We’ve been milling around for 100 years. Often looking back, always moving forward.
In the early days of the cotton mill, people came from all over not for the high-grade fabric being produced, but to catch a glimpse of something they’d never seen in action: electricity. The lights of the mill shining each night were symbolic of what the building would come to mean to the city of Starkville, then just a tiny dot on the map named Boardtown unaware of the journey it had just begun.
Few things were as important to the cotton mill and to the city as the moment J.W. Sanders decided to buy Starkville’s mill and make it part of Sanders Industries. Under his guidance, the mill became one of the most successful of its kind across the country and was an economic driver in both the city and the state. The Sanders family proved to be among Mississippi’s most powerful and influential groups.
After over a decade of success, Sanders made the decision to expand the cotton mill and increase production to meet the booming demand for their signature “Starkville Chambray” thread. By the time expansion was complete, the mill was producing the Chambray at a rate of 1.5 million yards annually, one of the largest providers in the United States.
Following his father’s passing, then-G.M. Robert David Sanders took over Sanders Industries, beginning an even greater expansion in the work and influence of his family’s company. With the younger Sanders at the helm, the company began producing clothing and assorted items made from the Starkville Chambray, and it was his campaign “What Mississippi Makes, Makes Mississippi” that helped change perceptions of the growing industrial state.
When World War II hit the country, demand for fabric grew to an all-time high. By the time the war concluded, the cotton mill was producing 160,00 yards of fabric per week, running 24 hours a day on three eight-hour shifts. The mill had become the center of town with its own community of houses surrounding the area, complete with a church, hospital, school, weekly meat market and even a fire station run out of the tower seen today at the front of the building.
After 60 years of a mutually beneficial relationship between school and mill, Mississippi State University bought the recently-closed cotton mill and re-named it the Cooley Building, home to the school’s physical plant. For decades MSU had been a pipeline of trained workers for the mill, making it fitting for the university to save the building and keep it intact for its soon-to-be-realized future.
Over a century after the cotton mill first opened in Boardtown, The Mill re-opened in Starkville to once again take its place as the city’s economic hub, a center of commerce and community re-shaping the town and ushering it onward just like it did 100 years before. The cotton mill then and The Mill at MSU now both represent a gateway to the university and a bridge to the community.
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All of our artwork is hand painted by Starkville resident and Mississippi native Mary Parker Buckley. An award-winning artist, her creations have been featured throughout the state, from local galleries to the Governor’s mansion. Each of these rooms features a different one of Mississippi’s eclectic regions.
Turns out, cotton isn’t the only thing we grow in Mississippi. The Pine Belt is our wooded region of enchanted forests, New South farms and steadily humming industry. Birthplace of Bo Diddley and Britney Spears and old world home to the Natchez Native American tribe, the Piney Woods produces far more than its abundant – and sticky – timber.
We’re not just on this side of the Mississippi, we ARE this side of the Mississippi. While cotton was the state’s cash crop, the rivers were our connection to the outside world, transporting products made right here at the mill to cities and stores around the globe. The Mighty Mississippi has our namesake, while all the waters flowing in and out represent the power of trade and open doors of The Hospitality State.
Nowhere in Mississippi so perfectly defines the state as the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where the combination of beauty and strength stand in harmony. ‘Alive and Well,’ Mrs. Buckley’s portrait of a classic coastal live oak tree, stands as proof of our state’s resilience and determination against anything we may face.
We keep pretty busy in this state, but when the time comes, we’re pretty good at relaxing, too. Maybe it’s the Mississippi heat, or maybe we’re just not in such a hurry, but we know how to slow down and enjoy ourselves in the northeast foothills. At the Neshoba County Fair, politics and family entertainment collide, while any warm summer day you can find Pickwick Lake full of riders, drivers, fishers and relaxers.
Our gateway to the east, the Black Prairie is home to all that makes Mississippi great. World-renowned golf at Old Waverly, game and commerce along the Tombigbee river, catfish and cattle in between, as well as international industry throughout – southern comforts meet modern technologies in our prairie counties.
The Home of the Blues, the Mississippi Delta is where our culture was born. Writers and musicians grew as quickly as the cotton surrounding them, the latter serving as the lifeblood of the state and the former rising up as her voice. The natural and human resources the delta provided are what shaped the Mississippi we see today.