Come see a small town with a textile industry operated by both local individuals and national companies.
Before the textile industry, local farmers and businessmen worked together to create a thriving economy built on cotton in Hogansville. Merchants, such as Frank Word, created the Ford Word’s cotton warehouse, located near the railroad, to ship the cotton sold there across the state. Ford’s cotton warehouse allowed local cotton farmers to sell their products to a wider audience.
In 1899, Word and northern investors established the Hogansville Manufacturing Company. From the beginning, Hogansville Manufacturing was controlled by national corporations which used it to produce cotton duck. The mill changed ownership under these national corporations several times within the coming decades. In 1923, the Hogansville Manufacturing Company’s owner, the New England Southern Mills, relocated the Stark Mills of New Hampshire to Hogansville. Stark Mills produced cotton cord for rubber tires for the growing automobile industry.
Both mills were sold to Callaway Mills in late 1920s. They sold the Stark Mill to U. S. Rubber, but kept the old Hogansville Manufacturing mill and operated under the name of Hogansville Calumet. During World War II, U.S. Rubber purchased the original Hogansville Manufacturing Company to facilitate wartime production. They renamed it Reid Mill after a long time superintendent of the mill. Stark Mills became one of the few factories in the nation to produce woven asbestos pipe insulation for the U.S. Navy. The Reid Mill shut down during the 1960s and was demolished soon afterward, but the Stark Mill continued production. During the 1980s and 1990s, Stark Mill became Uniroyal and today is in operation under Westech. The surrounding Stark mill village is still a visible reminder of the area’s textile history.
Things to Do
- Main Street Market, 100 East Main Street: The historic train station and freight depot in downtown Hogansville has been redeveloped. At one time it was the collections point for cotton from miles around. From here, the cotton would be shipped to the major manufacturing centers along the Trail, in the North, or abroad. It now houses a coffeehouse and a pub, as well as serving as an events space.
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.
- Stark Mill/Industrial Specialty Fabrics and Stark/Reid Mill Village, 117 Corinth Road: This historic mill was built by US Rubber after it acquired the neighboring Reid mill from Callaway Mills in the early 1940s. Today it operates as a division of Continental Tires. The town of Hogansville was not big enough to house the workforce that was necessary when Hogansville Manufacturing commenced operations. This forced the company to build a village to house their employees. These homes often fit into a traditional set of styles, the most common of which is the hipped roof home. Other types include the shotgun house and the duplex. Employees rented the homes from the company, and the village was likely expanded to accommodate employees for the newly built Reid Mill in the 1940s.
Explore this community’s history via the drop-down sections below!
Before the textile industry came to Hogansville, local farmers and businessmen worked together to create a thriving economy built on cotton. Local merchants, such as Frank Word, pooled their resources to build warehouses along the railroad, which allowed them to ship Troup County cotton across the state. Frank Word’s warehouse allowed local cotton farmers to sell their products to a wider market.
Word and his associates followed up on their successful cotton business by taking a second step which was common across Georgia’s other enterprising communities; building a cottonseed oil and fertilizer factory. It is unclear exactly when the Hogansville Oil Mill was built, but by 1885 its owners boasted that the mill produced 700 gallons of cottonseed oil daily. Things were looking up in Hogansville and local businessmen undoubtedly were considering new investments in the town’s industrial future, possibly even building a cotton mill.
However, any plans were put on hold when tragedy struck the Hogansville Oil Mill. Early on the morning of December 6th, 1887 a terrible blast woke the people of Hogansville. Early responders came upon a horrific scene; the boiler at the Hogansville Oil Mill had exploded. The explosion ruined the mill’s engine house and uprooted a massive oak tree standing nearby. Those first responders entered the wreckage to find the mangled bodies of James Hardin and George Hinton, two of the three African American men who had been tasked with starting the mill for the day. Further searches located the body of the third man, James Jones. The explosion flung him 50 feet from the engine house. The Herald and Advertiser of nearby Newnan claimed that the main body of the boiler did not completely explode, but instead blew out the ends. According to them, this was the only thing that prevented the whole mill from being demolished. Frank Word and his associates immediately set about repairing the damage, ordering a new boiler from the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company of Newnan, that cost $1,500.
