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The textile industry spread like wildfire across the South in the years following Reconstruction. Dozens of mills across North and South Carolina drew workers from rural and mountain farms, who traded in farm life for life in the mill village. There, workers lived in homes rented out by the mill, shopped in stores run by the mill, and went to church and school in structures built by the mill. The mill owners often tried to cultivate a sense of family in the mill village. This "family" included the children of the village, who very often left school to work in the cotton mills alongside their parents and siblings.

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