Telling Stories, Connecting Communities

Tag: Coweta

Turin

Experience the history of a small cotton community that supported a large textile industry.

Along the railroads local merchants and agents established cotton warehouses and platforms to store incoming and outgoing shipments of cotton bales, like those seen here in Turin in the 1890s. (Courtesy Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection, cow185.)

Incorporated in 1890, Turin, a rural community in Coweta County, was centered around the railroad depot. Among west Georgia’s cotton transport communities, Turin benefited from its proximity to major roads and expanding rail lines. Small communities like Turin were great areas for local merchants and agents to establish cotton warehouses and platforms for storing incoming and outgoing shipments of cotton. Shell’s Cotton Warehouse in Turin is one example of the important role these small communities played in the textile industry.


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Sargent & Arnco

These small communities have a huge textile history that hosted two mills and a railroad.

Sargent and Arnco, while never being incorporated as individual towns, hosted a rich textile industry. The first textile mill opened in Sargent in 1886 with a general store being opened not too long after to provide textile workers with basic necessities. The last of the textile mills closed in 2001 due to increased international competition.


Visit


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.

  • Arnco Mills and Mill Village, 229 Arnco 3rd Street: Located in an unincorporated area just north of Newnan on Highway Alt 27/State Route 16 and Old Carrollton Road, Arnco Mills opened in 1927. Seventy-five employee homes were also constructed and five homes were built for the mill superintendent and overseers.
  • Wahoo Manufacturing Company/Arnall Mill and Mill Village, Henry Bryant Road: In 1907, Willcoxon Manufacturing constructed a new mill just north of the original mill site named Wahoo Manufacturing Company and later Arnall Mill. In the 1920s and 1930s, the owners of Arnall Mill built additional mill village housing in an area known as “New Town” in Sargent. These mill village homes were of various designs, including shotgun homes, saltbox homes, and gable-front cottages, common in mill villages of the era. Certain streets of the mill village were dedicated to shotgun homes and others to gable-front cottages. The size of the home rented to an employee was dependent on the job skill and job level the employee held within the company. Slightly removed from the main village, on Bridges Street off Railroad Street at the western edge of the mill village, were the homes built for the mills African American employees. These homes followed the same pattern as the other homes in the village with little to no ornamentation and no formal landscaping.
  • Wilcoxon Manufacturing Company and Mill Village, Henry Bryant Road: In the late 1880s, J.B. Willcoxon, H.J. Sargent, and George Sargent built the first mill to produce cotton textiles, under the name Willcoxon Manufacturing Company. Mill village homes were also built to house the mill employees. A fire destroyed the mill in 1906 however, the stone foundation of the mill still exists. Most of the homes in the mill village still stand in an area referred to as “Old Town” in the northern portion of Sargent. These simple unadorned homes were typical of mill village homes of the era.

History


  • Photo of an elderly woman working on mill machines
    Photo courtesy: Weaver Special Collections

The small industrial communities of Sargent and Arnco have a substantial textile history. Both communities were named for prominent businessmen in the area’s cotton textile industry. Sargent was named in honor of H.J. Sargent and George Sargent, partners in Willcoxon Manufacturing Company. The name Arnco is a merger of the names Cole and Arnall, two other prominent mill families in the area. These neighboring areas were an important location for cotton textile manufacturing in Coweta County. Different from the other mill communities, the communities of Sargent and Arnco were further away from the nearest cities and were never incorporated as individual towns.

Willcoxon Manufacturing Company opened a cotton mill in 1886 in Sargent to manufacture cotton rope. John B. Willcoxon, Harrison J. Sargent, and George Sargent, partners in the company, built a four-story brick building on Wahoo Creek at the site of an old gristmill. The spinning machines were powered by water from the creek. Later, two additional buildings were added at the site to serve as warehouses. In 1906, the original mill building was struck by lightning and burned down and a new mill building was constructed in 1907.

The workforce at Willcoxon Manufacturing Company was made up of men, widows of Confederate Veterans, and children as young as 5 years old. In 1888, the company was purchased by Henry Clay Arnall and Thomas G. Farmer and renamed Wahoo Manufacturing Company. Under the new ownership, the operations were expanded to make cotton rope and cotton yarn. In 1919, the Arnall family acquired full ownership of Wahoo Manufacturing Co. and the name was changed to Arnall Mills. Arnall Mills made novelty yarns and around 1929 began making cotton blankets. A weaving room was added in 1930 and additional workers were hired.

The railroad was important to the operation of the mill as blankets were hauled out by freight. The Central of Georgia rail line ran through Sargent from Griffin to Chattanooga and had a freight and passenger depot. To haul the blankets to the freight depot, a special wagon was built and the mill owner purchased a fine team of mules.

