This small town has a textile industry known for its appearance in the famous zombie franchise “The Walking Dead”.
The textile industry was brought into Grantville with the introduction of the railroad, as was the case with many other communities. Grantville Hosiery Mill and Grantville Cotton Mill called this community home and both closed down in 1980. Keep an eye out in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for the remains of the cotton mill and a ruined cotton warehouse downtown!
Places to See
The following properties are not open to the public, but you can view them from the exterior to learn more about the buildings that supported the textile industry here.
- Arnold & Baxter Cotton Warehouse, 17 Church Street: The brick remains of this building were used to film AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and still bear Morgan’s message, “Away With You”. It currently serves as a courtyard for the adjoined local restaurant.
- Grantville Freight Depot, 30 Main Street: This train depot was originally built in 1852 to handle both freight and passengers along the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. In the early 1900s, a second depot was built across the street to accommodate passengers only.
- Grantville Hosiery Mill and Mill Village, 78 Moreland Street: This building has been partially demolished. The surviving portion is home to an architectural salvage store. The Grantville Hosiery Mill Village is located along Banks, Shephard, and Rock Streets. These villages consist of mostly one-story, wood-framed houses.
- Grantville Passenger Train Depot, 30 Main Street: This passenger train depot was built along the Atlanta and West Point Railroad.
- Grantville Yarn Mill and Mill Village, 41 Industrial Way: This site was used in the filming of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. As of 2020, the 100-year-old property is vacant and has been for sale for several years. The mill village for the Grantville Mill is located along Grady, Smith, Maple, and Arnold Streets.
Explore this community’s history via the drop-down sections below!
The town of Grantville began as a small settlement known as Calico Corner in 1840. In 1852, the first train came to the settlement courtesy of the Atlanta and LaGrange Railroad, and it sparked economic development in the community The town was renamed Grantville in honor of the chief engineer of the railroad, Lemuel P. Grant. With the success of the regional cotton industry and the railroad by the early part of the twentieth century, Grantville flourished, offering opportunities for industrialists to invest in the growing textile industry.
On August 21, 1896, The Herald and Advertiser of Newnan, Georgia published a small article on Grantville’s industries. They noted that “The progress made on this [building] indicates that in a month or so we can hear the buzz of the spindles as they weave the cotton thread into serviceable fabrics.” This excitement was about the Grantville Hosiery Mills, which began operating in late 1896 or early 1897 under the leadership of Nathaniel O. Banks. The stockholders envisioned a fully-integrated hosiery knitting operation, one which would eventually spin its own thread or yarn and turn that material into a finished product. However, initially they did not have the resources or machinery to spin their own yarn, and they relied on costly imports. Therefore Banks and his stockholders built the mill along the railroad track, at the bend of modern-day Moreland Street, to lower production and logistical costs in obtaining their thread and shipping their final product. Their plans progressed quickly; in February 1897 The Herald and Advertiser announced that the company had goods ready for sale. By 1899, the Grantville Hosiery Mills operated with 38 steam-powered knitting machines.
Although the Grantville Hosiery Mills started small, its stockholders had big plans for their fledgling enterprise. In 1899, the directors announced that they would double its capacity; when the expansion was completed the following year, the Grantville correspondent for The Herald and Advertiser proudly announced that the company produced 450 dozen pairs of hosiery per day with 75 knitting machines. The Grantville Hosiery Mills’ client base was steadily growing with regular customers in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston as well as orders from as far away as Australia. With that in mind, the stockholders authorized a second round of expansion. On April 17, 1903, Nathaniel O. Banks, president of the Grantville Hosiery Mills, agreed to a contract with the R. D. Cole Manufacturing Company to build a two-story brick 48×56 foot addition to the mill, as well as a 30,000-gallon water tower. The Herald and Advertiser expected that the machinery in the proposed addition would bring the total number of employees up to 125.
Having made a name for themselves and established a strong client base, the mill’s leadership finally addressed one of its most significant production costs: purchasing yarn and thread. The stockholders elected to build a yarn mill to supply their hosiery production. They chose a site, at modern-day Industrial Way, along the railroad on the opposite side of the town square from the original hosiery mill. They built houses for their employees and set up shop in 1905 with a capacity of 3,000 ring spindles producing knitting yarn; finally realizing their goal of creating a fully-integrated company. That same year they adjusted their charter to allow for greater investment, up to $300,000 in capital stock; although only $52,400 had actually been paid in at that point. By 1909, they expanded the yarn mill to 5,000 ring spindles with bleaching and dyeing facilities.
