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New book examines the rise and fall of an Indiana mill town

Ronald V. Morris, professor of history at Ball State University, is the author of a new book titled Yountsville: The Rise and Decline of an Indiana Mill Town.  In this volume, Morris and collaborators examine the history and context of a rural Midwestern town, including family labor, working women, immigrants, and competing visions of the future. Combining perspectives from history, economics, and archeology, this exploration of a pioneering Midwestern company town highlights how interdisciplinary approaches can help recover forgotten communities.

The Yount Woolen Mill was founded during the pioneer period by immigrants from Germany who employed workers from the surrounding area and from Great Britain who were seeking to start a life with their families. For three generations the mill prospered until it and its workers were faced with changing global trade and aging technology that could not keep pace with the rest of the world. Deindustrialization compelled some residents to use education to adapt, while others held on to their traditional skills and were forced to relocate.

In the Midwest, many stories exist about German immigrants working in urban areas, but there are few stories of immigrants as capitalists in rural areas. The story of the Yount family is one of an immigrant family who built an industry with talent, labor, and advantage. Unfortunately, deindustrialization, dislocation, adaptation, and reuse were familiar problems in the Midwest. Archeologists, scholars, and students of state and local history and the Midwest will find much of interest in this book.

“Ronald Morris’s study of Yountsville presents the fascinating and complicated interplay of the rapidly changing forces of industrialization and education and how they shaped the life and economy of rural communities.  Quite importantly, Morris also builds a strong argument that extant historic places—such as Yount’s Mill—are more than adjunct to the written historical narrative in understanding our past.” —Marsh Davis, Indiana Landmarks Center

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