In the late 1880s, the first company store was built on Main Street to supply the mill workers with basic necessities. The original store burned down in 1935 and a new building was erected in 1936. The mill workers made purchases at the store and the cost of those purchases was deducted from their weekly paychecks. Mill workers and their family members were able to receive services from the town doctor by paying a doctor tax of 50 cents a week.

By 1926, there was a need for additional outlets for the large amount of cotton yarn made at Arnall Mill, and Arnco Mills was opened near Sargent to fill that need. The name Arnco, a combination of Arnall and Cole the last names of the mill president and vice president combined, was given to the new village built to house the mill workers. Seventy-five employee homes were constructed and five homes were built for the superintendent and overseers. Construction of the mill and mill village started in the summer of 1926, operations began at Arnco Mills in May of 1927, and Arnco became its own unincorporated town. The mill first made cotton blankets known as American cotton blankets and later made part-wool blankets. Throughout the early twentieth century, the mill village was expanded, more houses were built including segregated housing for African-American workers and a baseball field was added. The two mills and villages were entirely separate entities and the companies encouraged friendly competition between the two.

By the early 1930s, due to low wages and deteriorating labor conditions, nearly 44,000 Georgia workers participated in the General Textile Strike of 1934, including many from the Sargent and Arnco areas. The first strikers to be arrested were at the nearby East Newnan Cotton Mills and Arnall Mills in Sargent. The National Guard arrested strikers and took them to Fort McPherson in military trucks where they were forced to live outside until the strike was over. Some of the Arnall Mill employees who supported the strike efforts returned to work at the mill, others were blacklisted from the industry, and some left town to find work elsewhere.

In 1964, Bibb Manufacturing purchased Arnall and Arnco Mills and mill village to manufacture blankets from cotton and synthetic fibers. The company made improvements, modernized the machinery, and raised the pay for employees and the company store was closed. The company also built a 98-acre lake to furnish water for wet finishing blankets and for recreation use. In 1970, the mill village homes were sold to private individuals, many of whom were mill employees. The old company store was used as a recreational facility for mill employees. In 1986, Bibb closed Arnall Mills and moved its operations to Arnco Mill. Arnco Mill continued operations producing sheets, pillowcases, and other cotton items. In 1996, Bibb Companies went through a bankruptcy reorganization and were unable to recover economically. In 1998, the company was sold to the Dan River Corporation of Virginia. In February 2001, due to low-priced textile imports from Asia and the growing economic recession in the United States, Dan River Co. announced the closing of Arnco Mills.


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Newnan

The textile industry in this community began earlier than many others and grew quickly.

The city of Newnan was already an established industrial center before the textile industry appeared in 1888. Beginning with cotton, Newnan’s textile industry diversified by adding a hosiery mill in 1926. Soon after Newnan participated in the General Textile Strike of 1934. The cotton and hosiery mills operated until the 1990s when they faced international competition.


Visit


Things to Do

  • McRitchie-Hollis Museum, 74 Jackson Street: Located in Newnan, this home was built by Arnall Mills’ president Ellis H. Peniston and his wife Mildred Willcoxon Arnall Peniston in 1937. Now home to the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s McRitchie-Hollis Museum, the museum hosts exhibitions and shares stories of the textile industry. For more information visit newnancowetahistoricalsociety.com.
  • Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s Depot History Center, 60 East Broad Street: This historic depot was built in the 1890s to serve passengers as well as freight. The depot is now operated by the Newnan-Coweta County Historical Society and can be toured by appointment. While you’re there pick up a “City of Homes” driving tour brochure to see Newnan’s historic homes!
  • The Coweta County African American Heritage Museum, 92 Farmer Street: The African American Heritage Museum & Research Center provides a repository for African-American artifacts and records while also serving as a genealogy workroom for African-American research. Adjacent to the museum, which is housed in a restored shotgun-style house, is the Farmer Street Cemetery which is one of the largest slave cemeteries in the South. The museum is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • “City of Homes” Historic Homes Tour: Pick up a self-guided driving tour brochure from the Coweta County Convention & Visitors Bureau located at 200 Court Square in Newnan’s historic courthouse. The tour provides a nice stroll through Newnan’s downtown area and includes fifty historic homes. The visitor’s bureau is open Monday through Friday from 9 a. m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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.