Grantville Hosiery Mills experienced a leadership crisis in 1908 and 1909 which put all that growth in jeopardy. First, Thomas Arnold died and had his estate advertised for liquidation in The Herald and Advertiser after his death. He was an original incorporator of the mills and a major stockholder who owned seven $100 shares of Grantville Hosiery Mills’ capital stock as well as a $1000 gold bond from the mills. Just one year later in 1909, the mill’s president and “one of Coweta’s best and most useful citizens”, Nathaniel O. Banks died at 56 years old. This loss not only shook the leadership of Grantville Hosiery Mills to its core, but also had a significant impact on the greater Grantville community.
However, his son, William N. Banks assumed Nathaniel’s role as president of the company shortly after his death. Those who expected the young company to flounder under its relatively inexperienced new president would have been pleasantly surprised by William Banks’ performance. He quietly stabilized the company and oversaw a period of unprecedented expansion which would become Grantville’s golden age of textile production, albeit with a couple of hiccups along the way.
In June of 1910, the Grantville Hosiery Mills joined a multitude of other Georgia mills charged with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. Those indicted frequently purchased all of the locally produced cotton and sent the surplus to New York. This kept the price of cotton in the South low and prevented it from fluctuating; all at the expense of the farmers. This example shows how serious of a business the textile industry was in the South during the early twentieth century. Not long after this scandal, the mill’s employees avoided a major tragedy on February 27, 1912. That day, a hosiery press exploded within the mill, injuring no one except the press operator who was “severely scalded”. The February issue of The Atlanta Constitution describes the explosion as having “pieces of iron flying to the ceiling.” After overcoming those two mishaps, William Banks pushed for yet another round of expansion, traveling as far away as New York to purchase the best equipment for the yarn mill. The expansion added 5,000 ring spindles, effectively doubling the yarn mill’s capacity.
By 1920, Grantville Hosiery Mills boasted 10,000 ring spindles, 150 latch needle knitting machines, 30 ribbing machines, and 12 looping machines, with the number of employees rounding off at around 300. Just seven years later, these numbers rose significantly to 15,000 ring spindles and 200 latch needle knitting machines, as well as the addition of 3,400 twister spindles employing 300 people. W.N. Banks was directly responsible for this period of growth and was duly recognized for his success within the textile industry when he was elected president of the Cotton Manufacturers’ Association in 1936. By this point, he was a textile executive with 25 years of experience and had even gone so far as to rebrand his company as Grantville Mills.
The honors did not stop there for Grantville’s most prominent citizen. By the end of his career, he served on the boards of The Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, Bibb Manufacturing Company, West Point Manufacturing Company, and AMCO Mills. He also served as president of the Montgomery Knitting Mills of Moreland, the McIntosh Mills of Newnan, and the Habersham Mills of Habersham. To firmly cement his family’s legacy amongst the people of Grantville, Banks founded the Grantville Mills Foundation to benefit the people of his hometown. In 1950 the Grantville Mills Foundation built a new recreation center for Grantville’s African American community. The foundation also contributed to scholarship funds for textile education.
William N. Banks passed on the day-to-day leadership of Grantville Mills to his brother in 1956, promoting himself to chairman in a sort of quasi-retirement. In his nearly four decades as president, he doubled the capacity of the hosiery mill and tripled that of the yarn mill. He took a small firm with 210 employees and tripled it to 600 by 1957.
In 1961, William Banks decided to hang up his hat and retire for good. He passed away four years later in 1965. In the meantime, the Grantville Mills began experiencing a change in ownership for the first time in its history with the mill being sold to Flaggs-Utica Corporation. Flaggs-Utica shut down the hosiery mill shortly afterward, opting to invest in modernizing the yarn mill alone. The mill operated under this company for nine years when ownership was transferred to Kingtex Fabrics Company, Division of Gensco; but this company did not own the mill for very long. By 1976, West Point-Pepperell purchased the mill. They owned it for the next four years until its closure due to competition from foreign imports in 1980. Former employees of the mill were forced to file for benefits under the Federal Trade Readjustment Assistance Act. That undoubtedly helped in the short term, but it did little to replace the permanent loss of Grantville’s largest employer.
Today, Grantville’s textile past has been put on national display. The yarn mill and the ruins of the Arnold & Baxter cotton warehouse were used in the filming of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. The show featured the warehouse with particular prominence, famously painting the warning “Away With You” on the ruined structure and drawing visitors to Grantville from around the world. Now, this old building is once again a meeting ground for this small southern town in Coweta County.
Charter Trail Members
- Grantville Historic Preservation Commission
- Coweta County Convention and Visitors Bureau
- Coweta County Genealogical Society
- Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce
- Newnan-Coweta Historical Society
Resources to Explore
Click on the following links to learn more about this region.
- Facts for Kids
- Digital Library of Georgia
- Georgia Archives Virtual Vault
- Georgia Historical Society
- Coweta County, New Georgia Encyclopedia
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