Telling Stories, Connecting Communities

Category: Student Blog

Mapping Out History

April 2018

By: Brandon Cohran

It has always been important to us at UWG’s Center for Public History to include and to highlight student work in our projects. In this blog post we feature maps of the Textile Heritage Trail created by students in Dr. Andy Walter’s advanced economic geography seminar during Spring 2017. These maps reveal spatial dimensions of, and provide geographical context for, the history we are seeking to bring to life through the Textile Trail project.

Dr. Walter began collaborating with the Center’s directors, Dr. Ann McCleary and Keri Adams, in 2016. For Dr. Walter, an economic geographer in the Department of Geosciences, the Textile Trail project was an opportunity to engage in mapping (did you know that geographers love maps?) while learning about an industry that has played a defining role in the West Georgia region’s economy and urban system. Ultimately, the goal of this partnership is an interactive mapping component to the Textile Trail, perhaps built into a mobile app, as well as series of maps representing the historical geographical evolution of the textile industry in the region. Dr. Walter is also working on the Center’s University History Project to create maps and a digital mapping platform to tell the stories of the people, programs, and spaces that make up our university. The heat map above was created by Dr. Walter to show the spatial density of mills across space, i.e. the number of mills in localities from place to place.

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Interpreting Carrollton

March 7, 2018

By: Brandon Cohran

History with a capital ‘h’ is often an early warning for people to become uninterested very quickly. It’s dates, places, the names of this or of that, and the worst part is, is that it never, ever, changes. Today, tomorrow, next week, and next year, History stays the same. Public history, however, is constantly in motion and is creating new opportunities for history to intersect with everyday life. The purpose of public history is to do exactly that – create an intersection between history and public spaces. In Carrollton, there are several institutions and resources available to anyone who wants to experience history beyond the textbooks. Public History students and faculty at the University of West Georgia have impacted this community for almost two decades. Before public projects ever happened, faculty and students of the Center for Public History conducted countless oral histories of and collected photographs and objects from people who lived in the area. 

Mandeville Mills, Carrollton, Georgia, ca. 1905. Courtesy UWG Center for Public History.

Carrollton, Georgia, is a city steeped in history. The city incorporated in the mid-nineteenth century, and after the railroad expanded close to Carrollton, the textile industry started in Carrollton with the opening of Mandeville Mills in 1899. Today, the extant structures of mill no.1 and its various additions were converted condominiums, and the mill is on the National Register of Historic Places. The former home of Clifton Mandeville, founder of the mill, still stands near downtown and displays the beauty of the Victorian-style home. Across the street, at Feathers & Twigs, there is an interpretive  sign outdoors, which details the former home, as well as other historic homes along Maple Street. This sign is one of five interpretative panels for the Textile Trail located in Carrollton, which are  supplemented by a self-guided walking trail brochure. This signs were curated and designed by three public history graduate students, Andy Carter, Keri Adams, and Jennifer Teeter, working with the Center for Public History.

Flyer highlighting the museum’s upcoming exhibit. April – June, 2018. Courtesy Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum.

In addition to the old cotton mill, Carrollton is home to the Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum. This museum allows visitors to experience textiles in a unique and exciting way as they have many textiles in their collection and feature exhibits with them. The interpretation done at the museum allows visitors to not only get a better understanding of the history on the textile industry, but also to see products that were created during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Georgia. The museum features quilts dating back as far as the 1790s, and many of them feature local and state artists. Typically, there about 30 quilts on display at any time, and visitors are welcome to interact with them – just wear gloves! Every semester, the Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum hosts a graduate student from UWG. This spring, Museum Studies Certificate student Chloe McNeil serves as the museum’s Operations Manager and Curator in which she is tasked with daily administrative operations, curator of collections, and education programs. Public History graduate student Kymara Sneed works part-time in guest services.

Adamson Square, Carrollton, Georgia. Courtesy UWG Center for Public History.

Outdoor interpretation is abundant throughout Carrollton. There are 23 historic markers throughout Carroll County, and Carrollton boats six of them. These historic markers feature people or events pertinent to Carrollton’s history. Adamson Square, in downtown Carrollton, in the past few years has experienced a revitalization of the history behind the square. There has been an effort to keep a historic look and feel to the buildings around the square. One of the buildings, Horton’s Books & Gifts, is the oldest bookstore in the state. The downtown Carrollton Historic District and surrounding streets were placed on the National Register in 2007. 