  • Newnan Cotton Mill No. 1 and Mill Village, 110 Field Street: This mill has been transformed into Newnan Lofts. The building and the surrounding mill village are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Drive down East Washington Street past Robinson Street to see the mill village, homes built by the mill owners to house their employees. 
  • Newnan Square, 100 Court Square: The first official land sale in Newnan which took place in 1829, resulted in the construction of this small town square, featuring a log cabin and a small store. With the rise of the textile industry, the square served as a hub of trade and home to several textile-related businesses, including Newnan Hosiery Mill and the Manget-Brannon Company. Indeed, a building occupied by Newnan Hosiery Mill can be viewed from the road at the corner of Spring and LaGrange Streets. The building is brick, painted white, and features distinctive Palladian-style windows on the second floor. It currently houses several local businesses. Historic photos from the 1890s show the square full of horse-drawn carriages loaded with cotton coming from the country to sell in the city markets. The original 1829 courthouse, which has been remodeled several times, remains in its original location at the center of the square. Over the decades, the square continues to serve as a space for social gathering and home to many local businesses.
  • International Playtex Corporation, 320 Temple Avenue: In 1954, this company opened its Sewn Products Division, northwest of the town square. Playtex was among the companies that took over the textile industry in Newnan in the 1960s. Making bras and a line of baby pants and bibs, the plant employed mostly white women from the area. By the late 1990s, most textile mills across the nation closed due to increased foreign competition with Asia, and this company closed its doors here in 1999. 
  • Manget-Brannon Company, 24 1st Avenue: Founded in 1918 as the Manget Brothers Company grocery store. Later, the company shifted its concentration to the cotton brokerage trade remaining in the business until 1962. The old Manget-Brannon Company cotton warehouse now provides space for retail business and charities including the Bridging the Gap Community Outreach. 
  • McIntosh Mill and Mill Village, Jefferson Street: This mill has since been demolished. Located at the intersection of Sprayberry and Jefferson Streets, this village is an example of the type of housing provided to mill employees in the early twentieth century. 
  • Newnan Cotton Mill No. 2 and Mill Village, 94 East Newnan Road: This mill has been largely demolished and the site is fairly overgrown, although the foundations and a few outbuildings might still be visible. The mill village is still standing, it makes up a sizable portion of East Newnan. The village is centered on East Newnan Road stretching down from Freeman Street to Cole Street. Two clusters of houses are based between Freeman and Front Street and Hill and East Murphy Streets respectively.
  • Newnan Hosiery Mills Inc./Mann’s Hosiery Mill, 17 Augusta Drive: This was an important employer in the area until closing in 1950. This property is currently vacant and for sale.  

History


  • Photo of a Mill Village house
    Mill village house. Photo courtesy: Kymberli Darling

The booming county seat of Newnan had already become a leading commercial center and a railroad hub by 1888, when local investors established the Newnan Cotton Mill. The company added a second mill, the East Newnan Cotton Mill, in 1901. Both mills specialized in the production of mixed fibers. During the construction of the first mill, the company added a dozen saddlebag homes nearby to house the mill employees, and additional homes were built in 1905. By the 1920s, this mill employed nine hundred workers, both white and African American, to produce weaving and specialty twist yarn.

Keeping up with the New South trend of the 1920s, Newnan’s textile industry diversified with the opening of the Newnan Hosiery Mills in 1926. Also known as, Mann’s Mill, the hosiery mill manufactured socks and at its height employed up to three hundred and fifty local workers. The mill closed in 1950. The International Playtex Corporation opened its Sewn Products Division in the former Newnan Hosiery Mill Building in 1954. By 1965, this plant employed six hundred people locally. In 1991, the Playtex Corporation was purchased by the Sara Lee Corporation, which shut down operations in Newnan in 1999 when the company reorganized.

Newnan is also well known for its involvement in the General Textile Strike of 1934, since the first strikers to be arrested worked in East Newnan Cotton Mills and nearby Arnall Mills in Sargent. The Georgia National Guard and local civil authorities arrested the picketers, inspected them for weapons, and transported them in military trucks to Fort McPherson outside Atlanta. The National Guard kept the strikers in outdoor detention facilities built for World War II prisoners until the strike ended three weeks later. Afterward, some workers were blacklisted and forced out of company homes because of their participation. Atlanta Constitution photographer Kenneth Waters documented the strike, and his photographs are available at the Atlanta History Center.

During World War II, the Newnan Cotton Mill received the Army-Navy award for excellence in war production. By 1950, the Newnan Cotton Mill and East Newnan Mill employed over one thousand workers and were pioneers in the field of blended fabrics used for a variety of products, including men’s suits and overcoats and women’s dresses and hats. Over the next two decades, however, a series of national companies purchased the plant, including Mt. Vernon Mills, West-Point Pepperell, and Bibb Manufacturing. Operations ceased in 1970.

