Founded by cousins Thomas and Lewis Parker in 1900, Monaghan Mill opened its doors for textile manufacturing with 35,000 spindles. The mill was named after their grandfather’s native county in Ireland. At that time, workers were paid $0.25 per day, and the surrounding village thrived off of the pulse of this brick giant. Once encompassing a total of 325 acres just west of downtown Greenville, the Monaghan neighborhood boasted the first industrial YMCA in the south, a medical center, churches, a company store, a park, and more. With meticulous attention to detail, Thomas Parker brought in a landscape designer from Boston for proper planning.
Within the first decade of Monaghan’s inception, this mill village was thriving with over 500 workers living in 210 houses. The homes were owned by the mill, and workers paid rent between $0.85 and $1.10 per week. The founders strongly advocated a positive community environment in effort to retain workers, and with the help of YMCA director Pete Hollis, mill league sports and welfare activities started and flourished.
The village enjoyed basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, drama club, movies, pool tables, and Bible study. A boarding house, company store, several churches, and a cemetery were also located in this vibrant community. A solid education was highly valued, so the schools in this neighborhood provided state-of-the-art vocational training. Several churches also made homes in Monaghan.
After almost two decades of immersing himself in Monaghan Mill, Lewis Parker went back to private practice as an attorney, and Thomas Parker began a career as a civic leader. Thomas went on to found the Salvation Army Hospital (which later became known as Saint Francis Hospital), the Philis Wheatley Center, and a library that later became the Greenville County Library.
Production shifted from exclusively cotton to synthetics in the 1930s, and with the start of World War II, workers resumed to two-shift, forty-hour work weeks. In 1946, Monaghan Mill’s ownership shifted to J.P. Stevens and Co., Inc. Stevens had no desire to be in the residential real estate business, so the neighborhood homes were sold to workers for $2,300 – $5,000 each. Because of the changing times, much of the charm of this self-sustained microcosm was lost to the advent of television, more affordable automobiles, and the growing popularity of the 40-hour work week that provided more time for recreation. What was Monaghan Central Park was paved over to become a parking lot, and foreign competition in the textile industry became steep. The mill was forced to become more automated to keep up with the times. With lower wages and fewer jobs, workers began to move out of the community.