Telling Stories, Connecting Communities

Tag: Osnaburg

Tobler Creek

This creek was home to several textile mills due to its intense waterpower.


Visit


Things to Do

  • Flint River Canoeing, 4429 Woodland Road: Water travel and water power were crucial for operating most mills in this region. In Upson county, the best place to get started canoeing the Flint River is the Flint River Outdoor Center, which is located at 4429 Woodland Rd. The Outdoor Center offers equipment rental and shuttle service. Contact them by phone (706-647-2633) for information on weather, river conditions, and canoe rental. The river is mostly calm, and flows past beautiful bluffs, woods, and shoals. There are light to medium rapids scattered throughout the river, depending on the water level.
  • Thomaston-Upson Archives, 301 South Center Street: The Archives are the official repository of the governmental and historical documents of Upson County. They also contain much of the Upson Historical Society’s collection along with documents and items donated by private individuals. Its library contains county and city census and court records, newspapers from 1833 to today, school records, and a large amount of genealogical books, records and manuscripts. The basement contains a meeting hall seating ninety people. The Archives are open weekdays.

Places to See

  • While none of the factories mentioned still stand, the ruined foundations still exist. It should be noted that these are currently on private property and should not be explored without permission.

History


Waynmanville Factory company photo circa 1870s
Courtesy of the Thomaston-Upson Archives

Upson County was among the first areas in Georgia to receive industrial development, largely owing to its position on the Fall line. The first part of Upson to be developed was Tobler Creek in the southeastern section of the county. Dwight Perry and William Waynman, New England textile men and brothers-in-law, spearheaded the investment group which founded Franklin Factory on Tobler Creek in 1833. Waynman was killed during the factory’s construction, but he was soon replaced by yet another brother-in-law, George P. Swift. The Franklin Factory was a decent sized operation; by 1849 it was able to boast a respectable 1,320 spindles and 16 carding machines.

In the same year as Franklin Factory was founded, Walker & Grant established Flint River Factory at the confluence of the Flint River and Tobler Creek. In 1849, the factory could list a respectable 1,560 spindles, 16 cards, and 26 looms as assets, while employing 50 people. The factory used around 700 lbs. of cotton per day.

Swift went on to found Waynmanville Factory just south of the Franklin Factory on Tobler Creek in 1841. By 1849, it featured a mill village and was equipped with 1,664 spindles and 26 looms which produced heavy osnaburgs. Between the Franklin and Waynmanville factories, 1,100 bales of cotton were used per year and 125 people were employed.

At the same time as Waynmanville was being built, Thomaston Manufacturing Company was opened on Potato Creek just north of the town. This operation was bolstered by the building of a railroad that linked Thomaston with Barnesville in 1856. From a logistical standpoint, this made Thomaston the more desirable location for mills when compared with its contemporaries that were located on Tobler Creek. Despite the disadvantage, the mills on Tobler Creek continued to prosper until 1865.

The Civil War wound up being a catastrophe for Upson County, as well as the other industrial areas in Mid-west Georgia. In the waning weeks of the war, Union cavalryman James Wilson led a raid which saw factories from West Point to Columbus burned to the ground. Upson County was no exception, all but one of the Upson mills were destroyed. Rogers Factory never reopened, while Franklin Factory escaped the cavalry only to burn down in 1870.

Waynmanville Factory scrip to be used at the company store
Courtesy of the Thomaston-Upson Archives

George Swift managed to use the destruction to his advantage. He reopened and expanded Waynmanville Factory and purchased the Flint River Factory, renaming the mill village Swifton. At the same time, he switched his focus to Columbus, where he led a group that established the Muscogee Manufacturing Company in the old Coweta Falls mill building. In the process, he founded a Columbus textile dynasty which would last for 100 years. However, this expansion did not mean that his Upson mills were neglected. In partnership with the local Respess family, Swift expanded the Flint River factory to 3,500 spindles in 1870 and 4,000 by 1881. Meanwhile at Waynmanville, Swift entered into a partnership with yet another Columbus textile man, Louis Hamberger. Together they formed Swift, Hamberger & Co. By 1888 they had expanded Waynmanville to 64 looms and 3,300 spindles powered by water.

George Parker Swift: Textile Industrialist
Courtesy of the Thomaston-Upson Archives

However, in 1889, Swift’s business in Upson County was drawing to an end. The mill at Swifton burned, leaving Waynmanville as Upson’s last functioning textile mill. By 1895, two years before the end of his life, Swift was bought out of Waynmanville by Louis Hamberger. Hamberger continued to slightly expand Waynmanville until he sold it. The mill would continue operations with gradual expansions, which eventually reached 4,800 spindles, until 1909, when the owners elected to move operations to Forsyth in Monroe County. Textile operations in Southeastern Upson County died with Waynmanville, but their legacy was carried on by the Hightowers in Thomaston.


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Summerville

This agricultural-turned-textile industry town boasted both a railroad and cotton mills.

Summerville was originally known for being an agricultural community but soon transitioned into a textile town. The first textile mill opened in this area in 1907, just eight years after the arrival of the first railroad. While portions of some of the old mills are still visible, Mohawk Industries is the only textile-related company that still operates within Summerville to this day.


Visit


Things to Do

  • The Crushed Tomato, 205 Montgomery Street: Grab a slice at this pizzeria, which happens to be in one of the last remaining portions of Summerville Cotton Mill!

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.

  • Montgomery Knitting Mill, 10005 Commerce Street: This historic knitting mill still stands and is located downtown.
  • Summerville Cotton Mill, 194b South Penn Street: This piece of private property once served as an entrance to Summerville Cotton Mill. It stands directly adjacent to The Crushed Tomato, together they form the last remaining pieces of Summerville Cotton Mill.

History


Company photo at Summerville Cotton Mills during the early 1900s. Photo Courtesy of the Chattooga Historical Society.

Established in 1839 as the seat of Chattooga County and propelled by the arrival of the railroad in 1899, Summerville transitioned from a primarily agricultural area to a textile town. Known as the Historic commercial center of Chattooga County, Summerville’s first cotton mill opened in 1907 to produce duck, osnaburgs, awning cloth, and other heavy cotton goods. Operating both day and night by 1916, Summerville Cotton Mill proved early on to be a prosperous enterprise. Enlarged in 1923, the mill produced three times its initial capacity.

By 1917, the Summerville Mill village contained seventy homes on large lots and a church. The mill village boasted concrete sidewalks and its own waterworks system, with twenty of the residents owning their own home. A dedicated 75-acre plot of mill land served as a gardening space, an important aspect of mill village life, and almost every family kept a cow or a pig. The mill owners provided an African American groundskeeper and a mule to keep the grounds maintained for the mill operatives.

Bankrupt by 1935 and auctioned in 1938, Summerville Cotton Mill changed ownership several times. However, World War II brought the mill back into production through the manufacturing of fabric for military uniforms. The mill remained a major county employer for years after. By the 1980s, the mill ceased production and started demolishing most of the mill buildings.

Aerial view of Georgia Rug Mills, one of Summerville’s major employers in the mid-20th century. Photo Courtesy of the Chattooga Historical Society.

Several other mills operated in Summerville as well including Montgomery Knitting Mills manufacturer of children’s novelty hose, which opened in 1927. In 1950, Bigelow-Sanford, one of the largest carpet companies in the country, acquired the Georgia Rug Mill Inc. of Summerville and added a 40,000 square foot addition to the building in 1951. Later, the Georgia Rug Mill became part of Mohawk with their acquisition of Bigelow-Sanford in 1993. Carrying on the textile heritage tradition, Mohawk continues to be a major employer in the Summerville area.


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West Point

Come see the birthplace of Georgia’s largest family-run textile empire!

West Point was home to one of the largest locally-owned companies to come out of West Georgia. Formed in the aftermath of the Civil War, the mills which became West Point Manufacturing provided jobs through the hard years of Reconstruction. West Point Manufacturing was formed circa 1881 and expanded steadily under the leadership of the Lanier family over the next 100 years, consolidating their stakes in the Chattahoochee River valley, the west Georgian, southeastern, and national markets in succession. The company collapsed after a hostile takeover shook it to its core in 1989, leading to an exodus of top executives. Today, many of the West Point Manufacturing’s brands are produced by a successor company, WestPoint Homes.


Visit


Things To Do

  • West Point Depot, 500 3rd Avenue: The building dates back to 1887, and was at one time the freight transfer building for Alabama and Georgia railroads. Now, it is a visitor center and museum. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm and Saturday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.
  • Riverview Dam, 105 Lower Street, Valley Alabama: This site is a public area where the original dam which provided power for the Riverdale Cotton Mill is located. Visitors can wade into the Chattahoochee River to examine the dam and view the site of the Riverdale mill.

