In 1899 Wake Forest College graduates Robert E. Royall, Thomas E. Holding, and William C. Powell built a cotton mill on a twenty-five acre tract north of the Wake Forest town limits.
The Royall Cotton Mill, soon to be one of the largest in the state, originally was designed to produce cotton muslin from locally-grown cotton. It later manufactured carded yarn. Company-owned workers’ houses, a school, a commissary, and two churches (Glen Royal Baptist and the Church of God) joined the mill to form a distinct village. In 1907 the area was incorporated as the Town of Royall Mills, with the mill’s Board of Directors appointing the mayor, usually the mill’s superintendent.
By the 1930s, economic realities forced the mill into bankruptcy; yet it was reorganized as the Royall Cotton Mill Company and operated as such until closing in 1976.
The close-knit community of Royall Mills fought repeated attempts at annexation by Wake Forest. The division of land into lots and sale of houses to workers led to the company’s 1945 request for repeal of its town charter.
In 1977 the Town of Wake Forest annexed the Royall Mills area. The buildings, homes and community remain as a monument to the workers and families of the Mill Village.