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64 Things to Love About Alabama: The Pratt Cotton Gin Mill

What is a nice, crumbling industrial complex without a good ghost story?

Around 170 years ago, Daniel Pratt constructed a cotton gin just west of Montgomery on a high flowing creek, later named Autauga Creek, founding the town of Prattville (creative, right?). It was a spearhead for the most rapidly booming business in the state of Alabama and Pratt invested in building a railroad, school, more manufacturing and more infrastructure for the city. In 1899, the Pratt Cotton Gin merged with some others and became the Continental Gin Company, which continued to operate through 1966. Eagle Corporation eventually bought it out and Continental Eagle is the oldest continuously-operated industry in Alabama.

Which is cool and all.

But the fun part is the less... recorded... history. With any old industry in the deep south, there are always stories. One in particular says that Willie Youngblood, a 10 year old working at the mill, fell down an elevator shaft and died. His mother died alone one year later.

Then, about a decade after that (the 1920s), workers started reporting seeing a “Lady in Black.” Willie’s mother was searching for her son. They most often would see her walking up and down the aisles between the machines before eventually giving up and crossing the dam to leave the mill.

As more of the buildings became abandoned, the stories left the tales of night shift workers and more to high school students daring to trespass in the old buildings. This story was included in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s follow up book to her first 13 Alabama Ghosts novel, and was more recently featured in an episode of Deep South Paranormal.

Well, I never personally saw the Lady, but it is a really neat area to look at. Downtown has a number of historic buildings housing renovated businesses and it all overlooks the creek and dam, where you can look across to the old mill.