Telling Stories, Connecting Communities

Tag: Cherokee

Canton Spur Driving Trail

Reminiscing Riverdale

Exploring Canton’s Textile History

Reminiscing Riverdale: Canton’s Textile History

Sites to See Along the Trail:

[expand title=”1. Canton Cotton Mill #1: 141 Railroad St., Canton, GA, 30114″]In 1899, prominent Canton citizens raised funds to build Canton Cotton Mills. R.T. Jones, the mill’s first president, received a charter to build the mill in the southwestern corner of Canton near Railroad Street. The mill was designated Canton Cotton Mill #1 after the creation of Canton Cotton Mill #2 just one mile away in 1923. This mill created an array of products ranging from the famous “Canton denim” to osnaburg fabric during World War II to scrub denim in the late 1960s. During the decline of the textile industry in the city, Canton Cotton Mill #1 had largely become a storage facility for the mill and no longer produced any material before it closed in the late 1970s. The mill is now home to several active businesses and a church.[/expand]

[expand title=”2. Canton Cotton Mills #1 Office Building: 221 W. Main St., Canton, GA, 30114″]This building served as the center for all of the administration needs for Canton Cotton Mills. The building is located just a short walk from Canton Cotton Mill #1. Canton Cotton Mills, during the post-strike years, introduced computerized accounting methods in an effort to stay competitive with overseas markets. Today, the former mill office building houses several businesses.[/expand]

[expand title=”3. Jones Mercantile Store: 130 E. Main St., Canton, GA, 30114 “]Jones Mercantile’s history intertwines with mill life in Canton Cotton Mills and its mill villages. Operated by the founding president’s son, Paul W. Jones, Jones Mercantile Store served the mill workers as well as the residents of Canton in general. As a general store, the products sold ranged from hardware supplies to groceries to furniture and even cars. Mill workers were able to purchase goods on credit if needed and cash their paychecks. The store closed in the 1980s.[/expand]

[expand title=”4. Riverdale Mill Village #1: Entrance on North St. & Riverdale Circle, Canton, GA, 30114″]It was common for cotton mill companies to build housing for its workers near the mill. Originally, houses in this mill village rented for $5 each month and Canton Cotton Mills provided all maintenance. residents even had a small amount of land to keep a garden or chickens in their yards. Near Riverdale Church, located within the mill village, there was a communal barn for residents to keep livestock. During the 1960s, the mill houses were sold to the current mill worker residents. Riverdale is still an active neighborhood today. Please respect the privacy of its current residents when viewing. [/expand]

[expand title=”5. Riverdale Baptist Church and Riverdale School: 15 Riverdale Circle, Canton, GA, 30114″]Riverdale Baptist Church and Riverdale School, served the spiritual and educational needs of the surrounding mill village residents. Riverdale Baptist Church and Riverdale School shared a building until the school closed in 1939. Canton Cotton Mills provided the building maintenance and salaries of the pastor and schoolteachers. In 1969, the church congregation purchased the building from the mill.[/expand]

[expand title=”6. Canton Cotton Mill #2: 550 Riverdale Pkwy., Canton, GA, 30114″]After the success brought by Canton Cotton Mill #1 and its “Canton denim,” a nationally known product, R.T. Jones was able to start a second mill at a nearby location. Canton Cotton Mill #2 opened in May of 1923, one mile north of Canton Cotton Mill #1. The new mill was much larger than the first mill and employed 600. The mill remained in operation until the Canton Cotton Mills location closed in 1981. [/expand]

[expand title=”7.Canton Cotton Mill Village #2: Entrance at the intersection of Center St. & Juniper St., Canton, GA, 30114″]A second, larger mill necessitated another mill village. Mill village #2 was much larger than the one downtown. The company built modern homes in a paid period by using a method derived from Henry Ford’s use of the assembly line production. Building each house very similarly, cut down on added costs and increased efficiency of construction. The modern amenities within these homes included indoor plumbing, running water, and electricity. Similar to Riverdale, it is still an active neighborhood.[/expand]

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World-renowned “Canton Denim” was produced in this southern town for many years before the textile industry died down in the 1980s.

