The textile industry touches us all. Our region has been a powerhouse of textile production, from cotton and hosiery to apparel, chenille, and carpet. The mills transformed families, livelihoods, and communities. We invite locals and visitors alike to explore and share their connections to this story, as well as discover the landscapes and cultures along the Textile Trail.

Come explore the rich legacy of the textile industry through the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail, from Columbus to Dalton.  The Trail highlights historic communities that played a vital regional and sometimes national role in the cotton, hosiery, apparel, chenille, and carpet industries.  Follow along the U.S. Highway 27 corridor and adjacent counties to hear the stories, visit local exhibits and archives, and explore historic textile buildings while enjoying Georgia small-town life and local shops and restaurants.  Find your adventure on the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail!

The West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail by Tinaye Gibbons.

Regions


Northern Region

The chenille bedspread industry sprouted up along US Highways which carried tourists from Northern industrial centers to Florida’s beaches, especially the Dixie Highway along US 41. Spread lines, where locals would hang their bedspreads for sales, lined the roadside. Eventually chenille became popular enough that it evolved into a formal and commercialized industry. Photo Courtesy of the Gordon County Historical Society.

Many of the early mills in this area focused on more traditional products such as cotton duck, yarns, sheeting, and osnaburgs. Certain mills, such as those at Canton and Lindale, came to focus on exploiting the demand for denim. Meanwhile Rossville, due to its status as a suburb of Chattanooga, was tied more to the textile industry of Tennessee than Georgia. It was the seat of a knitting empire which at one point stretched across Tennessee, while it was also home to one of the largest woolen mills in the South. From the 1900s on, a cottage industry producing chenille bedspreads began to take shape as families sold their wares to tourists in “spread lines” along major thoroughfares. By the 1930s, the popularity of chenille products led to the commercialization of the industry, with Dalton and Calhoun at the epicenter of a booming new business. As the popularity of chenille faded in the 1950s, many bedspread manufacturers converted to carpet and rug production. While the majority of the traditional mills in the area eventually fell by the wayside, the carpet and flooring industry here is still a pillar of the region’s economy. One historic mill at Trion is still in operation as well, while mills at Dalton, Rome, Canton, Cedartown, and Rossville have been repurposed and preserved. The ruins of the Old Rope Mill near Woodstock can also be explored, they are now part of a city park which is open to the public.

Central Region

Photo of the exterior of Mandeville Mill
The majority of the mills in the Central Region came to focus on the production of yarn for hosiery and knitting operations. Mandeville Mills, based in Carrollton, was one of the largest yarn producers in the area. Eventually, several hosiery, knitting, and apparel operations set up shop in the surrounding area to take advantage of the railways and easy access to yarn. Photo Courtesy of the University of West Georgia’s Center for Public History.

The cotton industry in this region dates back to the 1840s, as water powered mills were built along Sweetwater Creek near Lithia Springs and Snake Creek near Whitesburg. Although Sweetwater Creek’s New Manchester Mills were burned during the Civil War, the Bowen Mill survived and continued production for another century. The 1880s and 1890s saw the mill on Snake Creek joined by several others throughout the region as Wilcoxon Manufacturing Company and the Newnan Cotton Mills sprouted up in Coweta County. The turn of the century saw more textile mills built in Carrollton, Dallas, Tallapoosa, Douglasville, and Grantville; mostly producing yarns for hosiery and knitting. Several hosiery, knitting, and apparel mills sprouted up in the area, most notably at Bremen and Carrollton, during the 1920s and 30s to take advantage of this easy access to yarns. Small chenille bedspread businesses even popped up to compete with their counterparts in the Northern Region. Foreign competition has whittled away at the Central Region’s textile industry, but the yarn and apparel industries still survive in Tallapoosa, Bremen, and Bowdon. However, historic mills have been repurposed and preserved in Dallas, Carrollton, Newnan, and Whitesburg.

Southern Region

Street view ohoto of the Eagle and Phenix Mills
The Southern Region was an area of massive textile production following the Civil War. The Eagle and Phenix Mills, pictured here, were built on the ashes of Columbus’ ruined mills during the Reconstruction period. It quickly grew to become one of the largest mills in the South, and remained at the forefront of southern textile production for the next 100 years. Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This area, which straddles Georgia’s Fall Line, has historically been home to water powered industries. The 1830s and 40s saw early cotton mills established at Troup Factory on Flat Shoals Creek near LaGrange, on Tobler and Potato Creeks near Thomaston, and in the city of Columbus. Nearly all of these mills were burned by General Wilson’s cavalry in the final days of the Civil War. With the exception of Columbus‘ mills, the ones which were rebuilt fell by the wayside by 1910. They were replaced by new steam powered mills built to take advantage of the logistical benefits offered by the railroads. The period from the 1880s to the 1920s saw LaGrange, Manchester, Thomaston, and Griffin join Columbus as powerhouses of the textile industry by utilizing the railroads and steam power. While West Point originally built its mills to take advantage of the water power offered by the Chattahoochee, it quickly took advantage of capital from the Northeast and the local railroad to become home to one of the largest mill groups in the South. This southern region produced everything from towels, sheetings, and shirtings to heavy industrial fabrics such as Army Duck. However, it was never reached by the chenille industry which exploded from the Northern Region. Today, only Thomaston, LaGrange, and Hogansville have textile businesses which still operate out of historic cotton mills. Many have been demolished, but cities such as LaGrange and Columbus have worked to repurpose and preserve their historic architecture for generations to come.