Bessie Hicks, circa 1904, holds her son and daughter, possibly waiting for her husband to get home from a hard day’s work at the Matoaca Mill or getting ready to go to work at the sweat shop herself.
The Matoaca Mill spun cotton into cloth using newly invented machines. The mill was built close to the Appomattox River because it needed a good supply of water to power its weaving machines with water-wheels. To encourage workers to work at a mill, some mill owners built houses for them. In this way, new villages and towns developed. Many became known as cotton towns because they owed their existence to cotton. One of these was the mill village of Matoaca.