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The Sanctuary

Brenau University alumnus Vic Wilson has written poignantly about the place where he grew up in two books. This is the introductory lines from his latest.

New Holland wasn’t just a village; in a way, it was a church, a sanctuary, a special place where everyone had worth and understood their role. The mothers and other women who lived there were the preachers – the teachers – that made it home. This book is but a trifle tribute to a few of those saints of old who gave the village life.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is where we begin. She listened and learned that she would become the vessel for salvation and purpose to the world. She obeyed, and our journey commenced. It was a flat-line existence until Mary gave her approval, and the birth of Jesus was the anomaly that made eternity real.

Wilson opens his book with a profile of Miss Icie Pilgrim, who was never married and never gave birth buit who, according to Wilson, "was a mother in the truest sense of the word ... to us MilliKids." Famous for fudge, divinity and telling tales, Miss Icie's front porch was "our haven during the day."
Wilson opens his book with a profile of Miss Icie Pilgrim, who was never married and never gave birth but who, according to Wilson, “was a mother in the truest sense of the word … to us MilliKids.” Famous for fudge, divinity and telling tales, Miss Icie’s front porch was “our haven during the day.”

There were many necessary and important women before and after Mary, but her willingness and determination to withstand public and universal ridicule and shame are unmatched and certainly unparalleled. But the women of New Holland, Georgia, were an extraordinary lot, indeed!

Personally, I don’t remember being a nonbeliever. A savior and an eternity with Him was breathed into me from a point I can’t recall. I didn’t understand this as a child, but I’ll spend the remainder of my life trying to because no one has a complete grip on this enigma. But the closer we get to the end of this present existence the more appreciative and grateful I am to the women…the mothers…who were the backbone of this North Georgia village.

What is it about these women that set them apart? Simply this, they understood their purpose and place in life, and dedicated their lives to making their loved ones, which included their neighbors, feel safe and loved.

The village comprised mainly mill workers who spent at least eight hours a day, five days a week, breathing, spitting, coughing, gagging, and even chewing on the lint that brought an early end to many of their lives. The “Lintheads,” as they were more affectionately known, and many of them women, brought home pennies to provide for their families. These “Lintheads” had names: Pigeon, Cotton, Big Duff, Goodies, and numerous others. As these men and women exited the cotton mill after a tedious eight-hour shift – a few quite often working double shifts –the first thing anyone would notice about their appearance was the cotton lint that adorned their heads.

Vic Wilson img126The Yarn Barn was a haven to most while at the same time provided a quicker path to an early exit from this planet. But they knew it, they understood it, and most, by far, loved it. The mill put food on the table, paid the best teachers to teach and provided a warm and comfortable home to reside in occasionally. Yes, they were all heroes, but I would like to introduce and talk to you about the people who made the village what it was, is, and will always be – HOME. We call them MilliMoms.

I apologize now for failing to mention all that are deserving and worthy. I admit that my research should have been done decades ago, but having said this, I have had enormous fun gathering all the information I could get from their loved ones. As I have mentioned before, I have been surrounded by the greatest arsenal of family, friends, and neighbors, and many of these women helped make my life even more enjoyable and meaningful.

These MilliMoms had many common threads that knitted them together, but the most obvious thread was that they were Proverbs 31 women. What is a Proverbs 31 woman? As I researched these dear souls, as I came into contact with their loved ones and other ancestors, as I tried to qualify these special ladies into the household of feminine sainthood, I discovered that the following characteristics rang true for each and every one of them. A Proverbs 31 woman:

  • — is more valuable than rubies
  • — possesses the husband’s heart
  • — is good to people
  • — works with her hands
  • — cooks and cleans
  • — rises early
  • — plants goodness in the souls of her offspring
  • — works diligently
  • — is surrounded by light
  • — aids the poor and needy
  • — gains respect, even for her husband
  • — is strong and honorable
  • — speaks with wisdom and kindness
  • — is never idle
  • — is called blessed by her children
  • — fears the Lord!

Commitment, loyalty and dedication to the family unit was a high priority in each of these women’s lives. While only a handful of these marriages ended in divorce, disease and accidental death, the average number of years these women were married is fifty-one. I have to confess that several of the women I write about here, I knew nothing of or very little about. I leave it up to their ancestors, friends, and neighbors to nominate his or her mother or grandmother and fill in the blanks. I am forever indebted and cannot wait to thank them personally. The lint has been replaced by a halo. I know where they reside: on streets of gold.

From Millimoms: Treasures of New Holland, by Vic Wilson. BookLogix. Alpharetta, Georgia, 2014. Used by permission of the author.

Brenau alumnus Vic Wilson at the site of the university's new Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park near the ball fields and school yard at New Holland where he played as a MilliKid.
Brenau alumnus Vic Wilson at the site of the university’s new Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park near the ball fields and school yard at New Holland where he played as a MilliKid.

About the Author: Vic Wilson, BA ’77, grew up in the small, close-knit cotton mill village of New Holland community on the outskirts of Gainesville, Georgia. The Brenau history major retired after decades as a public school educator.  A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Wilson earned both Master’s of Education and Education Specialist degrees from the University of Georgia in Athens. He and his wife, Joan, a retired school teacher, have been married for 41 years. They have two grown sons and two grandsons. They currently live in Flowery Branch, Georgia, where Wilson serves as a professional golf instructor at Royal Lakes Golf and Country Club. His first book about New Holland, Millikids: It Took a Mill to Raise a Village, was published in 2013 and its sequel, MilliKids II is expected in 2015. Wilson’s books are available online through and other sources and in select retail outlets, including the gift shop at Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.

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