Telling Stories, Connecting Communities

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Waterpower and Water Transportation in Textile Mills

Author: Jamie Bynum

Waterpower was crucial to the development of the textile industry in the southern United States, especially to communities at or above the fall line. Georgia Public Broadcasting defines the fall line as “a geologic boundary marking the prehistoric shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the division between the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions of the state.” Aptly named, the fall line is known for its creation of waterfalls due to dropping elevation. This boundary was used to the extreme by textile mills, as early on all of their machinery was operated using exclusively waterpower. The southern United States had this advantage over the North since waterpower was not as efficient there. However, a major problem came along with the utilization of the waterfall for power: it was impossible for boats to travel directly from one point to another if there was a waterfall between the two points. Roads were not very reliable, especially in times of bad weather, which would cause some roads to become completely impassable. After the Civil War, waterpower and water transportation were relied on less and less as the implementation of railroads, steam engines, and electricity made its way into textile mills.

The main use of water for power came in the form of water wheels and turbines. Early textile mills relied on the types of water wheels that had been in use for centuries, but only had an efficiency of about 30-40%. Of course, with the early textile mills of the region opening at the peak of the Industrial Revolution, a more efficient manner of power production was sought out. By the end of the nineteenth century, water wheels had been upgraded to an efficiency rate of 80-90%. Alongside the development of more efficient water wheels was the implementation of water turbines. The main difference between traditional water wheels and water turbines was that water turbines were smaller and were placed horizontally, completely submerged in water. Soon, water wheels were replaced by water turbines that took up less space and were able to spin much faster. Some southern mill owners found these turbines to be so efficient that they continued to use them into the 1930s. The use of water turbines not only generated waterpower but electricity; by the 1880s, some mills used electricity from water turbines to operate all or part of their mill, light their mill, or light nearby cities.

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.

Before the introduction of steamboats and levies to this region, transportation via water was more difficult than in other parts of the southeastern United States. Due to the location of these communities relative to the fall line, all types of boats had a hard time navigating the waterways of west Georgia. Small boats known as flatboats and keelboats dominated waterways above the fall line before the advent of the steamboat. Flatboats were generally eight- to ten -feet wide and between thirty- to forty-feet long and transported both freight and passengers downstream. The keelboat, on the other hand, was designed to go upstream using manpower via poles, rowing, or dragging. Water transportation upstream without any assistance was costly and time-consuming, so the solution was to apply the power of steam to boats. After their introduction in the early 1800s, steamboats quickly replaced keelboats in most parts of the South; however, flatboats remained competitive in downstream transportation until the 1860s due to their cost and improvements made to the construction and operation of flatboats. The initial impact of steamboats on inland rivers was not significant due to their inability to travel north past the fall line but became irreplaceable once levies came along.

The S. S. Monroe being launched on her maiden voyage. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Troup Factory, one of the first textile mills in Georgia having opened in 1843, relied exclusively on waterpower. However, the rushing water used for waterwheels came not from natural waterfalls but a man-made log dam constructed in 1829 for the grist mill that eventually became this textile mill. With the construction of a cotton mill to accompany the original mill that operated wool carding machines, the owners of the mill had a second dam made of rocks constructed below the log dam. These dams used raceway flumes to guide the water down a narrow path where it would fall from the side of the dam, creating more turbulent waters to push the waterwheels. Water was not always beneficial to the mills; Troup Factory flooded several times over the years, which would have made the wagon road shown in the below map impassable. 

Photo courtesy of the Digital Library of Georgia.

West Point, another early textile community in the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail, also relied on waterpower and water as transportation. The Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company and the Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company, both located along the Chattahoochee River, began operations on the same day in 1866. In 1888, after the Chattahoochee Manufacturing Company had become the Langdale Mill of the West Point Manufacturing Company, the family that owned and operated the mill established the Chattahoochee Navigation Company. The goal of this company was to operate barges for the transportation of goods to and from the mill. The only alternative at this time was to attempt the five-and-a-half-mile wagon ride to the West Point depot. The fate of this company shows why water transportation was difficult in this region: when the water was too low, the shoals would be exposed and stop barges in their tracks, while high water levels would cause extreme rapids that were too difficult to navigate. 

The former Alabama-Georgia Manufacturing Company, renamed Riverdale Cotton Mills, in the 1900s. Photo courtesy of Jarrett Craft.

