The Pepperell Kids held their annual reunion Saturday, Sept. 24, at the home of Janet and George Crawford at Lake Martin. The reunion has been held yearly since 2005, except during COVID-19. At the first reunion, 32 attended and were mostly ones in George’s class, while another year over 150 met at the lake. Members of the group lived in the Pepperell Village or attended the original school.

This year, more than 60 members met to reminisce about blissful childhood days in the village and enjoy a barbecue lunch. Since the Pepperell Manufacturing Company closed, the mill has disappeared from the landscape except for a water tower and chimney.

When the Pepperell Manufacturing Company opened the mill, it not only changed the lives of those who came to work there but also the town of Opelika. Bringing the mill to Opelika was an effort of community leaders. In April 1925, ground was broken in a former cotton field, and construction began on the mill and 100 houses, known as Pepperell Mill Village, became a reality.

The mill was completed in 1926. The school opened in September with about 200 students. A church was constructed for Baptist and Methodist congregations. In 1927, a grocery store, barbershop and theatre were built, with the theatre closing a few years later to enlarge the grocery store and add a drug store. A baseball and athletic field was built in the village in 1930, and the Lady Pepperell Shop was built in 1933.

In the years that followed, the mill village was home to hundreds of families and countless children who grew up playing with friends after school and meeting at the drugstore for a cold drink.

The mill closed in 2007.

On the night of March 12, 2013, the remains of the mill burned. After the mill was destroyed, the Pepperell Kids decided to preserve the dragon plaque. They raised $4,500, with the city council and Opelika Historic Preservation Society donating the remaining amount needed.

The plaque was transported to its new home outside the Museum of East Alabama, which is on the former site of the Clement Hotel in downtown Opelika. The cement dragon plaque that had hung over the door to the bleachery was enclosed with bricks from the mill.

Pepperell Kid Jane Worthington wrote books on the history of the mill and village, preserving a part of Opelika history and leaving a legacy for those families who will always remember their home in the Mill Village.