill village, a little industrial town boasting 750 inhabitants and 77 homes. The cottages in which they live are ceiled and plastered, painted inside and out, lighted by electricity and sewerage is being installed in the village at the present time. These cottages are pretty and homelike and are comfortable as one might wish. Each one has a yard and many of the mill people have planted flowers in their yards. Others raise vegetables and all of them do everything in their power to make the appearance of their homes as attractive and neat as possible.’ At that time, the village had a company store and its own brick school, staffed by two teachers tasked with educating 75 pupils. It also had a Baptist church. The STJ piece has all the hallmarks of being written by a Aldora public relations staffer as it paints the lives of its operatives, lintheads as many called themselves, as near idyllic. It continues: ’Nowhere is there a better treated set of workers than will be found at this mill. Living conditions and working conditions among them are as fine as may be found anywhere and they are healthy and happy. They came, for the most part, from the country surrounding Barnesville and are now better housed, better fed and better satisfied than ever before in their lives.’ Over the years, much of the village was demolished for expansion. That sewerage system that was under construction in 1919 has now decayed to the point that it will be the final nail in the village as Lamar County has known it all these years. ’We ran a camera through the sewer system out there and the only things holding it together are roots and baby wipes,’ reported former Barnesville mayor Jimmy Matthews who grew up in the village and now serves on the Aldora town council along with Joe Penley and Bruce Akins. Rentals at the village have long been overseen by the Barnesville Housing Authority. The last remnant of the village contains 43homes of which 17 have already been vacated. The remaining 52 residents are on notice they have to be out by July 1, 2018. Houses that become vacant before then will not be rented. Residents who move on or before March 1, 2018 will get $2000 in relocation assistance. At present, there are indications an entrepreneur will come in and move the existing village homes to another location, refurbish them and rent them out or sell them. The infrastructure surrounding and beneath the village will be rebuilt and then developers will be invited to build homes within what is envisioned as a gated community with a lot of green space. Those who live in the new homes will own them and will not owe their souls to the company store, as the old song goes. ’It is going to be nice. Our goal is to make it an asset; make it a showplace the community can be proud of,’ Matthews concluded.

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