Columbus’ textile industry utilized water the most out of any community throughout the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail. Several of the early textile mills in this town relied heavily on the powerful Chattahoochee River, just as the mills near West Point did. Two notable mills here were the Eagle and Phenix Mills and Bibb Manufacturing Company. Eagle Mills opened in the mid-1800s and was re-established after the Civil War. Once reestablished, it absorbed a nearby mill, making it one of the largest mills in the state; this achievement was accomplished using waterpower and transportation to produce goods and rapidly grow the company. The other prominent mill along the river, Columbus Mill owned by Bibb Manufacturing Company, was established in 1900 around a dam site that could be used to power the mill. As seen in the below image of Bibb Manufacturing, the surrounding area was not suitable for boats to pull right up to the mill.

Photo of the Bibb Manufacturing Company and River Bank
Bibb Manufacturing Company and river. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Water was an incredibly important resource for early textile mills in the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail, as it was used for both power and transportation. Early roads were often unsuitable for anything more than small freight loads going short distances. The use of water in many places allowed larger deliveries to be made to and from textile mills and was the best mode of transportation until the implementation of railroads throughout the state. Waterwheels were used to power the various mills throughout the region until steam engines and turbines were introduced. Steam, in the end, replaced water for both transportation and power.

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.


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.


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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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.


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.


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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Come see a small town with a textile industry operated by both local individuals and national companies.

Before the textile industry, local farmers and businessmen worked together to create a thriving economy built on cotton in Hogansville. Merchants, such as Frank Word, created the Ford Word’s cotton warehouse, located near the railroad, to ship the cotton sold there across the state. Ford’s cotton warehouse allowed local cotton farmers to sell their products to a wider audience.

In 1899, Word and northern investors established the Hogansville Manufacturing Company. From the beginning, Hogansville Manufacturing was controlled by national corporations which used it to produce cotton duck. The mill changed ownership under these national corporations several times within the coming decades. In 1923, the Hogansville Manufacturing Company’s owner, the New England Southern Mills, relocated the Stark Mills of New Hampshire to Hogansville. Stark Mills produced cotton cord for rubber tires for the growing automobile industry.

Both mills were sold to Callaway Mills in late 1920s. They sold the Stark Mill to U. S. Rubber, but kept the old Hogansville Manufacturing mill and operated under the name of Hogansville Calumet. During World War II, U.S. Rubber purchased the original Hogansville Manufacturing Company to facilitate wartime production. They renamed it Reid Mill after a long time superintendent of the mill. Stark Mills became one of the few factories in the nation to produce woven asbestos pipe insulation for the U.S. Navy. The Reid Mill shut down during the 1960s and was demolished soon afterward, but the Stark Mill continued production. During the 1980s and 1990s, Stark Mill became Uniroyal and today is in operation under Westech. The surrounding Stark mill village is still a visible reminder of the area’s textile history.


Things to Do

  • Main Street Market, 100 East Main Street: The historic train station and freight depot in downtown Hogansville has been redeveloped. At one time it was the collections point for cotton from miles around. From here, the cotton would be shipped to the major manufacturing centers along the Trail, in the North, or abroad. It now houses a coffeehouse and a pub, as well as serving as an events space.

Places to See

The following properties are not open to the public, but you can view them from the exterior to learn more about the buildings that supported the textile industry here.

  • Stark Mill/Industrial Specialty Fabrics and Stark/Reid Mill Village, 117 Corinth Road: This historic mill was built by US Rubber after it acquired the neighboring Reid mill from Callaway Mills in the early 1940s. Today it operates as a division of Continental Tires. The town of Hogansville was not big enough to house the workforce that was necessary when Hogansville Manufacturing commenced operations. This forced the company to build a village to house their employees. These homes often fit into a traditional set of styles, the most common of which is the hipped roof home. Other types include the shotgun house and the duplex. Employees rented the homes from the company, and the village was likely expanded to accommodate employees for the newly built Reid Mill in the 1940s.


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

Hogansville’s Path Towards Industrialization

Photo of the Frank Word Cotton and Fertilizer Storage building

 Frank Word’s Cotton Warehouse. Photo courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

Before the textile industry came to Hogansville, local farmers and businessmen worked together to create a thriving economy built on cotton. Local merchants, such as Frank Word, pooled their resources to build warehouses along the railroad, which allowed them to ship Troup County cotton across the state. Frank Word’s warehouse allowed local cotton farmers to sell their products to a wider market.

