Valley Falls Dam looking to Central Falls

Mill Villages

Mill villages are a unique feature of nineteenth century industrial development in the Blackstone River Valley. With its steep drop and numerous falls, the Blackstone River provided ideal conditions for the development of rural textile mills around which mill villages developed.

  • Mill Village Life - Every feature of these villages - location, buildings and street layout - was the product of careful thought and planning.
  • Child Labor - By 1830, 55% of the mill workers in Rhode Island were children.
  • Voting Rights and the Dorr Rebellion - By 1829, 60% of the state's free white males were ineligible to vote.
  • Slatersville - Built by Samuel Slater in 1803, this is the first mill village built solely for the purpose of producing cloth. It became the model for industrial development in the Blackstone River Valley for the rest of the century.
  • Ashton and Berkeley - Built by the Lonsdale Company in the mid-nineteenth century, these are among the largest and best preserved company-owned mill villages. They are listed in National Register of Historic Places.
  • Valley Falls - Now a major urban center in Cumberland and Central Falls, Valley Falls began as a small mill village in 1818. It is home to the Valley Falls Heritage Park.
  • Lowell - The grand experiment that tapped the energy of the Merrimack River to build America's first industrial city in Lowell, Massachusetts.

In Woonsocket, six mill villages grew up along the Blackstone River in the area around the Woonsocket Falls. Five of these villages - Social, Jenckesville, Hamlet, Bernon and Globe - clustered around the mills of one company. The sixth and largest, Woonsocket Falls, contained the mills of several companies huddled together.

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