Places To See

  • Fairfax Mill and Mill Village, 436 Boulevard: The village is centered on a main street that loops from Highway 29 towards the site of the mill before turning back to Highway 29. This was the final village built and designed by West Point Manufacturing. 200 homes were built here between 1915 and 1919, with a further 200 or so built by 1936 across Highway 29 in an area called New Town. A handful of the remaining homes on Johnson and Peterson streets were part of the “colored village” which housed African American employees during the segregation period. These employees worked mostly in construction, at the West Point Utilization plant, or as menial laborers. Their homes are notably smaller and farther away from the mill than homes built for white employees. The company built several amenities during this time including a swimming pool, tennis courts, gym, boarding house, and a baseball field, Crestview Ballpark, which still stands. Crestview Field, as it is now known, can be found at 198 W. Sears Street.
  • Shawmut Mill and Mill Village, 2302 34th Street: The majority of the mill has been demolished, but the foundation, a small portion of the original facade, and the central tower can all be viewed at 2302 34th Street in Valley, Alabama. However, the mill village is intact. This was the first comprehensively planned mill village built by West Point Manufacturing. Shawmut was designed as part of the City Beautiful movement of the 1900s which included professional planning, coordination of architecture and landscaping, and the prominent placement of public buildings. The layout of the village is centered on a North-South axis and spreads out of a circle situated directly in front of the mill. 8 residential streets radiate out from the central circle to the boundary of the formal plan, which forms a rough hexagon. The Chattahoochee Valley Railroad forms the eastern edge of the hexagon. Public buildings along the central circle included a school, three churches, a library, an auditorium, a movie theater, and the “Lower Stores” shopping center. The “Upper Stores” shopping center was located near the superintendent’s house further up the main boulevard. The village also boasted a modern hotel, cafeteria, and sporting facilities such as tennis courts and a baseball park.
  • Riverdale Mill Site and Riverview Mill Village, 53 Middle Street: The site of the former Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company is still partially intact, although demolition has been in process since before 2017. Visitors can drive through the mill village, which is a good example of earlier unplanned “mill hill” developments that sprung up around textile factories.
  • Langdale Mill and Mill Village, 6000 20th Avenue: The earliest portions of Langdale Mill date back to the 1880s and the beginning of West Point Manufacturing. While much of the mill has been demolished, the original main mill still stands as of May 2020. Langdale’s mill village is a good example of early textile “mill hill” villages, which were rather disorganized clusters of duplex houses constructed near the mill. These early homes were gradually upgraded by the company and were joined by the addition of 150 single-family frame bungalows between 1920-1936. Village life was augmented by company-owned schools, churches, gymnasiums, a baseball field, pools, and a masonic lodge.
  • Lanett Mill and Mill Village, 600 US-29: This is the site of the former Lanett Cotton Mills. While the mill itself has been demolished, the barracks-style mill village still stands. Much of the original houses still exist in the area bounded by 1st street, 10th Street, 4th Street, and Highway 29. This area was directly across from the mill.

History


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

From the Ashes: Reconstruction and the Birth of West Point’s Textile Industry

Photo of the former Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company, renamed to Riverdale Cotton Mills, in the 1900s. The original mill can be seen on the left side with the slightly darker brick up to the edge of the water. In the mill’s early days, weaving was done on the 1st floor while carding and spinning were done on the 2nd and 3rd floor respectively. This carried on into the 1900s, where two additions, which can be seen on the right, were built in a slightly lighter brick. These newer buildings were used to facilitate the processing of raw cotton into the spinning and weaving operations in the original mill (lighter brick on the left side). This included the construction of opening, picking, slashing, and carding sections as well as corporate offices. Photo courtesy of Jarrett Craft.

West Point’s textile history began in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Community leaders, including George Huguley and James W. McClendon, raised funds by selling cotton stores which had been successfully hidden from raiding Federal soldiers. They used this capital as startup money for ventures to bring industrialization to the Chattahoochee River Valley. In 1866, McClendon established Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company, converting the Trammell grist mill – located in modern-day Langdale, Alabama – into a cotton factory. At the same time, Huguley formed the Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company by acquiring the Campbell grist mill at Riverview and revamping it to produce cotton cloth. Both of these mills were in Chambers County, Alabama, but from the beginning, their leadership and capital were located in West Point.

The mills were decent sized operations for the time. Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company commanded 50 looms and 3,000 spindles worked by 75 to 100 workers producing osnaburgs, a coarsely woven fabric usually used to make sacks. The Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company was similarly sized at 3,000 spindles, 8 cards, and 48 looms. The two mills prospered through the remainder of the 1860s and developed a name for quality. Both mills were still young and therefore were financially fragile. As such, they were unable to navigate the economic depression caused by the Panic of 1873 and were both forced to close.

This post card features a colorized photo of West Point Manufacturing’s Langdale Mill during the early 20th century. It was built on the site of Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company after the original mill burned in 1886. The main mill can be seen to the right, situated between the tower and the smokestack. At this point carding and spooling took place on the first floor, more carding on the second floor, and spinning on the third floor. The building to the left of main mill was the cloth room, which featured shafting at the basement level and weaving on the 1st floor. The roofs of cotton warehouses can be seen behind the cloth room while the Chattahoochee River can be seen off in the background behind the main mill. Mill village houses can be seen in the foreground. Courtesy of Jarrett Craft.

It was during this period that the Lanier brothers made their entrance into the region’s textile industry. After returning from serving in the Civil War, Lafayette and Ward Crockett Lanier founded a mercantile business in West Point. They used the profits from this business to establish a bank and an insurance company. Their biggest investment which stemmed from this was in the Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company. The brothers acquired a stake in the company from James McClendon in exchange for a parcel of land. In addition, Lafayette Lanier married Ada Huguley which gave him a family interest in George Huguley’s Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company.

The Laniers helped to pull the two companies out of the depression. During this period, they employed new superintendents at the Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company mill, an experienced father and son team from England named Thomas and William Lang. The Langs oversaw the change in production from osnaburg to flat duck. This product was an extremely versatile material, which could be used for sails in merchant clipper fleets and for tents and wagon covers used by the army and settlers pushing west. Their efforts increased the mill’s profitability substantially, to the point that the mill village was renamed Langdale in their honor.

Lafayette Lanier, co-founder of West Point Manufacturing Company. Lafayette and his brother Ward Crockett took local mills and expanded them massively with cash infusions from partners in Boston. Lafayette passed leadership of the company he built on to his son George Huguley Lanier, founding a textile dynasty in the process. Photo Courtesy of Cobb Memorial Archives, Valley, Alabama.

To sell this new product, the Laniers formed a relationship with N Boynton & Co., a selling agency based in Boston. Their new selling agents distributed duck from the Chattahoochee River Valley-based mills to the national market. They had the connections with railroad companies and clipper shipyards which consumed millions of yards of duck. By the 1880s, the mills of the valley had developed a reputation for quality duck, and even earned an honorable mention for their exhibit on soft and hard thread duck at the 1881 International Cotton Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia.

A New Company for the New South: West Point Manufacturing

By this point, the Lanier brothers had purchased a controlling interest in the Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company and reorganized it under the name West Point Manufacturing Company. The company was founded with a capital of $107,641.30 owned by 8 shareholders. The company flourished until 1886 when the mill burned to the ground. The Lanier brothers were on hand for the fire. Instead of panicking, they obtained financial backing from N Boynton & Co. and rebuilt. In exchange for rebuilding the mill many of the executives at N. Boynton & Co. became directors at West Point Manufacturing Company, N. Boynton & Co. became the sole selling agent of the company, and West Point Manufacturing’s treasury was moved to Boston. The arrangement increased the company’s capital to $300,000. In addition, the new mill was substantially larger, boasting 12,000 spindles and 300 looms producing duck.

While West Point Manufacturing was able to endure stretches of adversity, Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company could not. When it collapsed in 1890, Lafayette Lanier used his family connections to reincorporate it under the name of Galeton Cotton Mills. This led to an ownership dispute which reached the U.S. Supreme Court in Huguley Mfg. Co. v. Galeton Cotton Mills (1902). When he won, Lanier reincorporated the mill again as Riverdale Cotton Mills, a subsidiary of West Point Manufacturing Company. In this manner, he brought all the mills in the Chattahoochee Valley under his control. During this period, the mill was steadily expanded so that by 1901 it employed 300 people and featured 310 looms and 12,000 spindles producing duck.

An illustration of Lanett Cotton Mills, the first major addition to West Point Manufacturing Company made by the Laniers. Photo Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

At the same time as the Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company was collapsing, the Laniers were building new mills with financial backing from Boston. They incorporated Lanett Cotton Mills as a subsidiary of West Point Manufacturing Company in 1893, and construction was completed in 1894. This new factory was the largest so far, with 20,000 spindles and 550 looms producing duck, wide sheeting, and drills. To go along with that, they built Lanett Bleachery & Dye Works in 1895. This facility bleached, dyed, and finished products from the mills of the Valley. At its start, it could bleach 5 tons per day and dye 30,000 to 40,000 yards. As big as that sounds, it only employed around 150 people.

Lafayette Lanier also acquired a controlling interest in an operation in Rock Mills which Lafayette had been involved with since the 1880s. Although it would change back and forth between being called Rosedale Manufacturing Company and Wehadkee Yarn Mills, it would remain in the Lanier family for another 120 years.

Into the New Age: The Early 20th Century

Lanett Cotton Mills during the early 20th century. Photo Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Lafayette Lanier had become the undisputed leader of his family’s interests in the textile business. He made trips to Boston for meetings with their Northern backers year in and year out. By 1900 he was president of all three mills in the Valley: Riverdale Cotton Mills, Lanett Cotton Mills, and West Point Manufacturing Company. At his death in 1910, he headed an empire that boasted 5 separate mills, 389 cards, 2,604 looms, 127,000 spindles and employed at least 2,300 people. This included the new, ultra-modern Shawmut mill. Shawmut was constructed in 1907-1908. It was the first fully electric mill in the Valley and was the first fully planned mill village community created by West Point Manufacturing Company.

Up until the construction of Shawmut, mill villages in the Chattahoochee Valley were completely unplanned. Houses were constructed and arranged in a haphazard manner by the company, generally clustered in a bunch around the mill building. In the time leading up to the building of Shawmut, reformers nationwide were calling for houses set on wide, planned boulevards which featured multiple variations of arts and crafts style homes. The company was also expected to construct kindergartens, schools, libraries, hospitals, and churches. Shawmut was the first mill in the Chattahoochee Valley to adhere to this concept.

George Huguley Lanier, pictured here, took over his family’s interests in West Point Manufacturing Company after the death of his father. He worked his way up to the position of president and guided the company through the Great Depression and World War II before passing the baton on to his son Joseph L. Lanier Sr. Photo Courtesy of Cobb Memorial Archives, Valley, Alabama.

