Visit a New South mill town, where local boosters brought the cotton industry to their thriving railroad community at the turn of the twentieth century.
Douglasville, established in 1870, like many postbellum Georgia towns soon saw industry and commerce arrive with the railroad. The city’s textile industry flourished with the construction of the Georgia Western Railroad from Atlanta to Birmingham in 1883, which passed through Douglasville. Mills, plants, and shops were built along the rail line, including cotton mills New Eden Mill and Douglas Knitting Mill.
Constructed in 1895, New Eden Mill was Douglasville’s first textile operation; however, the new mill burned soon after completion. Reconstruction of the cotton mill began in January of 1898. Ownership was unstable during the construction with a series of buyouts and the business was known as Georgia Western Cotton Mill and New Century Cotton Mill over the next decade. The completed cotton mill reopened in 1908 as Lois Mill.
Lois Cotton Mill featured an innovative industrial design by Charles Paray. The mill’s external walls were comprised of alternating ridged and grooved walls sometimes described as “zigzag” walls. The design allowed many windows in the exterior walls, providing better lighting and ventilation for mill workers. The building also incorporated two foundations for easier repair in case of fire. Lois Mill produced printed cloth in its early years, manufactured on 20,000 ring spindles and 500 looms. The company established a mill village for the workers, including small frame houses along Grady and Copper Streets, now home to Mill Village Park.
By the 1930s, Beaver Mills of Massachusetts purchased Lois Cotton Mill, and the company became part of Beaver’s broad network of cotton manufacturing across the South. Each week, workers used 75 bales of cotton to produce over 17 tons of cotton products each week, including broadcloth, a type of clothing fabric. The company shipped 90% of the cloth produced in Douglasville to other Beaver Mills locations outside Georgia for finishing and sold the final products through a New York company.
Employees in Beaver-Lois Mill unionized in 1933 with the United Textile Workers of America. Many of those workers participated in the General Textile Strike of 1934, which closed the mill for four weeks. The strike proved unsuccessful for employees, but continued union efforts led to the closing of the mill again in 1935. When it reopened, workers faced lower wages and increased workloads, leading to continued labor unrest through the 1940s. The mill closed and sat empty for many years before it burned in 2012.
Douglasville’s textile history is remembered today through the commerce it brought to its community. Like many communities along the trail, textile-manufacturing companies wove their way into communities due to the railroad. Georgia Western Railroad aided this community by shipping cotton and cloth in and out to communities all over Georgia and into major markets. Lois Mill sold some of their goods to Gilreath Manufacturing Company who used Lois Mill cloth to produce coats. Along the trail, you will find many stories of how textiles influenced each community but Douglasville’s textile history is unique because of its innovative textile manufacturing structure, Lois Mill. Though the building is no longer present today, its impact will forever be felt in this thriving city through the commerce it helped to create.
What can you do?
- Historical Self-Guided Walking tour–Visit the downtown that supported this textile mill community and learn about the historic buildings that survive. The tour brochure is available through Douglasville Main Street.
- Douglas County Museum of History and Art — The historic old Douglas County Courthouse now serves as a museum and archive of local history.
- Mill Village Park — Mill Village Park is located at the intersection of Grady Street and Cooper Street off Fairburn Road (Highway 92). This city park is on property that was once a part of Lois Mil and Beaver Mills mill village. The 3-acre park features an outdoor basketball court, a pavilion, playground equipment, grills, and picnic tables.
What can you see?
- Lois Mill and Beaver Mill village –Although Lois Mill and Beaver Mills are no longer standing; you can still drive through what remains of the mill village, located east of downtown Douglasville near Fairburn Road (Highway 92). The homes in this area are private and not accessible to the public.
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