Facing increasing foreign competition from Asia, the remaining textile mills in Newnan closed in the late 1990s. Fortunately, remnants of Newnan’s rich textile history are still around. In 2001, the Newnan Cotton Mills buildings were rehabilitated into Newnan Lofts, a mixed-use development now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Drive down E. Washington Street past Robinson Street to see the Newnan Cotton Mills’ mill village, homes built by the mill owners to house their employees. The former Manget-Brannon Company’s cotton warehouse now provides space for retail business and charities including the Bridging the Gap Community Outreach. The historic railroad depot is available for tours and special event rental.


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Moreland

Initially a cotton agricultural community, Moreland eventually opened its own textile mill.

While the textile industry began many years prior, the first textile mill constructed in Moreland was the Moreland Hosiery Mill in 1920 that operated until 1978.


Visit


Things to Do

  • Erskine Caldwell’s Childhood Home, 20 West Camp Street:  Caldwell, author of Tobacco Road, God’s Little Acre, and other Southern novels, was born in Moreland in 1903. His birthplace has been moved to the Town Square and converted into a museum, open by appointment.
  • Moreland Hometown Heritage Museum, 7 Main Street: The Moreland Cultural Arts Alliance, Inc. and Moreland’s Hometown Heritage Museum combined their collections to open the Hometown Heritage Museum in the Historic Moreland Mill. This complex of unified commercial buildings from the 1890s era is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also houses Town Hall. An 8,000 square feet portion of the complex is dedicated to a museum of “things” from the home, the farm, the country store, and Moreland Knitting Mills dating from 1900-1945. Their hours of operation are Thursday through Saturday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.

History


  • Photo of the Moreland Hosiery Mill
    Moreland Hosiery Mill. Photo courtesy: Kymberli Darling

The community that became Moreland began as a settlement around the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in 1843. The railroad arrived in 1852, along with a wooden train station called Puckett Station. In 1888, the town was named for the first doctor with the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, Dr. John Moreland, and a railroad depot was built.

Primarily an agricultural region, local farmers in Moreland grew cotton as well as fruit. Marketing the produce through the railroad, local farmers utilized a local cotton ginnery and a brick cotton warehouse constructed along the railroad in 1904.

The boll weevil began to destroy the cotton crops as early as 1915 and through the 1930s, leaving many farmers destitute. Well-known yet controversial local novelist Erskine Caldwell, whose house remains on the Town Square, wrote about the region’s Depression-era challenges in his most famous books Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre.

In 1920, the Moreland Hosiery Mills opened in an old cotton warehouse and fertilizer plant built around 1904. The Moreland Hosiery Mills employed twenty-five people, mostly white women, girls, and boys, to produce seamless socks for women and children. Due to a decrease in the cotton market and financial hardship, a group of investors purchased the mill in 1926. Renamed the Moreland Knitting Mills the company manufactured cotton hosiery, later rayon, and nylon hosiery. The knitting mill was the major employer in the area until it ceased operations in 1968.

After the knitting mill closed, the property was sold and used as a storage facility except for a brief period when Bobby Powell manufactured women’s garments on the property. In 1974, the property was sold to the PEB Corporation to manufacture women’s uniforms and housecoats until it closed in 1978. In 1983, the PEB Corporation gifted the property to the City of Moreland.

The former hosiery mill is now the Hometown Heritage Museum. The museum hosts exhibitions about local history and authors, including both Erskine Caldwell and Lewis Grizzard, a prominent author and commentator on southern history, life, and culture. The 1890s era building is on the National Register of Historic Places and houses Town Hall.


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Grantville

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!


Visit


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.

History


Explore this community’s history via the drop-down sections below!

Homegrown Business: The Early Years for Grantville Hosiery Mills

Early photo of the Grantville Hosiery Mills’ knitting mill. Photo Courtesy of the Grantville Genealogy Society.

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.

A Time to Mourn: The Passing of Nathaniel O. Banks

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.

An early photo of Grantville Hosiery Mills’ employees outside one of their mills. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Historical Society.

 

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.

The Golden Years: Grantville Mills under William N. Banks

A modern photo of the Grantville Hosiery Mills’ Yarn Mill. This displays the mill after the many rounds of expansion under Nathaniel and William Banks respectively. Photo Courtesy of Jarrett Craft.

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.

Down the Drain: The Rapid Decline of Grantville’s Textile Industry

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.

The ruins of the Arnold & Baxter cotton warehouse, made famous by AMC’s nationally acclaimed television show “The Walking Dead”. Photo Courtesy of Kymberli Darling.

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.


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Click on the following links to learn more about this region.


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