The death of Lafayette Lanier, although premature, did not stop the progress of his textile empire. He was replaced as president at Lanett Cotton Mills by a business associate from Boston, William Wellington, who had become the senior partner of N. Boynton & Co. and renamed it Wellington Sears & Co. After an interim president, Lanier was succeeded as president of Riverdale Cotton Mills and West Point Manufacturing by J.B. Richmond of Boston. Lafayette Lanier’s eldest son, George Huguley Lanier, named after his grandfather (the founder of Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing), took control of the family interests and was named vice president at West Point Manufacturing, Lanett Cotton Mills, and Riverdale Cotton Mills. Finally, his youngest son, Lafayette Lanier Jr., took control of Lafayette Sr.’s shares in Wehadkee Yarn Mills of Rock Mills in 1917 while also acting as the cotton buyer for the mills in the Valley.

West Point Manufacturing continued to expand under the watch of J.B. Richmond. In 1915 construction began on a new mill at Fairfax, Alabama. It was the second fully electric mill to be built in the Valley and second to feature a planned mill village. The new plant produced towels and operated with 25,000 ring spindles, 1,500 narrow looms, and 400 employees. Except for a short stint during World War I where it produced duck for the US Army, Fairfax was known for towel production for the entire time it was in operation.

Women employed as slashers at Fairfax Mill, the last West Point Manufacturing facility built in the Chattahoochee Valley. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

 

Depression, War, and Expansion: West Point Manufacturing under George H. Lanier

Richmond and Wellington oversaw the Valley mills through World War I and into the 1920s. In 1925, Richmond became Chairman of the Board, and George H. Lanier was promoted to the position of president. The company consolidated by 1927, with Riverdale Cotton Mills and Lanett Cotton Mills being absorbed into West Point Manufacturing Company and becoming the Riverview and Lanett plants respectively. Shortly thereafter, they pushed further into the towel market by purchasing the well known Martex brand, which would become the staple of West Point Manufacturing’s towel industry and is still in production today.

An executive and worker in discussion in a West Point Manufacturing facility, probably during the tenure of George H. Lanier. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

George H. Lanier maintained his position as company president of the newly consolidated West Point Manufacturing until his death in 1948. He managed the company through the stormy times of the Great Depression and World War II. In 1935, at the height of the Depression, mills controlled by the Lanier family boasted 440 cards, 5,128 looms, 267,544 spindles, and most importantly employed at least 4,868 people. George H. Lanier expanded operations into Georgia by acquiring Dixie Cotton Mills in LaGrange in 1933. Lanier continued expanding by purchasing his longtime selling agency Wellington Sears & Co. in 1945, acquiring Cabin Crafts industries in Dalton in 1946, and buying Columbus Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Georgia in 1947. Wellington Sears & Co. came with the added bonus of two more duck producing mills in Anderson, South Carolina. These acquisitions laid the foundation for a massive diversification of the product line. While West Point Manufacturing would continue to be known as a producer of duck and toweling, Cabin Craft industries was the beginning of what would become a massive carpet division in Dalton. Dixie Cotton Mills in LaGrange gradually transitioned from a duck factory to produce silk and rayon products and would eventually become part of a consumer products division.

A Union of North and South: The Presidency of Joe L. Lanier

West Point Manufacturing employee operating a Jacquard loom in Fairfax Mill, likely during the tenure of Joe L. Lanier Sr. Photo Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Carleton B. Richmond and R.G. Boyd succeeded George H. Lanier as president after his death. They acted as little more than caretakers until 1951, when George’s eldest son Joseph “Joe” Lamar Lanier Sr. became president. At the time that Joe took over, the Lanier family controlled a vast textile empire which featured a total of 379,872 spindles, 8,386 looms, and 11 plants, including the mills purchased with Wellington, Sears & Co. in Anderson as well as Wehadkee Yarn Mills run by Joe’s younger brother Bruce. Joe initiated a sales campaign in post-war Europe, hoping to expand the business abroad and take advantage of Europe’s slow economic recovery. Under his watch, West Point Manufacturing sold shares on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time. The company also sold the mill village houses in the Valley to their tenants, creating 2,000 new property owners. But Joe Lanier’s biggest achievement was orchestrating the merger between West Point Manufacturing Company and Pepperell Manufacturing Company to create West Point-Pepperell, which he promptly became CEO and Chairman of, in 1965.

The West Point-Pepperell was fully consolidated by 1970. In that year, the company featured an Industrial Fabrics division, Apparel Fabrics division, Consumer Products division, and a Carpets and Rugs Division. The Industrial Fabrics, Apparel Fabrics, and Consumer Products divisions boasted a massive combined total of 14,837 looms and 479,364 spindles in 25 mills spread across 6 states. The Carpets and Rugs Division was mostly based in Dalton, Georgia, but had operations in North Carolina and Massachusetts, as well.

Flooding was a perennial problem in the Chattahoochee Valley up until the construction of the West Point Dam. 1961 was an especially bad year, to the point that employees were able to drive a motorboat along the factory floor. Photo Courtesy of Cobb Memorial Archives, Valley, Alabama.

 

The Boom Before the Bust: Joseph Lanier Jr.

Joe L. Lanier Sr. retired in 1974 and passed on the family interests to his son Joseph L. Lanier Jr., who became President of West Point-Pepperell in 1974 and CEO and Chairman five years later. During the period of his presidency, the company built on their carpet business in Dalton by purchasing Ludlow Corporation’s assets and establishing Georgian Carpets. In 1980, at the beginning of his Chairmanship, West Point-Pepperell reached $2.2 billion in sales and employed 35,000 people in 15 states and 9 countries.

Lanier was unwilling to rest on these laurels. He undertook a massive expansion campaign starting in 1980. Acquisitions included Virginia Crafts, Tifton Carpet Spinning, Bond Cote Systems of Virginia, Arthur Sanderson & Son Ltd. of London, Cluett, Peabody & Co., and competitor J.P. Stevens & Co. The company also underwent a $150 million modernization project which brought their spinning and weaving operations up to date.

Joseph L. Lanier Jr. speaking at the opening of the West Point Dam. Lanier Jr. was the last of the Lanier family to lead West Point-Pepperell. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

Arthur Sanderson & Son were a major textile marketing firm in London, the addition of which signified West Point-Pepperell’s ambition to push into the international market. The purchase of Cluett, Peabody & Co. brought the famous Arrow shirt and Halston line of men’s clothing into the company’s profile. The acquisition of J.P. Stevens & Co. also had a massive impact. The purchase included brands such as Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley and eliminated J.P. Stevens & Co. as a competitor. However, it also doubled the company’s debt ratio.

Corporate Takeover

This, in addition to valuable name brands, the state of the art manufacturing facilities, and the non-unionized labor pool proved a lure to corporate raiders. Only 8 months after the purchase of J.P. Stevens & Co., William Farley, a corporate raider whose most notable capture had been Fruit of the Loom Inc., began a hostile takeover of West Point-Pepperell. The takeover was opposed by the Laniers, the board, the employees, and the state legislature. Farley won, purchasing 95% of the company’s shares for $3 billion. He then established himself as Chairman and CEO. Joseph Lanier Jr. and many of the directors left the company in response. For the first time since the company’s founding in 1880, the Laniers were not involved.

Farley was in trouble from the beginning. Many key positions were left empty by a mass exodus of executives. To make matters worse, the former head of J.P. Stevens & Co. took the rights to the Laura Ashley brand with him. The executives were not the only disgruntled members of the company, however. Factory workers regularly burned Fruit of the Loom merchandise in protest during the takeover. Moreover, Farley had saddled himself with a load of debt during the takeover. His plan to finance the deal by selling junk bonds fell through. He attempted to sell off assets such as Cluett and Peabody to meet his loan payment deadline, but received too low a price too late. In March 1990 he ceded control of his 95% majority.

The holding company that Farley used to facilitate the takeover, West Point Acquisition, soon filed for bankruptcy. Farley remained as Chairman and CEO, but was soon forced out by private investors who restructured and renamed the holding company to Valley Fashions Corporation. Investors also sued Farley for failing to complete the takeover.

The Bust: The Collapse of West Point-Stevens

The economic recession of the early 1990s further aggravated the turbulency in the corporate office. West Point-Pepperell sales dropped 5.9%. In February 1993 Joseph L. Jennings, a relative of the Lanier family, was brought in as president to help stabilize the operations. He initiated a plan which involved consolidating company brands to streamline production and investing $200 million in new mill equipment. The following year the Valley Fashions Corporation acquired the remaining 5% of West Point-Pepperell shares and merged with its subsidiaries to create West Point-Stevens.

West Point-Pepperell corporate office in West Point, Georgia. Photo Courtesy of Cobb Memorial Archives, Valley, Alabama.

West Point-Stevens immediately undertook an aggressive marketing campaign and introduced several new products to reclaim their lost market share. Things were beginning to improve as the company approached the new millennium. But that optimism did not last long. West Point-Stevens filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2004, after $103 million in losses since 2001. They shut down the old Dunson and Dixie mills in LaGrange as well as a towel factory in Valley. In 2005 West Point-Stevens was sold to American Real Estate Partners LP for $703.5 million, who now operate the company’s assets through their subsidiary, West Point Home. West Point Home has since shut down many of its manufacturing operations in the United States and moved its corporate offices to New York City. This ended the city of West Point’s role as a corporate headquarters and center of textile manufacturing, which had lasted for over 140 years. However, West Point Home still carries several of West Point Manufacturing’s traditional brands, such as Martex, and West Point Pepperell’s famous Lady Pepperell brand. While no textile manufacturing activities remain in the Chattahoochee Valley area today, several of the mill villages still stand as monuments to the Chattahoochee Valley’s industrial past. Altogether, the remaining buildings and the work of West Point Home continue the legacy built by the Lanier family and their employees.


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LaGrange

Explore the many mills and historic resources remaining in this Southern hub of the cotton textile industry!