Word and his associates followed up on their successful cotton business by taking a second step which was common across Georgia’s other enterprising communities; building a cottonseed oil and fertilizer factory. It is unclear exactly when the Hogansville Oil Mill was built, but by 1885 its owners boasted that the mill produced 700 gallons of cottonseed oil daily. Things were looking up in Hogansville and local businessmen undoubtedly were considering new investments in the town’s industrial future, possibly even building a cotton mill.

However, any plans were put on hold when tragedy struck the Hogansville Oil Mill. Early on the morning of December 6th, 1887 a terrible blast woke the people of Hogansville. Early responders came upon a horrific scene; the boiler at the Hogansville Oil Mill had exploded. The explosion ruined the mill’s engine house and uprooted a massive oak tree standing nearby. Those first responders entered the wreckage to find the mangled bodies of James Hardin and George Hinton, two of the three African American men who had been tasked with starting the mill for the day. Further searches located the body of the third man, James Jones. The explosion flung him 50 feet from the engine house. The Herald and Advertiser of nearby Newnan claimed that the main body of the boiler did not completely explode, but instead blew out the ends. According to them, this was the only thing that prevented the whole mill from being demolished. Frank Word and his associates immediately set about repairing the damage, ordering a new boiler from the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company of Newnan, that cost $1,500.

This amount was a significant and unplanned outlay of capital, equalling $41,096.84 in 2020, for the young company to endure. Fortunately, they were put back in operation shortly thereafter and even added a second boiler the following year. It is unknown what fate befell the families of the three African-American workers killed in the explosion, the reporting newspapers were typically callous about the lives and welfare of African Americans. Unfortunately the main focus was the damaged mill, not the loss of life.

This episode undoubtedly strained the finances of Hogansville’s leading businessmen, so plans for industrial expansion were likely delayed. Indeed, the first public mention of a cotton mill for Hogansville came in 1895. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Judson F. Mobley, Frank Word, and J.M. Buttrell were in the process of raising $50,000 in local capital to match a $75,000 commitment from investors based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was common for Northern investors to provide capital for Southern industries, but usually only once Southern companies proved their profitability. However, mills at nearby West Point and LaGrange had already established that mills in Troup County could make good money. Boston businessmen associated with N. Boynton & Co. had already plowed huge sums into the Langdale, Riverview, and Lanett cotton mills at West Point in partnership with the local West Point Manufacturing Company. With that in mind, a cotton mill in nearby Hogansville might have seemed a reasonable place to expand.

More Than They Bargained For: Hogansville’s First Cotton Mill

Early employees of Hogansville Manufacturing Company. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

However, these big plans for Hogansville stalled until August of 1899, when the group finally obtained a charter to build a new cotton mill under the name of Hogansville Manufacturing Company. They quickly began constructing the mill at a site along the railroad just north of town. All of this activity came just in time for the release of the 1900 Textile World Directory, which listed Hogansville Manufacturing Company as under construction. At that point, investors had plowed $80,000 ($2,464,873.02 in 2020) into the company’s capital stock. R.J. Griffin and Judson F. Mobely were the leading executives. They planned on producing heavy cotton duck at the new mill and projected that their plant would be able to operate 5,000 spindles and 60 looms. Cotton duck, a tough canvas-like material, was a product that could be sold in a wide variety of markets; cotton duck was typically used as wagon covers, ships’ sails, or tents. J.E. Dunson of LaGrange replaced R.J. Griffin the following year as the company began operations.

Hogansville Manufacturing Company was the culmination of a decade’s worth of commercial development by the citizens of Hogansville. Despite its local origins, the formation of a new national cotton duck corporation pulled the Hogansville Manufacturing Company onto the national stage. 1901 saw the establishment of the United States Cotton Duck Corporation, which had $50,000,000 in authorized capital stock. This new firm purchased 17 mills up and down the eastern seaboard, including Hogansville Manufacturing and LaGrange Mills, either through prior ownership of or the direct purchase of stock. The goal of this corporation was to create a monopoly on the cotton duck market in the United States. Its board of directors, the men who held major stakes in the enterprise, consisted of men from New England, New York, and Baltimore who were all established players in the Northern textile industry.