This amount was a significant and unplanned outlay of capital, equalling $41,096.84 in 2020, for the young company to endure. Fortunately, they were put back in operation shortly thereafter and even added a second boiler the following year. It is unknown what fate befell the families of the three African-American workers killed in the explosion, the reporting newspapers were typically callous about the lives and welfare of African Americans. Unfortunately the main focus was the damaged mill, not the loss of life.
This episode undoubtedly strained the finances of Hogansville’s leading businessmen, so plans for industrial expansion were likely delayed. Indeed, the first public mention of a cotton mill for Hogansville came in 1895. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Judson F. Mobley, Frank Word, and J.M. Buttrell were in the process of raising $50,000 in local capital to match a $75,000 commitment from investors based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was common for Northern investors to provide capital for Southern industries, but usually only once Southern companies proved their profitability. However, mills at nearby West Point and LaGrange had already established that mills in Troup County could make good money. Boston businessmen associated with N. Boynton & Co. had already plowed huge sums into the Langdale, Riverview, and Lanett cotton mills at West Point in partnership with the local West Point Manufacturing Company. With that in mind, a cotton mill in nearby Hogansville might have seemed a reasonable place to expand.
However, these big plans for Hogansville stalled until August of 1899, when the group finally obtained a charter to build a new cotton mill under the name of Hogansville Manufacturing Company. They quickly began constructing the mill at a site along the railroad just north of town. All of this activity came just in time for the release of the 1900 Textile World Directory, which listed Hogansville Manufacturing Company as under construction. At that point, investors had plowed $80,000 ($2,464,873.02 in 2020) into the company’s capital stock. R.J. Griffin and Judson F. Mobely were the leading executives. They planned on producing heavy cotton duck at the new mill and projected that their plant would be able to operate 5,000 spindles and 60 looms. Cotton duck, a tough canvas-like material, was a product that could be sold in a wide variety of markets; cotton duck was typically used as wagon covers, ships’ sails, or tents. J.E. Dunson of LaGrange replaced R.J. Griffin the following year as the company began operations.
Hogansville Manufacturing Company was the culmination of a decade’s worth of commercial development by the citizens of Hogansville. Despite its local origins, the formation of a new national cotton duck corporation pulled the Hogansville Manufacturing Company onto the national stage. 1901 saw the establishment of the United States Cotton Duck Corporation, which had $50,000,000 in authorized capital stock. This new firm purchased 17 mills up and down the eastern seaboard, including Hogansville Manufacturing and LaGrange Mills, either through prior ownership of or the direct purchase of stock. The goal of this corporation was to create a monopoly on the cotton duck market in the United States. Its board of directors, the men who held major stakes in the enterprise, consisted of men from New England, New York, and Baltimore who were all established players in the Northern textile industry.
This group included two men who were also partners in the N. Boynton & Company selling agency: William H. Wellington and Horace S. Sears. These men were major stockholders in West Point Manufacturing, which the US Cotton Duck Corp. also had the option to purchase. It is likely that these two men were the same Boston investors who pledged $75,000 to build the mill in Hogansville back in 1895. If so, they would have owned a large portion of the stock of Hogansville Manufacturing Company when it was eventually built. Because the US Cotton Duck Corporation acquired its mills largely through the prior ownership of stock, this would explain why Hogansville’s brand new mill got caught up in this national enterprise.
Initially, their absorption by the U.S. Cotton Duck Corp. did little to affect the Hogansville Manufacturing Company. J.E. Dunson and Judson Mobely continued to lead the operation as they did before, although they were shortly joined by J.M. Barnard in managing the mill. Indeed, for all the national deals that Hogansville Manufacturing found itself in, the next issue that they were confronted with was a decidedly local one. On July 11, 1905, Hogansville was afflicted by yet another boiler dilemma as the cylinder head of one of Hogansville Manufacturing’s boilers blew out. The cylinder head, a gargantuan 400 pound piece of machinery, embedded itself in the wall of the mill 13 feet away and shook the entire mill. This stopped all work in the mill as employees rushed to investigate; even the clock stopped at the exact time of the explosion, 10:15am. Fortunately nobody was hurt, although engineer Jim Hicks narrowly escaped being crushed. This accident forced the mill to close for several days at a particularly bad time, as the mill had been running full time for weeks trying to keep up with orders.