LaGrange and Troup County have been hubs of textile manufacturing for nearly 180 years. Businessmen from neighboring Meriwether County opened Troup Factory in 1847. It survived the Civil War and operated on Flat Shoals Creek before LaGrange businessman L.M. Park relocated it to LaGrange in 1902. Park’s mill joined three existing cotton mills: Dixie Cotton Mills, Unity Cotton Mills, and LaGrange Mills. These mills were led by an active and progressive group of businessmen. The Callaway, Truitt, and Dunson families in particular had lasting impacts on LaGrange’s textile scene. Fuller Callaway’s sons, in partnership with the Truitt family, founded Callaway Mills in 1932. Callaway Mills provided jobs for thousands of LaGrange’s citizens through the Great Depression and World War II before Fuller Callaway Jr. sold to Deering-Milliken Co. in 1968. Today, Milliken & Co. and a handful of smaller operations carry on the legacy of a slightly diminished yet still strong textile industry in LaGrange.


Visit


Things to Do

  • Callaway Monument, Cypress Street: This clock tower was erected in 1929, after Fuller E. Callaway Sr.’s death the year before, and is the highest point in southwest LaGrange. The monument, fashioned after the Campanile (bell tower) of San Marco Basilica in Venice, Italy, was designed by Ivy and Crook. The surrounding grounds were designed by Earle Sumner Draper.
  • Hills & Dales Estate, 1916 Hills and Dales Drive:  Visit this significant historical home of the Callaway family, see the exhibits, and visit the ornamental gardens the family developed. From March to June, the estate is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Sunday 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm. From July to February, the estate is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
  • Legacy Museum on Main, 136 Main Street: This museum focuses on the history of LaGrange and Troup County and includes the region’s textile story in its permanent exhibit. The museum’s permanent collection also includes the original 1929 Seth Thomas Clockworks from Callaway Monument, one of the red light beacons from atop the monument, and a reproduction of Fuller Callaway’s office including original furnishings, photographs of Troup Factory, a panel about Sarah Mabry, a display of local textile heritage including maps to locate all LaGrange’s associated factories in the region. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and the first and third Saturday of each month 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
  • Troup County Archives, 136 Main Street: Located above the Legacy Museum on Main, the Troup County Archives boasts a wide array of archival material related to the textile industry in the region. These archives are open to the public Monday through Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and the first and third Saturday of each month 10:00 am – 4:00 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.

  • Callaway Auditorium, 405 Forrest Place: This auditorium is home to the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, a non-profit organization.
  • Dixie Cotton Mills/West Point-Pepperell Dixie Division, 701 Greenville Street: Founded in 1895, this mill eventually found its way into the hands of the Dunson family. Due to economic troubles, this mill ceased operations in 2004. As of 2020, it is being renovated.
  • Dunson Mills/West Point-Pepperell Dunson Division and Mill Village, Fulton Street: Dunson Mills is no longer in operation after the collapse of West Point-Stevens. However, the historic plant still stands, it is currently being used as a warehouse. The mill can be most easily found by going to 1 Thornton Street, which takes the visitor to the backside of the mill. This provides a good view of cotton warehouses and the rear of the mill. The front of the mill can be viewed from Fulton Street. Many of the homes to the north, west, and south are part of Dunson Mills’ mill village.
  • Elm City Cotton Mills/ Milliken & Co. Elm City Plant, 1005 Elm Street: This historic mill is no longer active, but is still standing and can be viewed from the street. The neighborhood between the mill and Callaway Memorial Tower forms the Elm City Cotton Mills mill village.
  • Hillside Cotton Mills/Hillside Plant and Mill Village, 1300 Brownwood Avenue: Hillside served as the parent plant to the Valway, Rockweave, and Valley Waste plants. A portion of this mill, the Valway Plant, is still active. The structure as a whole can be viewed from various points on Brownwood Avenue, Lincoln Street, and 4th Avenue. Many restored craftsman-style Hillside Mill Village homes can be seen along Lincoln Street; many of the homes in the Hillside community were originally built to house mill workers.
  • LaGrange Mills/LaGrange Calumet Mill and Mill Village, 200 LaFayette Parkway: While the mill has been demolished, the mill village still stands. The village is centered on Calumet Park and can be viewed at McGee, Addie, Baugh, Ware, Vine, and Gardner streets.
  • The Dunson School, 11 Barnard Avenue: This school was established by Dunson Mills, but has since been converted into senior apartments.
  • Truitt-Mansour Home and Sunny Gables: Architect P. Thornton Marye designed two homes, both of which can be viewed from Broad Street. The first, the Truitt-Mansour Home at 304 Broad Street, was built by textile magnate Cornelius V. Truitt in 1914. The second, “Sunny Gables” at 910 Broad Street, was built in 1926 by Mary B. Nix with inherited textile money from her uncle John M. Barnard, another textile magnate in LaGrange.
  • Unity Cotton Mills No. 1/Kex Plant, 815 Leeman Street: The site is no longer active but still stands.
  • Unity Cotton Mills No. 2/ Oakleaf Plant, 1402 Austin Street: The plant is no longer active but can be viewed from the street. As of 2020, demolition has begun on the historic cotton warehouses on the southern end of the mill.
  • Valley Waste Mills and Mill Village: The neighborhood centered between Ellis and Boatwright Streets housed the African American employees of Valley Waste Mills, a part of the Hillside Mill complex, during the segregation period. These employees were kept on retainer as construction crews for various projects around the mill or given menial tasks. They were not allowed to work the higher-paying jobs that their white counterparts enjoyed. Visitors should notice how much further away the African American employees’ homes were from the mills than those of their white counterparts.

History


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

Starting from Scratch: The Founding of Troup Factory

Troup Factory was the first textile operation in Troup County. This photo shows the original grist mill (left), the cotton factory (background), and the wooden raceway flume (foreground); all built by Maxey Brooks. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

Troup County’s textile heritage began with the establishment of Troup Factory. Troup Factory was one of the earlier textile operations in Georgia. Millwright Maxey Brooks built a grist mill at the site in 1826. He installed wool carding machinery in the mill in 1843. This attracted a group of businessmen from Meriwether County, who organized themselves as Robertson, Leslie, and Company, to purchase the mill. The entrepreneurs hired Brooks to build a new factory and dye house alongside the existing grist mill. When operations commenced in 1847, the company had $40,000-50,000 in capital. They installed 1,000 spindles in the newly built factory which consumed 600 pounds of cotton per day and employed 35 people.

In 1849, Reverend George White reported that Troup Factory’s owners had invested a total of $42,000 in the operation, expanding their facility to 1,600 spindles which produced 900 osnaburgs (bags made of a coarse fabric) and 100 bunches of yarn per day. At this time White claimed of Troup Factory that “great attention is paid to the character of the operatives, and none are received but those having testimonials of good and industrious habits.” White stated that the company was in the process of building a church and Sunday School to further educate Troup Factory’s 65 employees.

Through Thick and Thin: Troup Factory in the Civil War Era

Troup County’s new textile industry made a good name for itself almost immediately. In 1848 Troup Factory won the Stone Mountain Agricultural Fair honor for best osnaburg. The company hired William A. Reid of Columbus as their selling agent, which allowed osnaburgs and yarn from Troup County to be sold nationwide. They sold osnaburgs in Savannah for 8 ½ cents to 10 ½ cents per yard. Troup Factory also produced woolens, yarns, and other cotton products. By 1857, the fruits of Troup Factory’s labor were in such high demand that it became necessary for a railroad spur of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad to be built to service the factory.

The onset of the Civil War ended all hopes of the railroad spur being completed. Troup Factory adapted though by retooling to produce duck, a rougher fabric used for making tents and sails, as well as their traditional osnaburgs. Troup Factory was considered so vital to the war effort that its employees were excused from military service. The factory continued producing cotton goods until the last days of the Civil War, when the employees were forced to take emergency action. When they heard that Union General James Wilson’s cavalry was ravaging the countryside, the operatives hid the mill machinery in the swamps to hide them from the Union raiders. Troup Factory’s remote location came to their aid and the mill survived, although the raiders stole a shipment of loom pickers from the train depot in LaGrange. Nearby cotton mills at ColumbusThomaston, and on Tobler Creek were not so lucky, as Union forces burned the vast majority of the mills in those areas.

The demand caused by the war led to an increased need for employees, who in turn needed homes to live in. Troup Factory quickly blossomed into a thriving village with a woodshop, blacksmith, sawmill, tanyard, and company store which served the employees. A masonic lodge and a church were also built. The population grew enough that the owners built more houses on the opposite side of Flat Shoals Creek.

Last Man Standing: Troup Factory during Reconstruction

Troup Factory employees in the 1890s. Textile mills during this period frequently employed men, women, and children. Troup Factory was no exception. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

In 1869 an anonymous author, known only as Factory Boy, began writing a column which documented the times at Troup Factory for the LaGrange Reporter. Factory Boy recorded the town’s society, progress, births, deaths, marriages, and celebrations as well as the prosperity of Troup Factory. Factory Boy’s commentary added personality to Troup Factory’s story and left a legacy not only for the Factory but also for the people who lived and worked there.

Troup Factory’s owners managed to navigate the economic crash of 1873 with relative ease. In 1875, their capital had increased to $100,000 per year. The following year Troup Factory employed 100 people with a further 150 people living in town. In 1877 the owners built a new 1,500-yard long millrace which powered the cotton ginnery and tanyard. Perhaps these improvements were part of a campaign to improve the value of Troup Factory, as the owners put the mill up for sale in 1878 “owing to the advanced age and failing health of the proprietors…” The advertisement also claimed that Troup Factory featured 1,650 running spindles with a further 500 spindles which were not being used. The factory was put up for sale along with the 3-4 nice cottages, twenty-seven two-room houses for employees, and the Troup Factory store.