Hogansville Manufacturing Company during the early 20th Century. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

This group included two men who were also partners in the N. Boynton & Company selling agency: William H. Wellington and Horace S. Sears. These men were major stockholders in West Point Manufacturing, which the US Cotton Duck Corp. also had the option to purchase. It is likely that these two men were the same Boston investors who pledged $75,000 to build the mill in Hogansville back in 1895. If so, they would have owned a large portion of the stock of Hogansville Manufacturing Company when it was eventually built. Because the US Cotton Duck Corporation acquired its mills largely through the prior ownership of stock, this would explain why Hogansville’s brand new mill got caught up in this national enterprise.

Initially, their absorption by the U.S. Cotton Duck Corp. did little to affect the Hogansville Manufacturing Company. J.E. Dunson and Judson Mobely continued to lead the operation as they did before, although they were shortly joined by J.M. Barnard in managing the mill. Indeed, for all the national deals that Hogansville Manufacturing found itself in, the next issue that they were confronted with was a decidedly local one. On July 11, 1905, Hogansville was afflicted by yet another boiler dilemma as the cylinder head of one of Hogansville Manufacturing’s boilers blew out. The cylinder head, a gargantuan 400 pound piece of machinery, embedded itself in the wall of the mill 13 feet away and shook the entire mill. This stopped all work in the mill as employees rushed to investigate; even the clock stopped at the exact time of the explosion, 10:15am. Fortunately nobody was hurt, although engineer Jim Hicks narrowly escaped being crushed. This accident forced the mill to close for several days at a particularly bad time, as the mill had been running full time for weeks trying to keep up with orders.

Working for the Man: Hogansville Manufacturing Company Under National Corporations

Engine 187 steaming past Hogansville Manufacturing Company. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

Hogansville Manufacturing Company overcame this obstacle and continued operating as usual for the next 10 years. During this period several ownership changes affected the corporate structure of the mill. Most of this came from new groups purchasing a controlling interest in the original U.S. Cotton Duck Corporation under the name of a new corporation. Therefore in 1905 the Hogansville mill fell under the ownership of the Consolidated Cotton Duck Corporation, which in turn became International Cotton Mills in 1910. By 1923, the company made one final change to become the New England Southern Mills, operating as the parent company of the International Cotton Mills.  There were several reasons behind all of these corporate changes, the most prominent being Theodore Roosevelt’s anti-monopoly “trust busting” policies and the national economic crisis which struck during the end of the 1910s.

These corporate changes slowly whittled away the locals’ control over Hogansville Manufacturing Company. By 1910 J.M. Barnard was the last local individual listed as having anything to do with the mill, and his position had been downgraded to agent. It appears that the corporate leadership neglected Hogansville’s mill during this period of upheaval. Indeed, this period saw the massive expansion of mills in neighboring communities while Hogansville only received a single expansion in 1915-16, albeit one which doubled the equipment numbers by adding 5,000 spindles and 75 looms. It is likely that this sudden investment in the mill stemmed from the International Cotton Mills’ attempts to meet increased demand during World War I. This period also saw the gradual switch in the mill’s production; from heavy duck and yarns to cotton belting and hose duck. By the end of the war, the mill featured 115 cards, 96 looms, 11,232 ring spindles, and 2,464 twister spindles operated by 275 employees. Moreover, the International Cotton Mills converted the mill from steam to electric power.

Midway through the First World War, the Atlanta Journal Constitution sent a journalist out to Hogansville to write a piece on the Hogansville mill. While he almost certainly exaggerated, he noted the cleanliness and order of the mill and its village. The reporter stated that “Very few of its [the mill’s] operatives use tobacco, and no one would think of expectorating on the floor.” He claimed that the mill offered amenities such as a dispensary, a church, a dairy, a sanitation department, and homes with electric power and indoor plumbing fed from the 365 foot deep artesian well which also supplied the mill itself. The journalist made sure to emphasize the patriotic nature of the mill, which was reportedly painted in national colors on the trim and pipes which featured throughout the structure. While undoubtedly idealized, this report provides a valuable insight into the mill and the village which had sprung up around it.