Hogansville Manufacturing Company overcame this obstacle and continued operating as usual for the next 10 years. During this period several ownership changes affected the corporate structure of the mill. Most of this came from new groups purchasing a controlling interest in the original U.S. Cotton Duck Corporation under the name of a new corporation. Therefore in 1905 the Hogansville mill fell under the ownership of the Consolidated Cotton Duck Corporation, which in turn became International Cotton Mills in 1910. By 1923, the company made one final change to become the New England Southern Mills, operating as the parent company of the International Cotton Mills. There were several reasons behind all of these corporate changes, the most prominent being Theodore Roosevelt’s anti-monopoly “trust busting” policies and the national economic crisis which struck during the end of the 1910s.
These corporate changes slowly whittled away the locals’ control over Hogansville Manufacturing Company. By 1910 J.M. Barnard was the last local individual listed as having anything to do with the mill, and his position had been downgraded to agent. It appears that the corporate leadership neglected Hogansville’s mill during this period of upheaval. Indeed, this period saw the massive expansion of mills in neighboring communities while Hogansville only received a single expansion in 1915-16, albeit one which doubled the equipment numbers by adding 5,000 spindles and 75 looms. It is likely that this sudden investment in the mill stemmed from the International Cotton Mills’ attempts to meet increased demand during World War I. This period also saw the gradual switch in the mill’s production; from heavy duck and yarns to cotton belting and hose duck. By the end of the war, the mill featured 115 cards, 96 looms, 11,232 ring spindles, and 2,464 twister spindles operated by 275 employees. Moreover, the International Cotton Mills converted the mill from steam to electric power.
Midway through the First World War, the Atlanta Journal Constitution sent a journalist out to Hogansville to write a piece on the Hogansville mill. While he almost certainly exaggerated, he noted the cleanliness and order of the mill and its village. The reporter stated that “Very few of its [the mill’s] operatives use tobacco, and no one would think of expectorating on the floor.” He claimed that the mill offered amenities such as a dispensary, a church, a dairy, a sanitation department, and homes with electric power and indoor plumbing fed from the 365 foot deep artesian well which also supplied the mill itself. The journalist made sure to emphasize the patriotic nature of the mill, which was reportedly painted in national colors on the trim and pipes which featured throughout the structure. While undoubtedly idealized, this report provides a valuable insight into the mill and the village which had sprung up around it.
Investment in Hogansville’s textile industry hit a new high in July of 1923 when the Stark Mills of New Hampshire, a sister company of Hogansville Manufacturing owned by the International Cotton Mills, elected to abandon its plants in New England in favor of building a brand new factory in Hogansville. This was a common trend for Northern mills as they sought to escape the costs associated with more expensive labor in the North in exchange for the Southern workforce which had a reputation as being cheaper and non-unionized. The Atlanta Journal Constitution claimed that a brand new mill village, which would be the equal of any in Georgia, would be built to house the new mill’s workforce. The paper also projected that the new mill would be built by Lockwood, Greene, and Co. and would feature a sizable 25,000 spindles producing tire fabrics.
On the heels of this announcement came a second one which likely caused a commotion on Wall Street; a group led by Lockwood, Greene, and Co. purchased a controlling stake in the International Cotton Mills and renamed the company as New England Southern Mills. This maneuver kept both the original Hogansville Manufacturing Company and the new Stark Mill under one corporation. However, it appears that the merger put plans on hold for the newly planned model mill village touted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the company opting to expand the existing mill village instead. The New England Southern Mills pressed ahead with the plans of its predecessor, and by 1927 the completed Stark Mill featured 124 cards, 120 looms, 35,568 ring spindles, and 16,056 twister spindles operated by 390 employees producing tire fabrics.
The New England Southern Mills only had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their new mill for 5 years before the vultures started circling. In 1927 Cason Callaway, head of the Callaway group of mills based in neighboring LaGrange, began negotiations with the company for the purchase of their three mills in Troup County, including the two in Hogansville. It is unclear why New England Southern Mills, a national company with huge resources, felt the need to sell to the significantly smaller group run by Callaway. Perhaps it was an offer which was too good to refuse, or that the larger corporation had become bloated and inefficient. Maybe they were faced with mounting liabilities in Hogansville; an employee murdered his coworker on company property not long after the directors agreed to sell to Callaway. Whatever the reason, the New England Southern Mills’ stockholders approved the sale of the three Troup County mills for $3,000,000 ($45,697,192.98 in 2020) in September of 1928. With that, the three plants fell under the Calumet Corporation, whose new mills in Hogansville became known as the Hogansville Calumet Mills.