A Slow Decline: The Collapse of Troup Factory

Roberston, Leslie, and Co. failed to find a buyer for Troup Factory, and the mill was subsequently listed as failed in 1881. However, Troup Factory’s ownership regrouped and reopened the mill, so that by 1888 Troup Factory had been expanded to 64 looms and 3,300 spindles. But this resurgence was short-lived. After a period of decline which brought the mill back down to 1,600 operating spindles, Troup Factory went up for sale yet again in 1898.

The Troup Factory Dam failed several times around the turn of the century, resulting in the flooding of the Factory. This prompted new owner L.M. Park to decide to cut his losses and move Troup Factory to LaGrange in 1902. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

Despite the shape of the mill, the owners found a buyer for Troup Factory in LaGrange businessman L.M. Park. Park purchased the mill and its surrounding property in January of 1899. By 1899 Troup Factory, now renamed Park Mill, was undersized and poorly equipped. Substantial flooding exacerbated these problems in 1900 and 1902, destroying the mill dam and flooding the entire first floor of the factory. These floods convinced Park to cut his losses, which he did by moving operations to LaGrange in 1902.

New Mills in the New South: LaGrange Catches Cotton Mill Fever

Park Mill’s move to LaGrange officially signaled LaGrange’s ascendency as Troup County’s main manufacturing center. Beginning in 1888 with the incorporation of LaGrange Mills, the mill industry exploded in LaGrange. Park Cotton Mills became the 4th mill in the city when L.M. Park relocated in 1902. Moreover, the new mills were substantially larger than Troup Factory had ever been. Indeed, shortly after its founding, LaGrange Mills boasted 5,000 spindles and 75 looms, over twice the size of Troup Factory at that time.

Dixie Mills, pictured here in 1916, was one of the first mills built in LaGrange. The substantial initial size of the mill showed the ambition of its owners and the town as a whole. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

By 1902 LaGrange Mills had nearly doubled its equipment, featuring 10,000 ring spindles and 124 looms. Dixie Cotton Mills, founded in 1895 under a consortium of LaGrange businessmen, was even more ambitious. By 1902 it was equipped with 21,480 spindles and 400 looms producing sheeting, shirting, drills, duck, hosiery, and yarns. The newest of the LaGrange mills, Unity Cotton Mills under Cornelius V. Truitt and Fuller Callaway Sr., was under construction with a planned 10,500 ring spindles and 150 looms producing heavy duck and yarns.

During this period, LaGrange’s business community actively promoted the interests of the city. The Truitts, Fuller Callaway Sr., J.M. Barnard, the Dallis brothers, and the Dunsons were major names in the early LaGrange textile scene. The Dunsons had a major hand in Dixie Cotton Mills, while the Truitts partnered with Fuller Callaway Sr. to control Unity Cotton Mills. Fuller Callaway Sr. and members of the Dunson family also built mills outside of LaGrange. The Dunsons and J.M. Barnard built Hogansville Manufacturing Company. Meanwhile, Fuller Callaway Sr. and his partners founded mills in Manchester, Georgia, which is in Meriwether County, and Milstead, Georgia, which is on the outskirts of Conyers in Rockdale County.

A New Spin: Ownership Changes in LaGrange 1910-1914

Fuller Callaway Sr. was the most prominent of the group of LaGrange businessmen who fostered the textile industry in LaGrange. Fuller Sr. was famous for his folksy wisdom and the benefits he offered employees at his mills. In 1932, his sons consolidated his textile holdings to create Callaway Mills. Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Callaway-Truitt partnership built another new mill, Elm City Cotton Mills, in 1910, bringing their total up to four mills. Elm City Cotton Mills contained 10,368 ring spindles and 110 looms and employed 350 to produce sheetings, duck, and drills. The same group built one more mill, Unity Spinning Mills, by 1914. Unity Spinning Mills functioned as a subsidiary of Unity Cotton Mills. In 1914 it utilized 68 cards, 13,324 ring spindles, and 3,168 twisted spindles.

At the same time, the Dunsons built The Dunson Mills with $500,000 in capital employing 99 cards, 400 looms, and 21,000 spindles. By 1914 they had expanded to 500 looms and employed 300 people. However, their mortgagor forced them to sell their controlling interest in Dixie Cotton Mills to Wellington, Sears & Co. of Boston, the selling agents for nearby West Point Manufacturing Company. Dixie Cotton Mills’ owners converted their equipment to produce duck and continued operation as a subsidiary of West Point Manufacturing. It remained a part of West Point Manufacturing for the rest of its existence, being fully absorbed as a division in 1959.

Dixie Cotton Mills was not the only operation that faced a change in ownership. In 1905, local businessmen lost control of LaGrange Mills to investors from Baltimore, who formed Consolidated Cotton Duck Company. This did not necessarily bring stability, as the mill was shut down for a period in 1911 before being reopened. The mill changed ownership yet again in 1913 when it came under the ownership of International Cotton Mills.

LaGrange’s Great War: World War I

Unity Cotton Mill, shown here in 1915, was the first mill built by the Callaway-Truitt partnership. By the time of World War I the group owned a total of 5 mills in LaGrange, Milstead, and Manchester. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

Despite all of these changes, the city of LaGrange was in a good position to take advantage of the spike in demand for textile products brought on by World War I in 1914. Indeed, Callaway and Truitt built yet another factory, Hillside Cotton Mills, in 1915. When fully equipped in 1916, Hillside was the group’s largest mill in LaGrange. It featured 25,304 spindles and 440 looms along with bleaching and dyeing facilities. It employed a total of 400 people. They also set up Valley Waste Mills to utilize the cotton waste from their other operations.

World War I brought plenty of success to the textile mills of LaGrange, none more so than those belonging to the Callaway-Truitt group. After riding through the boom and bust of the immediate post-war years, the Callaway-Truitt empire boasted a total of 224 cards, 116,363 spindles, and 1,809 looms employing 3,375 people in seven plants. At the same time, Fuller Callaway Sr.’s elder son Cason began representing his family’s interest in the textile business.

Roaring into the ‘20s: Growth and Change in LaGrange’s Textile Industry

An aerial view of Dunson Mills in the 1930s. The Dunson family, while traditional in their approach to business, were considered progressive in terms of management. They fostered churches, schools, recreational, and medical facilities in LaGrange throughout their tenure. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

Callaway and Truitt were not the only ones who took advantage of the prosperity brought by the war and the 1920s. The Dunsons had slightly expanded in 1922, but the following year they embarked on a major expansion that more than doubled their equipment. By 1927, Dunson Mills boasted 51,000 spindles and 900 looms which employed 650 operatives producing drills, duck, twills, and osnaburgs. The West Point group also maintained and modestly expanded Dixie Cotton Mills. The major event of the 1920s for that mill was the ascension of George H. Lanier, the eldest son of the founder of West Point Manufacturing, to the presidency. LaGrange Mills continued to function, although it did undergo a name change, becoming the LaGrange division of New England Southern Mills.

The other cotton mill in LaGrange, Park Cotton Mills, was not so lucky. After struggling since the move from Troup Factory in 1902, the 1920s saw Park Cotton Mills finally close its doors for good. This ended the legacy of Troup Factory once and for all.

Another seismic change that shook LaGrange’s textile scene occurred when Fuller Callaway Sr. passed away in 1928. Fuller Sr. stepped away from active management when his eldest son Cason returned from World War 1. He accurately predicted the coming of the Great Depression, and wisely advised his sons to focus all of their resources in one industry. After his passing, Cason and Fuller Callaway Jr. followed their father’s advice, leading to the Callaway brothers gaining a majority interest in their existing mills. In 1932 they consolidated their holdings to form Callaway Mills. Cason served as president of the new corporation, while Fuller Jr. worked as treasurer.

A Shelter in the Storm: Callaway Mills, LaGrange, and the Great Depression

Textile mills often sponsored baseball teams as one of the benefits offered to employees, and Callaway Mills was no exception. Players were paid both for working in the mill and for playing on the field. The 1937 Callaway Cubs team, pictured here, competed in the semi-professional Middle Georgia Textile League. A few players from the Textile Leagues made it to the majors, including Walt Wilson (top center) who played for the Detroit Tigers. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

While 1932 was the first time that the various Callaway-owned factories were united under the same company, the employees had been receiving the same benefits of Callaway management. The Callaway family viewed their role as mill owners as a responsibility to their operatives. Fuller Callaway Sr. was often quoted as saying “I make American citizens and run cotton mills to pay the expenses.” This paternalism created a real bond between management and employee and manifested itself in several programs designed to benefit Callaway employees. Mill villages, schools, churches, and baseball leagues were all benefits offered by the Callaway family. The Callaways often provided meats, such as ham on Christmas during the 1920s, to their employees. They built the Benjamin Franklin and Martha Washington Inns as dorms for unmarried employees. They even established greenhouses to store their employees’ outdoor plants during the winter months, thereby protecting the plants from frost. Many of these benefits were coordinated through the Callaway Foundation, which bought all company property and leased it back to the company, using the proceeds from the rent for charitable purposes.

In 1935, Callaway Mills consisted not only of those mills which were owned by the Callaway-Truitt group in 1922, but also of the LaGrange Calumet, Oakleaf, Valway Rug, and Calumet Hogansville plants. During this period the Callways controlled 720 cotton carding machines, 2,656 looms, and 138,360 spindles at 10 plants. Most importantly, Callaway Mills provided at least 4,817 people with steady income at the height of the Great Depression. While the other plants were newly built, LaGrange Calumet and Hogansville Calumet were both purchased from the collapsed New England Southern Mills. Hogansville Calumet would be sold before 1942, but Callaway Mills remained the single largest employer in LaGrange.