In addition to the historic markers scattered throughout Carrollton, there are also several walking tours available, many of which involved work done by graduate students from the University of West Georgia. These trails vary from the historic district walk to the historic cemetery tour – which is currently being updated for Carrollton Main Street – by Melanie Sigman in collaboration with Geosciences faculty member Dr. Andy Walter. Brochures for these tours are available via mobile apps, or at the Carrollton Main Street office, or Log Cabin Visitor Center on Lake Carroll. The City Cemetery guide, which is offers a detailed commentary about the cemetery, the different sections of the cemetery, and it highlights some of the people who are buried there, such as the aforementioned Clifton Mandeville, and Newton Allen Horton – the namesake of Horton’s Bookstore. 

Newly installed interpretive plaque at LocoMex in Bowdon Station, Bowdon, Georgia. Photograph by Mignon Wessigner, Bowdon Area Historical Society.

To venture out of Carrollton just a bit, but to discuss another trail, my colleague Chanell Lowery, tomorrow, on March 13th at 5pm at Bowdon City Hall, is launching a Bowdon Spur Walking Trail Tour. As part of her thesis project, Chanell developed a walking tour in which visitors will learn about Bowdon’s textile heritage and how the community had a regional and national influence still seen today.  In her research, she discovered untold stories about the LaMar Manufacturing Company’s first African American employees, a pay stub from Warren Sewell Clothing Company, and the process of apparel manufacturing yesteryear. One of the most important narratives that Bowden’s apparel heritage is important because it shares common threads seen in history throughout the United States. Also, Bowden’s apparel companies have adapted to the textile hardships by changing their business focus to supplying tailored garments for the U.S. military.

An employee uses a hand iron to smooth and finish the lining of a men’s coat in this photograph, ca.1986. Courtesy Charles & Marjorie Middlebrooks, in memory and honor of the Plunkett Family.

Public history, to us at the University of West Georgia, is important because history through public engagement often facilitates lasting impressions on people about the place they live or visit. Why read about quilts from the local cemetery to see where people of the past are buried rather than driving by and glancing at the obelisks? It is our goal to promote the use of history to teach where, when and how events happened locally, statewide, and nationally. The city of Carrollton is actively bringing public history to its visitors in a variety of ways. As long as the community stays involved, and new ideas are embraced, public history will continue to encourage engagement with visitors and residents of the city.

A special thanks goes out to all of the previous students who have worked on this project along with my current team members Emily Harrington, Chanell Lowery, and Tinaye Gibbons. In addition, a thank you to the Center faculty Drs. Julia Brock and Ann McCleary, and Keri Adams.

Textile Talk

January 31, 2018

Author: Brandon Cohran

A new year ushers in new changes, and for us at the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia, we are making changes as well. Beginning this month, we are looking to bring unique and diverse blog posts to the website in order to offer fun, new, and interesting perspectives about the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail. As a new graduate research assistant, and the Textile Heritage Trail Curator, I am ecstatic about the Textile Trail project and all of the potential stories and experiences that will come out of this ongoing documentation of regional history.

What is the Textile Heritage Trail, you ask? Why does it matter? Well, the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail, or Textile Trail, is a research project conducted by students and History Department faculty in the Center of Public History at the University of West Georgia. The Textile Trail is a heritage tourism initiative, whose shared history is curated and researched by students in order to tell the stories of communities throughout northwest Georgia. The Trail spans from Dalton to Columbus, Georgia, along the U.S.Highway 27 corridor, and focuses on this region from antebellum to the present day, while telling the history of the textile industry in the region. The textile industry built small Georgia towns and cities during this period.

Photo of the 1904 Chattooga County Fair in Summerville
Product showcase at the Goodyear Tire Plant in Cedartown, Georgia, 1950s. Courtesy of Polk County Historical Society.

Textiles, such as, cotton mills and hosiery mills, as well as chenille, carpet, apparel and garments, led to the manufacturing of rubber wire and tire cord for automobiles. The textile industry throughout central and northwest Georgia, created economic growth and stability, which led to a strengthened infrastructure for small towns along railroads and rivers.

