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Mill City Dallas

Posted by architectnites 
Mill City Dallas
January 17, 2012 02:21PM
I'm working on a project for Habitat in the Mill City neighborhood. I'm trying to locate the original mill site, but have found little information. So far I've learned this:

1. It is called Mill City Cotton Mill, not New Century Cotton Mill. Both are associated with Joseph Wiley.
2. The earliest land owners were the Lagows
3. Murphy and Bolanz reference the factory site on pg 411.5 of their addition book showing it next to Buzzard Springs/ Wahoo Lake (http://dallaslibrary2.org/texas/murphyandbolanz/Addition3/add3p411-5.html)
4. Joseph Wiley wrote Booker T Washington about his vision for Mill City in December 1911.

What I'm having trouble finding/ what confuses me
1. Was the mill actually built and if so, when?
2. Sanborn maps show nothing there until 1945 when Frazier Court appears.
3. I can't find any aerials or photographs showing it's location and relation to the neighborhood. There were lots associated with the site in the Murphy Bolanz, but they were wiped out as well with Frazier Court.

Anyone know any other reference I could use to dig up more history for this neighborhood?
Re: Mill City Dallas
January 18, 2012 08:16PM
Apparently, the mill did exist. I found the following in The Dallas Morning News on January 31, 1913:

"A proposition to revive the Mill City twine factory, formerly operated in Dallas by J. W. Wiley, a negro promoter, who sought by this means to solve the problem of the negro's industrial future in the South, was presented to the board of directors of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce at their meeting yesterday by J. H. Hodge and Mr. Wood of Dallas, the representative of the present owner who lives in the East." The article then said a special committe was appointed to invesigate the proposal.

An article about a shooting (unrelated to the mill) in 1914 said Mill City was "located one mile east of the fair grounds."
Re: Mill City Dallas
January 19, 2012 02:39AM
There is also a listing in the 1910 Worley's Dallas Business Directory for Mill City Cotton Milll, south end of School Street, which correspondes to the Murphy and Bolanz Plat Map.

Have you checked with the Dallas Public Library? There is a 1924 aerial photo of the area in their online catalog (call # PA 2000 - 3/256). The resolution is not high enough to make out any details but your should be able to view a better copy at the library or purchase a larger copy. They may also have other vintage photos of the area which are not listed in the catalog.

The library also has some old ledgers of building permits. I do not know how far back they go but might be worth looking into.

If you need any background on the Lagow League let me know. I have quite a bit including an abstract of the original deed, Thomas Lagow's will, and the subdivision of the survey among his 4 minor sons.

Thomas Lagow along with his wife, father-in-law Armistead Bennett (who was appointed guardian of the minor children), and brother-in-law William Turner Sadler, came to Texas in the mid 1830's with Elder Daniel Parker and his group to found the first Primitive Baptist Church in Texas. He was awarded a First Class Headright Grant for having been in Texas when the Republic was created in 1836.

Lagow died in 1845 and neither he nor his wife ever visited or lived in Dallas County. Only two of his fours sons settled in Dallas when they reached maturity and inherited their share of the property.

James Jackson Beeman built a cabin at Buzzard Springs in 1843 but was forced to abandon the site when it was determined that it had already been granted to Thomas Lagow.

Re: Mill City Dallas
January 19, 2012 06:16AM
I had never heard "Mill City" used to describe that part of town until recently. I had always heard it called Lagow, Lagow League or Lagow Sand Pits. The area was once heavily mined for sand, maybe for the better part of 75 years. During the last ice age the sands liquified and acted like a Dallas version of the La Brea Tar Pits.

Are you sure this "Mill City" reference is not in regard to the Dallas Oil Mill that was near the railroad roundhouse for the Texas Pacific Railroad near the present day Fitzhugh flyover?

I realize Habitat For Humanity wants to label this an old African American neighborhood but that is more of a recent development in terms of racial structure. My grandmother lived as a child just east of Fair Park before the expansion. Back when it was an anglo neighborhood.
Re: Mill City Dallas
January 19, 2012 03:39PM
Thanks all for the information so far...

I have been to the library, back in December, and spent the day there digging. I did find a few aerials, but none showing a factory in the area by Wahoo Lake. Marilyn, you might b e on to something with the Mill City Twine Factory. I have a reference to a Mill City Mop and Twine Factory in my notes. The library had a presentation on file by Robert Prejean. In it he mentions the factories location near an "Ox-bow Lake" I'm guessing that may be another name for Wahoo and Buzzard Springs. I had thought the site might be at the Planter Cotton Oil site until I found the Murphy Bolanz maps showing the location near Lyons and Spring.

I found an old public works map that the Cesar Chavez activist posted on their website. It was dated 1945, and shows a delineation of neighborhoods that were primarily African-American or Hispanic. In it Mill City is clearly defined as an African American neighborhood. I'm interested to know when the shift was made from Anglo to African- American. My guess is that it happened about the same time that Freedman's Town started to disperse.

Anyway, I found this quote from Joseph Wiley to Booker T Washington in December 1911 as recorded in The Booker T Washington Papers: 1911-1912. It made me wonder how much he influence the shaping of the area and how much was already in place when the Mill opened.

"I have given much thought to this proposition also to the other phase of [the Mill]--- to wit: "The unfavorable influence of a large city" upon the mill operative--- I have attempted to meet both these objections by creating an environment suited to our needs by the development of our Mill City settlement. The central idea being the assembling and associating together of individuals, seeking the study of, and training in the Textile Arts coupled with the opportunity to find full employment and individual advancement as their skill increases.
Our Mill is designed rather along the lines of artistic development followed in the factories in and around Philadelphia rather than the "Piece goods" Mills of New England and the South. Making useful articles ready for family use--- to be marketed directly to the consumer. This will appeal directly and intelligently to the race pride of our people and assure to us a definite appreciative market."
pg 403

It goes on but I found this quote so interesting because I've found that most everything that he wished for that neighborhood is exactly what it longs for today.
Re: Mill City Dallas
January 29, 2012 07:48PM
Always try the USDA plane photos of 1932, 1941, 1950 (DPL ) to help you..
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