Strikers in LaGrange detained by the National Guard, 1934. LaGrange was not immune to the wave of textile strikes that washed over Georgia in 1934. Although LaGrange was not impacted as heavily as other areas, the strikes certainly took their toll. Workers were blacklisted from the industry, while management was stressed to a breaking point. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

Despite the fact that no mills were shut down in LaGrange during the 1930s, the Great Depression did take its toll on the community’s textile industry. Even though they ensured that each mill family had at least one full-time employee, Callaway Mills experienced two strikes in 1934 and 1935. These were promoted by out-of-town “Flying Squadrons” of union organizers, who organized strikes in other towns as well. Management won and work resumed, but the stress of the ordeal as well as managing a company the size of Callaway Mills induced Cason Callaway to retire in 1937. His brother Fuller Jr. took over as president. Fuller Jr. started in the textile industry as a coal stoker in Elm City Cotton Mill. He worked his way through every position in the mill, and was allegedly not only able to operate every machine on the floor, but also to strip each machine down and reassemble it.

The Boom: World War II and the Postwar Era

After weathering the Great Depression, the mills of LaGrange were well-positioned to take advantage of the increase in demand offered by World War II. The Dixie Cotton Mills in particular refitted to produce Army duck, a canvas-like product which was dyed Army Green and largely used for tents. This was part of a larger push by Dixie Cotton Mills’ owners, West Point Manufacturing, to seize the opportunity of the war to expand their market. Both Dunson Mills and Callaway Mills prospered as well.

Men examining textile equipment at the Callaway Institute, circa 1940. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

In 1948, Fuller Callaway Jr. took a ten-year break from management, passing control of Callaway Mills to Arthur B. Edge Jr. By 1951, Callaway Mills had completely restructured. The company was comprised of three separate divisions, each containing 3 to 4 plants apiece. The HDV Division included the Hillside, Dye, and Valway plants and focused on more traditional products such as ducks, twills, and yarns. The Calumet, Rockweave, Manchester, and Milstead plants made up the USEO Division, which produced drapery fabrics, upholstery fabrics, and auto headlining in addition to a line of more traditional products. Finally, the MMC Division, which included the Unity, Unity Spinning, Elm City, and Oakleaf plants, created cotton and rayon hose cord, terry towels, industrial towels, and fender covers. At this point, Callaway Mills commanded 105,840 spindles and 3,139 looms in LaGrange alone with a further 46,452 spindles and 888 looms in other plants.

Change in the Wind: Deering-Milliken, West Point-Pepperell, and the End of LaGrange’s Locally-Owned Mills

While Callaway Mills expanded slightly to take advantage of the World War II boom, Dunson Mills and Dixie Mills remained largely the same. Dixie Mills retooled again to produce peacetime products and Joe L. Lanier took over as president from his father. Dunson Mills saw a change in president too, as well as a drastic drop in capital. Those would not be the end of the changes for these two mills, as the 1950s and 1960s saw several corporate restructurings and ownership changes. Pepperell Manufacturing purchased Dunson Mills in 1954, which became the Dunson Division of that company. Dixie Mills was officially absorbed into West Point Manufacturing in 1959. The year before that, Fuller Callaway Jr. returned to the helm of Callaway Mills. These changes set the scene for the 1960s, which brought some of the most seismic changes to shake Georgia’s textile industry.

Business continued as usual in LaGrange for the majority of the 1960s, although Callaway Mills closed the Milstead plant in 1961. They also continued their push to diversify and modernize their product line by adding production of carpet, automobile upholstery, and industrial towels amongst other things. This diversification made Callaway Mills attractive to potential buyers, and Fuller Callaway Jr. finally sold the family company to Deering-Milliken in 1968. Deering-Milliken acquired not only the Callaway plants in LaGrange, but also the one in Manchester. Deering-Milliken continued to operate the former Callaway plants, although they were gradually forced to close many by 2000. In that year, Hillside, Kex, Elm City, Live Oak, Valway, and Unity were still operating.

Slow and Steady: Textile Decline in LaGrange

An individual examining machinery in West Point-Pepperell’s Dunson Mill, likely during the 1970s. Photo Courtesy of Troup County Archives.

In 1966, two years before Deering-Milliken purchased Callaway Mills, West Point Manufacturing merged with Pepperell Manufacturing. This merger formed a massive company and brought the two non-Callaway owned mills in LaGrange under the same company. West Point-Pepperell, as the newly merged company was called, continued to operate the two plants into the 2000s. The ownership struggle over the company in 1989-1990 weakened it substantially. Another round of restructuring led the corporation to rebrand as WestPoint Stevens. Despite an aggressive modernization campaign in the 1990s, West Point Stevens could not recover from the twin blows of the corporate takeover and the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The company lingered on into the 2000s, but ultimately collapsed. As divisions of West Point Stevens, the old Dunson and Dixie Mills were not immune to their company’s turn in fortune. The two plants, along with another in Valley, Alabama, shut down in 2004 as West Point Stevens desperately tried to stay afloat.

Against the Grain: The Endurance of LaGrange’s Textile Industry

Callaway Memorial Tower, LaGrange. Photo Courtesy of Kenneth Jordan.

While the major corporations struggled to adapt to the new millennium, smaller operations sprung up in LaGrange as a part of Troup County’s concerted effort to retain its status as a relevant industrial center. In 2003, General Fibers & Fabrics, Dudley Gunter Enterprises, Interface Flooring Systems, Kimberly-Clark Corp., Kleen-Tex Industries, and Mountville Mills all possessed substantial operations in LaGrange. The economic difficulties of 2008 certainly took their toll, but today LaGrange’s textile industry still thrives. Deering-Milliken, now renamed Milliken & Co., still operate the Live Oak and Valway plants while Mountville Mills, Kimberly-Clark Corp, Interface Flooring Systems, and Dudley Gunter Enterprises all are still running strong. Although LaGrange’s textile industry is not what it once was, it is still a linchpin of the community’s economy.


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Whitesburg

This community’s lone mill operated for 130 years before finally shutting down.


Visit


Things to Do

  • Historic Banning Mill, 205 Horseshoe Dam Road: Visit the historic Banning Mill situated on Snake Creek. This site was home to textile manufacturing for 130 years before finally shutting down in the 1970s. The remote site can be accessed via hiking trails after paying a small fee to the Historic Banning Mills resort.
  • McIntosh Reserve Park, 1046 West McIntosh Circle: The McIntosh Reserve Park is 527 acres packed with history, trails, a splash water park, pavilions, and sweeping frontage on the Chattahoochee River. The park is a favorite of hikers and equestrian riders.

History


  • Photo of mill workers posing for group photo
    Photo courtesy: CPH Collection

In 1849, Bowen Mill started manufacturing along Snake Creek in Whitesburg. The mill manufactured skeins of coarse yarn used in osnaburg, grain sacks.  When the mill burned down, in 1851, the Bowen brothers sold their assets to William Amis who reopened the mill in 1866 under the name of Carroll Manufacturing.

In 1880, the mill changed hands again and became Hutcheson Mill, which manufactured cotton sheeting and shirting fabric. Hutcheson Mill, over the next fifteen years, became an innovative enterprise powered by electricity. By 1895, Hutcheson’s textile mill had 5,000 spindles, 240 employees, and 1,300 acres.  

Sold in 1921, the mill took on the name Banning Mill. Between the 1930s and 40s, during the Great Depression through World War II, Banning Mill closed and reopened many times. By the 1950s, Banning Mill made yarn for carpet but despite their effort to become innovative, the mill closed in 1971, after 130 years of operation.  

In the late 1940s, A.L. Fuller and Charlie Goodroe established a cotton mill, called Virginia Manufacturing Company, to spin yarn in downtown Whitesburg. One of the most common jobs for women working in cotton mills during this time was operating the spinning frame. A former spinner recalls, “My dad didn’t want me to spin, because he said it was too hard. And spinning was hard, but I loved it.”

James Briggs eventually bought the company to add to his franchise, which included mills in Tallapoosa and Columbus, Georgia. He added a braid mill and started manufacturing cords for Venetian blinds, shipping the completed cords to the Tallapoosa plant for assembly. Later, Briggs sold his company to Gibson LaFoy, Ralph Hart, and Martha Arnold who continued cord manufacturing under the name West Georgia Mills, Inc. After the mill burned down, the three stockholders sold their company to Willington Technical Industries, who went through a series of name variations. Willington rebuilt the mill, moving it from its original location downtown to Willington Mill road.  


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Resources to Explore

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


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Trion

Come and visit one of the oldest cotton mills in Georgia!


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.

  • Trion Manufacturing Company/Mount Vernon Mills and Mill Village, 91 4th Street: This massive facility can be viewed from the street. The historic mill has been expanded several times since its original construction after the 1875 arson attack. By 1935, the mill was a massive facility that operated 102,354 spindles and 2,358 looms and employed 1,600 people. While other mills in the region have declined or collapsed, the Trion mill has thrived and is still operated by Mount Vernon Mills. While the whole town is based around the mill, and therefore basically serves as a mill village, there are certain neighborhoods that feature historic architecture which is consistent with mill villages across the region. The neighborhood directly across the street from the mill makes up a sizeable portion of the historic village. Directly to the south of the mill, across the Chattooga River, another section of the historic village can be viewed.

History


  • early aerial view of the Trion mill and housing
    Early aerial view of Trion Mill and housing. Photo courtesy: Trion Public Library

Incorporated in 1869, the textile industry in Trion began with the first cotton mill in northwest Georgia, Trion Factory, in 1847. The original mill included 600 spindles and employed 40 people to produce yarn and osnaburg sacks for the local wheat crops.

During the Civil War, Trion Factory had a contract with the Confederacy to manufacture coarse woolens for the soldiers. Spared from the destruction of the war, Trion Factory later burned in 1875 possibly due to an arsonist. Forming a new company, Trion Manufacturing Company, the mill owner constructed a new two-story brick building and began producing indigo denim. In 1889, the company added a second mill and a third mill in 1900.

