Building Loray, 1899-1912

As the nineteenth century turned to the twentieth, Gaston County and the rest of the North Carolina Piedmont were transformed. A regional economy based on agriculture shifted to textile manufacturing, and people moved from rural communities to work in the mills and live in the villages that surrounded them. While part of this overall pattern, the Loray Mill also stood out. Situated west of downtown Gastonia, it was the largest mill in North Carolina when it opened in 1902.

The village surrounding the Loray filled with workers who had migrated from the rural farmsteads and mountains of North Carolina and elsewhere in the South.  Designed to keep workers close to their jobs, the mill village also offered residents an opportunity to re-create the communities they had left behind. They had backyard gardens and kept livestock, and they built businesses selling food, clothing, furniture, and music. From tiny houses built by mill owners, the village expanded through the establishment of churches, baseball teams and social connections.

Using a sampling  of North Carolina newspapers, this timeline documents the building of the Loray Mill and village, first as a series of physical structures and then as a community of individuals and families. The newspapers of this time highlight big events in the development of the mill, but also offer windows into the lives its workers built for themselves.