Between Catonsville and Ellicott City, Oella is a mill town located on the Patapsco River in western Baltimore County, Maryland, United States, on the banks of the Patapsco River. It is a village of millworkers’ residences from the nineteenth century.
It was built in 1808 by the Union Manufacturing Company as a working-class neighborhood to house mill employees employed by the company’s mills. With water-powered looms as early as 1819, it was one of the earliest and most extensive cotton manufacturers in the United States, and it remains one of the most important.
The Embargo Act of 1807, which forced Baltimore merchants to produce finished goods in the United States rather from England, served as the impetus for the formation of the Union Manufacturing Company. Stock in the corporation was issued to support a series of industrial mills, the largest of which was dedicated to the production of cotton and wool products. Child and impoverished labor was employed until a total of 150 laborers were employed in 1811.
Cotton prices plummeted when the War of 1812 brought the embargo to an end. It took a decade to repair and recover from a fire that occurred on December 13, 1815, at the largest mill. The Mill recovered with the introduction of water-driven looms and expanded to three mill buildings before finally closing its doors in 1887 due to a further downturn in textile prices in the United States. In 1887, William J. Dickey of Dickeysville (Gwynns Falls) purchased the mill and operated it as W.J. Dickey & Sons. The mill was named “Oella” in honor of the first woman to spin cotton in America, who lived in Dickeysville at the time.
This historic district contains the settlement of Oella, which is made up of 19th century workers’ houses and a church built in the late 19th century. The W.J. Dickey Company Mill, built in 1919 as a reconstruction following a fire in 1918, is the sole building from the twentieth century that has been identified. Eventually, the facility was put to use for the city. The majority of the stone structures can be seen in a drawing by Maximilian Godefroy from 1812. Click here for some more information on Ellicott City, Maryland.
The brick houses were built about the middle of the nineteenth century, while the frame buildings were built towards the end of the century. Located on the northeast corner of the church grounds, the Oella Methodist Church is a basic frame structure with a bell tower that has been turned into offices. The Patapsco River continued to provide electricity generation until Hurricane Agnes swamped the power station in 1972, causing it to close. Manufacturing at the Dickey Company came to an end the same year. For more information be sure to check out Rockland, MD.
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