By 1912, the mills belonging to the Trion Manufacturing Company were in decline. Benjamin D. Riegel, a New York businessman, purchased the mills and renamed the company Trion Company. Both the mill and the town prospered during this period. In 1931, a glove mill employing over 900 young girls opened prompting the building of Leila Riegel Hall in 1934, a dormitory to accommodate any single girls working for the company. Later the building became the Trion Inn.

In 1934, the plant closed for a third time in its history due to the General Textile Strike of 1934. “Flying Squadrons” of union activists, traveled to Trion to encourage other textile workers to join them. Met with violence from local authorities, on September 5, a deputy opened fire on two strikers. In Trion at least 22 people died or received injuries during the strikes. The mill remained closed for six weeks.

Presented with the prestigious Army-Navy E Award in 1943, Trion Company and its employees produced 50 million yards of herringbone for use in making fighting uniforms, 4 million yards of tent twill, and over 7.5 million yards of material for gun patches, during World War II. The Glove Mill also produced over 7.5 million dozen gloves for the armed forces.

In the late 1940s, the Trion Company and Ware Shoals Manufacturing Company became Riegel Textile Corporation. Various machinery upgrades and mill expansions are made through the 1950s and 60s. In 1971, the mill began producing denim fabrics.

Unlike other textile mills, Mount Vernon Mills business was still steady in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1985, R. B. Pamplin Sr., owner of Mount Vernon Mills purchased the Riegel Textile Corporation. In 1991, the company modernized and still produces over a million yards of denim a day as of 2015.


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LaFayette

The textile industry of this community is one that is still in operation after over 100 years.

The railroad that was built in 1888 gave way to the first textile mill to open in LaFayette. To this day, the textile industry is still present and active in this community with Shaw Industries.


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.

  • Union Cotton Mill/Consolidated Cotton Corporation Mill and Mill Village, 15 Probasco Street: The mill itself appears to have been demolished and replaced at the modern site of Syntec Industries; the village of this factory, however, can still be seen today. The neighborhood bounded by North Chattanooga Street, Bradley Avenue, and Probasco Street is largely made up of mill village homes.
  • Walker County Hosiery Mills/Barwick Mills Site, LaFayette Cotton Mills, and Mill Village, West Main Street: The southern end of the first mill, which contained a greater part of the original Walker County Hosiery Mills, burned in November of 2015; the western portion of this building, however, still stands. Situated along the Chattooga River at 365 West Main Street, this site facility was originally known as Elizabeth Hosiery Mills before being renamed to Walker County Hosiery Mills. It was then occupied by Barwick Mills until its collapse in 1980. Lafayette Cotton Mills, located across West Main Street from Barwick Mills at 300 West Main Street, was demolished in 2007. The homes of their shared mill village remain. The mill village straddles West Main Street and can be seen by heading west on that road when coming from town. The first mill houses can be seen after crossing the Chattooga River. These homes are private property and can only be viewed from the street.

History


  • Photo of young male mill worker leaving
    Young mill worker boy. Photo courtesy: Library of Congress

A busy textile town established in 1835, Lafayette became the seat of Walker County in 1885. The building of the Chattanooga, Rome, and Carrollton railroad in 1888 gave LaFayette its first vision of prosperity. LaFayette hosted a diverse number of textile mills from cotton and hosiery to carpets.

Organized in 1893, Union Cotton Mill, the first textile mill to open in LaFayette, produced cotton yarns, towels, and osnaburgs and duck fabric. In 1920, the Consolidated Textile Corporation of New York purchased Union Cotton Mill. From 1934 to 1939, operations at the mill were shut down before being purchased and reopened by Exposition Cotton Mills and began operating again. In 1948, S. Liebovitz and Sons of New York purchased the mill and changed the name to Public Shirts Corporation. In 1984, a fire destroyed the building.

Organized in 1900 as the Elizabeth Hosiery Mills and later renamed Walker County Hosiery Mills in 1906, this textile enterprise played an important role in the growth and development of the LaFayette area. The mill began operations with only 80 machines. By 1917, the mill was equipped with 346 modern knitting machines. The mill employed 270 people and with an output of 1,450 dozen men’s and 400 dozen women’s hose per day of Raven Brand hosiery. Employees lived in the nearby mill village where residents maintained their own vegetable gardens and a cow or pig. A baseball diamond and a primary school were also located within the mill village. Liquidated in 1951, the mill was later occupied by Barwick Mills.

After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Eugene Thomas Barwick started buying and selling tufted goods for Sears. In 1949, Barwick brought out one of his chief suppliers and formed his own company, Barwick Mills. Doubling his sales in 1950, Barwick expanded his business. By 1954, Barwick Mills’ revenue topped $26 million. By 1971, the company had two massive production facilities, one in LaFayette, Georgia, and one in Dalton, Georgia. One of the early producers of tufted carpet Barwick Industries Inc. invested in many recreational facilities including an airport. Barwick Industries dominated the carpet industry for more than 20 years. As with many textile mills in Lafayette, Barwick closed down by the mid-1980s due to increased competition from overseas textile companies.

Established in 1903 by J.E. Patton, LaFayette Cotton Mills operated successfully for seventeen years. Heated by steam, the mill owners maintained the mill building, along with flowerbeds on the mill property. In 1946, Lawrence Fabrics Corporation purchased the mills to make abrasive jeans until about 1954. After Lawrence Fabrics sold out around 1957, the mills changed hands several times until finally shutting its doors for good in 2004 as Sunrise Hosiery, a sock company.

The LaFayette Cotton mill village cottages ranged in size from six to eight rooms each on one-eighth acre of land. Along with electricity and running water to each house, the mill village also boasted concrete sidewalks. Many village residents maintained their own vegetable gardens within the mill village, which also featured an orchard large enough to supply every family in the village with fruit for the summer. The village also included a primary school, a clubhouse, and playgrounds for the mill village children. Today, LaFayette still influences textile history through its carpet manufacturing at Shaw Industries Inc., the world’s largest carpet manufacturers.


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Dalton

Visit a town famous for both its chenille industry and carpentry, giving it the nickname of the “Carpet Center of the World”.


Visit


Things to Do

  • Bandy Heritage Center of Northwest Georgia, 695 College Drive:  Explore archival records on the chenille and carpet industry at Dalton State University! Research access to the collections is currently available by appointment only. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.   
  • Crown Gardens and Archives, 715 Chattanooga Avenue: This historic office building was originally used as offices for the Crowne Mills, but now serves as the headquarters for the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society. The archives are an area where you can also do research on local textile history. This building is open to the public Monday through Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. 
  • Dalton Freight Depot Visitors Bureau, 305 South Depot Street: Experience one of the historic buildings that once facilitated the textile trade, and enjoy a view of several historic textile buildings nearby.  Here, you can pick up your Driving Trail brochure or get more information on the City. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
  • Hamilton House, 701 Chattanooga Avenue:  This historic home, which features local chenille products and interprets textile industry history, was built by John and Rachel Hamilton around 1840. The Hamilton House is open to the public by appointment only.
  • Prater’s Mill, 5845 GA-2: Prater’s Mill, an 1855 grist mill, was restored in 1971 by a group of volunteers wanting to preserve the site for future generations. Enjoy a historic grist mill community that features an excellent collection of locally-produced chenille. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and tours are available on the hour by appointment only.
  • Shaw Industries Research and Development Facility, 1010 VD Parrot Jr. Parkway: Shaw Industries supplies carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone, synthetic turf, and other specialty products to residential and commercial markets worldwide. Tours are currently available by appointment only.
  • Crown Cotton Mill, 809 Chattanooga Avenue: This mill, which dates back to the 1880s, was Dalton’s first foray into the textile industry. Once a hub for the production of ducks, drills, and sheetings, the mill has been converted into an apartment complex and shopping center. Come eat, shop, and adventure in this fantastic piece of history!

Places to See

Many of the buildings which housed or were associated with this city’s textile industry still remain throughout the City.  Take your own tour to visit these sites, but remember these are exterior views only:

  • Bedspread Boulevard: Also known as US Highway 41 and Peacock Alley. Look for buildings associated with the carpet and chenille industries, including the “spread shacks,” where women sold their tufted chenille products to travelers on this stretch of the Dixie Highway.
  • Boylston-Crown Cotton Mills/Elk Cotton Mills and Crown Mill Village, 1031 South Hamilton Street: Originally established as Elk Cotton Mills around 1910, this mill was built to produce weaving yarns. By the 1920s, investors from the northeast formed a partnership with the mills original, local, owners. Together, under the name Boylston-Crown, they expanded the mill and converted it into a producer of tire cord. Today, it has been converted into a storage facility. Walk or drive around the mill village for Crown Mill, located adjacent to the Hamilton House and the Crown Gardens and Archives.
  • Cabin Crafts Incorporated, 44177 Tibbs Bridge Road: This was the site of one of Dalton’s earlier, formally organized, chenille bedspread businesses. It was chosen by West Point Manufacturing, one of the giants of Georgia’s traditional textile industry, as its flagship company in the chenille business. Eventually, West Point Manufacturing/WestPoint Pepperell built a massive carpet/chenille manufacturing wing of their business. When WestPoint Pepperell sold their carpet division to Shaw Industries in the late 1980s, Shaw became the largest manufacturer of carpet in the world.
  • Crown Laundry and Dye Company, 426 North Thornton Avenue: This site was once a dyeing facility, one of the many industries which popped up to support and take advantage of Dalton’s booming chenille business. It has since been converted into a storage facility.
  • G.H. Rauschenberg Company/Shaw No. 1, 501 E Franklin Street: The owners of Ken-Rau and G.H. Rauschenberg were brothers in law. After their original business, in which they were partners, burned down, they both established their own businesses. G. H. Rauschenberg Company was yet another of Dalton’s earlier organized bedspread manufacturing businesses. It was also one of the first to manufacture chenille robes on a large scale. Over the years it was converted to produce carpet, being bought by a company from Columbus, Georgia in the early 1960s. It is now part of Shaw Industries’ No. 1 facility. To view the original facility, head to the corner of 1st Avenue and Calhoun Street.
  • Ken-Rau Incorporated, 912 East Morris Street: The owners of Ken-Rau and G.H. Rauschenberg were brothers in law. After their original business, in which they were partners, burned down, they both established their own operations. While Rauschenberg Co. pioneered chenille robe and carpeting production, Ken-Rau appears to have stuck with the tried-and-true chenille bedspread as its main product. It was no longer listed in textile sales directories by the 1950s, indicating that it was unable to remain competitive.
  • Lawtex Corporation, 200 Gaston Street: Opened in 1935 by Seymour Lorberbaum, a buyer of Dalton’s candlewick products from New York, Lawtex Corporation was a major manufacturer of chenille products by 1937. The company transitioned to the production of robes and carpet before settling on area rugs. It was sold to Spring Mills in 1979.
  • Rogers Dye and Finishing Company, 414 West Hawthorne Street: This is another example of a business that supported the main carpet and chenille industry in Dalton. Often time companies might not have the ability to bleach, dye, and finish their product. They would often send their goods to companies like Rogers to make the finished products.
  • World Carpet Mills: This company was active in the 1960s as Dalton’s chenille industry transitioned to the production of carpet. The facility is now owned and operated by one of the world’s largest flooring producers, Mohawk Industries.