Given that the Great Depression soon came bearing down on America like a freight train, Callaway might have regretted his purchase. Indeed, Cason Callaway sold the Stark Mill to the U.S. Rubber Corporation, who coveted the mill’s tire cord production, for an approximate $3,000,000 in 1931 after controlling it for less than three years. However, he turned a tidy profit on the sale which undoubtedly went a long way towards helping his other mills weather the stormy times of the Great Depression. In 1932 Cason Callaway and his brother Fuller Jr. merged the various corporations that they controlled into a single corporate entity, officially known as Callaway Mills, to improve efficiency. The old Hogansville Manufacturing Company became known as the Callaway Mills’ Hogansville Calumet plant.
The Hogansville Calumet employees soon reaped the benefits of this unified corporate structure, as business picked up and management granted a 10 percent raise to all employees. They also were entitled to a week of paid vacation, profit sharing payments when the company turned a profit, group health insurance which was partially paid for by the company, and a paid vacation day on the birthday of Fuller Callaway Sr. These memorial celebrations in LaGrange for Fuller Sr. were massive events which often passed 10,000 in attendance. Employees were treated to parades, barbecue, athletic competitions and baseball games, and general merriment at a time when even the most basic needs were hard to come by. In the more profitable years, the company arranged special transportation for employees at their mills in Hogansville, Manchester, and Roanoke, Alabama to join in. In leaner years, the company threw parties in each community instead. Although they struck during the General Textile Strike of 1934, it might have been these benefits which led to the Hogansville Calumet mill’s decision to abstain from joining their striking colleagues in LaGrange and Manchester during the 1935 Callaway Mills strike.
In 1939 Cason Callaway stepped down from his post as Chairman of Callaway Mills, his younger brother Fuller Callaway Jr. replaced him. 3 years later in 1942, Fuller Jr. sold the Hogansville Calumet mill to the U.S. Rubber Company in order to facilitate production for World War II. From this point on, the Hogansville mills were both owned by a national corporation. U.S. Rubber renamed the former Calumet mill to Reid Mill, after longtime superintendent D.G. Reid, who had run the mill since the end of 1918. That same year, Hogansville reached its peak in terms of equipment totals: its mills reached a total of 49,092 ring spindles, 28,688 twister spindles, and 124 looms operated by over 1,400 employees.The Reid Mill continued its production of hose and belting ducks, while the Stark Mills produced tire cord and woven asbestos pipe insulation for the Navy. As World War II production ramped up, these materials became so important that the Army actually furloughed hundreds of soldiers so that they could work in private industries, including the Stark Mill, to boost production.
After their wartime peak, Hogansville’s mills embarked on a golden age which lasted until 1970. During this period, U.S. Rubber invested heavily in the community by donating vast sums to churches, schools, and textile education programs. They also plowed millions into product research and development. They followed up on these investments with a $1,000,000 modernization program of Stark Mills in 1961. However, the 70 year old Reid Mills fell by the wayside. In 1969, the Reid Mills were demolished as the company attempted to cut costs. By the next year, U.S. Rubber sold Stark Mills to the textile division of Uniroyal Incorporated. Stark Mills remained under that company until 1992, when the mill closed. In 1995, Buck Bowen founded Bo-Tex Corporation which manufactured woven fabrics and industrial fabric nettings and employed 45 people. 3 years later the Stark Mills reopened. As of 2020, both Bo-Tex, now known as Bo-Tex Sales Corporation, and the old Stark Mills are still in operation. Bo-Tex is well known for its Bo-Lite and Bo-Tuff brands of pvc-polyester woven mesh fabrics and their Liberty Fabric Fence has also been used at the Masters Golf Tournament as spectator fencing. Industrial Specialty Fabrics, a division of Continental Tires, operates the Stark Mills plant which employed 200 in 2010. While not as large as it once was, Hogansville’s textile industry is still a major force in the community’s economy.
Charter Trail Members
- Hogansville Downtown Development Authority
- Hogansville Public Library
- LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce
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
- Troup County, New Georgia Encyclopedia
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