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. 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.
Two small-scale cotton spinning mills emerged along rivers in this region during the antebellum period: Bowensville Manufacturing Company near Whitesburg in 1847 and Sweetwater Manchester Company near Lithia Springs in 1849.
After the Civil War, New South ideology and modern technology encouraged southern and northern investors to establish cotton mills in the growing towns along the new railroad lines. The largest growth in this region occurred at the turn of the twentieth century with the construction of multi-story brick mills beginning with the Newnan Cotton Mill in 1888, followed by others in the railroad towns of Carrollton, Tallapoosa, Douglasville, Senoia, Villa Rica, and Dallas. Operated by coal-burning steam and electric power, these mills produced cotton yarn and cloth. Company owners established mill villages filled with homes, churches, schools, stores, and other amenities.
Hosiery mills moved into the railroad towns in this region in the early twentieth century, often alongside the cotton mills. By 1910, Grantville, Banning, Douglasville, and Dallas had hosiery or knitting mills. The greatest concentration opened in the 1920s. Carroll County boasted the largest number of hosiery mills in Georgia in 1935, located primarily in Carrollton and Villa Rica.
At the same time, the men’s apparel industry emerged in Bremen. Brothers Robert, Roy, and Warren Sewell moved their clothing manufacturing company from Atlanta to Bremen in 1928, constructing manufacturing plants throughout Carroll and Haralson Counties and into east Alabama over the next five decades. The apparel industry boomed, reaching its height of production in the 1970s and 1980s when this region became known as the “Clothing Center of the South.”
All of these textile operations declined in the late twentieth century, first cotton and then hosiery. Some apparel manufacturing still takes place here, particularly for the military, although much has moved offshore.
- Lithia Springs
- Mount Zion
- Sargent & Arnco
- Villa Rica
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