History


  • Photo of Crown Cotton Mill
    Crown Cotton Mill. Photo courtesy: Whitfield Murray Historical Society

Crown Cotton Mill opened in Dalton in 1884 to produce duck and osnaburgs. The first large-scale cotton mill in this part of the state, by 1910, the company employed 650 workers, many of whom lived in mill village housing surrounding the brick mill. Crown Mill merged with Massachusetts-based West Boylston Manufacturing Company in 1925 to open Boylston Crown Mill in southeast Dalton.

Dalton is also considered the birthplace of the chenille industry. Catherine Evans Whitener began making and then selling hand-tufted bedspreads at the turn of the twentieth century. Her work was part of the handicraft revival blossoming in the southern Appalachian region at the time. Whitener and other local women used tufted yarn to create patterns on plain cotton sheets. North Georgia women began to sell bedspreads and other tufted products to tourists traveling to Florida along U.S. Highway 41, part of the Dixie Highway.  

Also contributing to the burgeoning textile industry in this northwest Georgia city was the Westcott Mills, founded by Lamar Westcott in 1917. A Chattanooga native, Wescott studied yarns at the Philadelphia Textile Institution.  

Westcott became a leader in the chenille industry by patenting a needle punch, which sped up the process of machine tufting and produced more intricate designs than single-needle tufting machines. Westcott used the needle punch to bring the production of chenille bedspreads into the Cabin Crafts factory he helped found in Dalton around 1931. This new tool revolutionized both the chenille and later carpet industries that developed in northwest Georgia.

Carpet production grew dramatically in this region from the 1950s onward with the rise of new technologies and factories. By the 1970s, the majority of the carpet companies in the United States were located around Dalton.  Now, three of the four leading carpet companies in the country are based in Dalton: Shaw, Mohawk, and Beaulieu.


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Cartersville

This community hosted two textile mills alongside the hand-tufted bedspread industry lining U.S. Highway 41.

The first textile mill in Cartersville, the American Textile Company, was established in 1904, just 54 years after Cartersville became an established community. American Textile Company operated as the only textile mill in Cartersville until the foundation of Pyramid Mills Incorporated in 1920. Along with these two mills, Highway 41, also known as “Bedspread Boulevard”, was lined with women selling hand-tufted goods to tourists traveling through the area.


Visit


Things to Do

  • Bartow History Museum, 4 East Church Street: The Bartow History Museum’s signature exhibit highlights the impact of Goodyear and other textile industries in Cartersville and Bartow County. The museum has an extensive collection of documents and photographs relating to textile industry history. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 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.

  • Shaw Industries Group Incorporated: This location is currently a private business and is not open to the public. Shaw Industries Group Incorporated purchased this tufting mill in 1971. This plant, along with the company’s headquarters in Dalton, became two of the major centers of carpet production in Georgia.
  • ATCO & Goodyear Mill and Mill Village, Clearwater Street: Portions of the old mill can still be seen from the street. The old American Thread Company mill building purchased by Goodyear is now mostly gone. This mill village, located near Mayflower Street at Ohio Street, tells the story of those who worked at the mill and lived here. The mill grounds were meticulously maintained and parks were created for family gatherings. In the 1930s, Goodyear expanded the ATCO mill village and continued to support a community for its employees with scout troops, gardening space, a baseball with grandstands, a tennis court, a swimming pool, and more. The Goodyear baseball field is located across from the Goodyear plant where Hometown hero and professional baseball player Rudy York played when he worked at the mill and played for the Goodyear Mill team.
  • Bedspread Boulevard: Also known as U.S. Highway 41 and Dixie Highway, running through Cartersville and heading up to Dalton was once a place where women sold their chenille in roadside stands. Travel along this highway to look for remnants of that industry from Cartersville north through Dalton.
  • Bartow Textiles, 326 South Erwin Street: Bartow Textiles was built by tufting pioneer B. J. Bandy in 1940. This brick building illustrates the type of factory buildings constructed around the mid-twentieth century to house a growing number of chenille production operations.  
  • EZ Mills, 1 Johnson Street: This brick hosiery mill was constructed in 1921 and originally featured an expansion interior filled with hosiery machines. Eventually acquired by the Sara Lee Corporation in 1991 the mill closed in 1995. This location is now known as Spring City Technology Park.

History


  • Aerial view of Goodyear and Mill Village
    Goodyear and mill village aerial view. Photo courtesy: Bartow History Museum

Established in 1850, in an agricultural region, Cartersville became the seat of Bartow County in 1872. Beginning in the early twentieth century, cotton manufacturing developed in the city and gave way to a thriving carpet manufacturing industry by the mid-twentieth century.

American Textile Company (ATCO) opened the first cotton mill just outside Cartersville in 1904. The company constructed a substantial brick mill building to produce cloth for horse collar pads and an adjacent mill village. After 1917, the Cartersville mill began to manufacture other types of cotton textile products including Duck sheeting, drills, and Osnaburg. Over the next twenty-five years, the horse collar pad business declined as the automobile industry grew and new markets for cloth were found.

In 1929, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company purchased ATCO, expanding the mill and the mill village to include almost 300 new houses. The company thrived, producing tire cord for the booming automobile industry. With company-sponsored baseball teams, a scout troop, a recreational park, garden space, and a mill band, the mill village was an enjoyable community for Goodyear mill employees. During World War II, the Goodyear mill and other southern mills focused on cotton and rayon production for tires and produced special fabrics for duffel bags, cartridge belts, tents, and field packs for the U.S. Armed Forces. In the 1950s, the mill expanded to include two new facilities, a rayon mill and a pre-dip unit where fabrics were pretreated for final finishing. With this expansion, the mill was converted to synthetic textile production, which replaced its cotton production. Goodyear closed the Cartersville plant in 2003. The American Thread Company and Goodyear mill buildings were torn down, and the mill homes are now privately owned.

In 1920, a hosiery mill opened in Cartersville to manufacture knit underwear. Known first as Pyramid Mills Incorporated, then as Cartersville Mills, the mill was purchased by the Haight Brothers in 1940 and renamed E-Z Mills. Manufacturing underwear for children and infants, the mills primarily female workforce operated the knitting machines, which made the popular “union suit,” as well as other types of undergarments. In 1969, E-Z Mills converted to manufacturing men’s and boy’s tee shirts and briefs to fulfill a contract with New York-based Cluett, Peabody & Co. In 1976, Cluett, Peabody & Co., Inc. purchased and expanded the mill and increased employment from 618 to 810 employees and changed the mill’s name to Spring City Knitting in 1988. The Sara Lee Corporation acquired the Spring City Knitting Company in 1991. This mill closed in 1992 due to increased international competition following the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 (NAFTA).

In the early twentieth century, many women in Cartersville and Bartow County were participating in the growing hand-tufted bedspread cottage industry, begun by Catherine Evans Whitener near Dalton around 1900. Women sold their hand-tufted goods along U.S. Highway 41, also known as Old Dixie Highway, Bedspread Boulevard, and later as Peacock Alley, which runs through Cartersville. In the early 1940s, as hand-tufted bedspread production moved from the roadside stands along the Dixie Highway and into factories that produced machine-tufted chenille products, chenille entrepreneurs B.J. Bandy and Dicksie Bradley Bandy opened Bartow Textiles in Cartersville. Bartow Textiles manufactured tufted chenille products such as robes, small rugs, spreads, and draperies.

In 1949, after the death of her father B.J. Bandy, Dicksie Bandy Tillman, and her husband, David Tillman, took over Bartow Textiles. As the chenille business died down in the late 1940s, the company transitioned from yardage machines that were used to produce large swaths of chenille to the broadloom for the production of wall-to-wall carpet. David Tillman at Bartow Textiles was one of the first to experiment with broadloom carpet production. The Tillman’s made the decision to leave the textile business in 1954 because entering into full-scale carpet production would have required heavy investment into refitting old machines and buying new equipment.

Inspired by experimentation with the idea of making broadloom-produced floor carpets, Jack Bandy, B.J. and Dicksie’s youngest son, became an industry leader in carpet production as one of the founding partners of Coronet Carpets. In 1970, Shaw Industries, a company based in Dalton, Georgia, began manufacturing carpet in Cartersville with the acquisition of the Philadelphia Carpet Company. Shaw Industries went on to become one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers and is still operating in Cartersville today.


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