In 1899, a rising mercantile business and the steady production of cotton in the city encouraged prominent Canton community leaders to raise money to build a cotton mill. Completed in 1901 and employing 125 local men, women, and children from northeast Georgia, under the leadership of R.T. Jones Sr, Canton Cotton Mills produced cotton thread in 1901. In an effort to gain revenue after several financial setbacks in 1902, Jones made several changes to the mill’s management and added a dye house that allowed the mill to produce denim.

“Canton Denim” quickly became famous and production increased in the following years. The success of “Canton Denim” allowed for the construction of a second mill in 1923, one mile north of the first mill. Both mills built homes for their employees and the mill village featured amenities, such as indoor plumbing, running water, electricity, and ice delivery. Jones Mercantile Store, owned and operated by one of R.T. Jones’s sons, became a popular shop for the residents of the Canton Cotton Mills mill villages. Later on, Jones Mercantile served as the parent company for Etowah Manufacturing Company, which produced trousers from “Canton Denim” as well as chenille bedspreads.

Canton Cotton Mills faced many hardships, including the Great Depression, floods, a major strike, and changes in leadership. In the late-1970s, the textile market slowed due to cheaper markets overseas. Canton Cotton Mills shut their doors in the spring of 1981.


Things to Do

  • Canton Cotton Mills No. 1 and Riverdale Mill Village, 225 Reformation Parkway: Once the site of the original Canton Cotton Mills, this facility previously operated 20,000 spindles and employed 500 people. Its principal product, “Canton Denim”, was known nationwide. It has been redeveloped and contains several restaurants, a brewery, a church, and office space. The houses of the mill village are private homes and are not open to the public. The entrance is on North Street and Riverdale Circle. This neighborhood was home to the workers of Canton Cotton Mills #1. The homes were built by the company and originally rented for $5 per month. Employees were allowed space for a garden and the company performed all maintenance on the homes. In the 1960s, the houses were sold to mill employees.
  • Cherokee County Historical Society, 221 East Marietta Street: This historical society was founded in 1975 and is the sole organization in Cherokee County dedicated to preserving and collecting the county’s history. Visit their museum to learn more about the history of Cherokee County. The museum’s hours of operation are Wednesday through Friday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Saturday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.

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.

  • Canton Cotton Mills No. 2 and Mill Village, 550 Riverstone Parkway: These locations are private property and are not open to the public. Originally built as Canton Cotton Mill #2, this building was opened in 1923 after the success of “Canton Denim” on the national market. No. 2 was larger than the original mill as it brought an additional 23,000 spindles to the operation and employed 600 people. Today, this mill is home to Canton Mill Lofts. The entrance to the mill village can be found at the intersection of Center Street and Juniper Street. This village was much larger than No. 1’s Riverdale neighborhood. The company employed assembly line construction methods to rapidly build similar homes. Some of the original amenities of these homes included indoor plumbing, running water, and electricity.
  • Historic Jones Mercantile, 130 East Main Street: Established in 1879, Jones Mercantile served as a focal point of the central business district. This location accepted both mill currency and store credit as payment for anything from hardware to haberdasheries. In the late 1980s, the building was purchased by Cherokee County for additional office space. 2017 saw the beginning of restoration for this historic location.
  • Canton Cotton Mills No. 1 Office Building, 221 West Main Street: This building served as the center for all of the administration needs for Canton Cotton Mills. Today this space is leased for commercial businesses.
  • Riverdale Baptist Church and School, 15 Riverdale Circle: This church and school combo was constructed and funded by Canton Cotton Mills for the mill village residents. In 1969, this building was purchased by the church congregation from the mill.


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