Foundations of the Textile Trail began long before its founding in 2012. It started with the work of History students and  faculty that conducted research and oral history projects in proximity to the University of West Georgia in the early 2000s. The first wave of research was an indication of the importance that textiles, primarily cotton, had on the growth of various communities in size and in the economic stability in the Carrollton area. In the spring of 2012, the Textile Heritage Trail became a Center-based project that utilized student work every semester. The years of research and labor became a centralized focus of the Center, and through all of the past and present work, each year new discoveries help us to update our information about the communities along the Trail in addition to creating new entries.

The next milestone for the Textile Heritage Trail came in 2013 in thanks to a grant that the Center received from the Callaway Foundation of LaGrange, Georgia. History student researchers and faculty embarked on new research and image collecting leading to the Trail’s first guidebook, The West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail published as a part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series in December 2015. The Center, through the book project, was able to develop deeper stories and to form stronger community connections to the textile industry. We use our website, self-guided walking tour brochures, and interpretive signs to tell these stories.

Our current student-staff working on the Textile Heritage Trail consists of three graduate research assistants, one of which has worked the project since the fall of 2014. Together it is our mission, I feel, to provide enriching stories, educational information, and to give exposure to the diverse range of people whose lives changed because of the Textile Trail throughout north and west Georgia. My two project team members are Chanell Lowery and Emily Harrington. They both contribute heavily to the success of the project along with myself, Brandon Cohran.

Emily Harrington, our Strategic Planning Coordinator for the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail Project, is in her second consecutive semester being involved on the Textile Trail as a Graduate Research Assistant. This new planning initiative is generously funded by the Callaway Foundation of LaGrange, Georgia.  Emily said that she “has enjoyed [her] time working on the Trail. It has had its challenges along the way but those challenges have been great learning opportunities for me.” She acknowledges that, “the future is sure to bring some great changes for us due to sticking with our strategic plan to incorporate future improvements to the Textile Trail.”

My other peer, Chanell Lowery, has been involved with the Trail project for over three years now, and with that, she has fulfilled many roles. Currently, however, she is working the completion of the Bowdon Spur Project (and leading the tour for it), while also transitioning digital databases, completing membership signs, and finishing newsletters and community brochures. Her experience with so many aspects to the Trail helps to keep the project organized and intact. The project touched home with Chanell, as she said, “when I started working on the Trail three years ago, I thought my work would be about helping others learn about their heritage, but it turns out I ended up learning about mine too. Last year, I learned that my  great-great-grandmother, Dora Lively, worked at Callaway mills.”

In addition to the dedicated work that both my colleagues Emily and Chanell do for the project, I am the new Curator for the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail. So far, my contribution to the project has included the development of this blog, but also community research for the entries on the website and compiling new community histories to explore. I hope that these entries will not only be informational about the Textile Trail Industry in the area, but that the region’s past will connect to the present. My goal is to have the website community pages, and the blogs, be informational and unique. In my limited exposure to the Trail, so far, I have seen how important the textile industry was to the development and stability of small communities all throughout Georgia.

Two Chenille Spreads depicting peacocks outside of Prater's Mill
Chenille bedspreads on display at Prater’s Store, Dalton, Georgia. These two bedspreads feature colorful peacocks,  an iconic theme of the Old Dixie Highway chenille shacks in the mid-20th century. Courtesy of Janet Cochran.

To compliment the information on the Textile Heritage Trail website about the community’s textile history, we also include places to visit and activities to do when in the surrounding area. This added dynamic helps highlight the lasting impact that the Textile Trail had on the communities and people in the decades following the decline of the industry. Many, but not all, of the sites listed as places to visit display textiles or give their community’s narration of the impact that the textile industry left on the people who lived there.

The Textile Heritage Trail focuses on the people who lived in communities along the Trail and how their lives changed due to the textile industry throughout Georgia. I find it exciting that we, the current student-staff of the Center for Public History, continue to discover and tell the amazing stories of these people. Moving forward with this blog, I hope to focus on one key element or group of people every month, so that we, at the Center for Public History, can continue to grow and expand on the variety of ways that the Textile Heritage Trail influenced the people of Georgia.

A special thanks goes out to all of the previous students who have worked on this project along with my current team members Emily Harrington and Chanell Lowery. In addition, a thank you to the Center faculty Drs. Julia Brock and Ann McCleary, and Keri Adams.  

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