A Stark New Reality: Stark Mills Moves to Hogansville

Engine 400 rumbling through the Stark Mills facility. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

Investment in Hogansville’s textile industry hit a new high in July of 1923 when the Stark Mills of New Hampshire, a sister company of Hogansville Manufacturing owned by the International Cotton Mills, elected to abandon its plants in New England in favor of building a brand new factory in Hogansville. This was a common trend for Northern mills as they sought to escape the costs associated with more expensive labor in the North in exchange for the Southern workforce which had a reputation as being cheaper and non-unionized. The Atlanta Journal Constitution claimed that a brand new mill village, which would be the equal of any in Georgia, would be built to house the new mill’s workforce. The paper also projected that the new mill would be built by Lockwood, Greene, and Co. and would feature a sizable 25,000 spindles producing tire fabrics.

On the heels of this announcement came a second one which likely caused a commotion on Wall Street; a group led by Lockwood, Greene, and Co. purchased a controlling stake in the International Cotton Mills and renamed the company as New England Southern Mills. This maneuver kept both the original Hogansville Manufacturing Company and the new Stark Mill under one corporation. However, it appears that the merger put plans on hold for the newly planned model mill village touted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the company opting to expand the existing mill village instead. The New England Southern Mills pressed ahead with the plans of its predecessor, and by 1927 the completed Stark Mill featured 124 cards, 120 looms, 35,568 ring spindles, and 16,056 twister spindles operated by 390 employees producing tire fabrics.

Stark and Hogansville Manufacturing mills circa 1930s. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

Bringing it on Home: Callaway Mills Brings Hogansville’s Mills Back Under Local Control

The New England Southern Mills only had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their new mill for 5 years before the vultures started circling. In 1927 Cason Callaway, head of the Callaway group of mills based in neighboring LaGrange, began negotiations with the company for the purchase of their three mills in Troup County, including the two in Hogansville. It is unclear why New England Southern Mills, a national company with huge resources, felt the need to sell to the significantly smaller group run by Callaway. Perhaps it was an offer which was too good to refuse, or that the larger corporation had become bloated and inefficient. Maybe they were faced with mounting liabilities in Hogansville; an employee murdered his coworker on company property not long after the directors agreed to sell to Callaway. Whatever the reason, the New England Southern Mills’ stockholders approved the sale of the three Troup County mills for $3,000,000 ($45,697,192.98 in 2020) in September of 1928. With that, the three plants fell under the Calumet Corporation, whose new mills in Hogansville became known as the Hogansville Calumet Mills.

The Callaway Mills’ Hogansville Calumet mill during the 1930s. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

Given that the Great Depression soon came bearing down on America like a freight train, Callaway might have regretted his purchase. Indeed, Cason Callaway sold the Stark Mill to the U.S. Rubber Corporation, who coveted the mill’s tire cord production, for an approximate $3,000,000 in 1931 after controlling it for less than three years. However, he turned a tidy profit on the sale which undoubtedly went a long way towards helping his other mills weather the stormy times of the Great Depression. In 1932 Cason Callaway and his brother Fuller Jr. merged the various corporations that they controlled into a single corporate entity, officially known as Callaway Mills, to improve efficiency. The old Hogansville Manufacturing Company became known as the Callaway Mills’ Hogansville Calumet plant.

The Hogansville Calumet employees soon reaped the benefits of this unified corporate structure, as business picked up and management granted a 10 percent raise to all employees. They also were entitled to a week of paid vacation, profit sharing payments when the company turned a profit, group health insurance which was partially paid for by the company, and a paid vacation day on the birthday of Fuller Callaway Sr. These memorial celebrations in LaGrange for Fuller Sr. were massive events which often passed 10,000 in attendance. Employees were treated to parades, barbecue, athletic competitions and baseball games, and general merriment at a time when even the most basic needs were hard to come by. In the more profitable years, the company arranged special transportation for employees at their mills in Hogansville, Manchester, and Roanoke, Alabama to join in. In leaner years, the company threw parties in each community instead. Although they struck during the General Textile Strike of 1934, it might have been these benefits which led to the Hogansville Calumet mill’s decision to abstain from joining their striking colleagues in LaGrange and Manchester during the 1935 Callaway Mills strike.

Back in the Limelight: Hogansville’s Mills Reunited Under U.S. Rubber

Men posing for a photo with a U.S. Rubber Stark Mills truck. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

In 1939 Cason Callaway stepped down from his post as Chairman of Callaway Mills, his younger brother Fuller Callaway Jr. replaced him. 3 years later in 1942, Fuller Jr. sold the Hogansville Calumet mill to the U.S. Rubber Company in order to facilitate production for World War II. From this point on, the Hogansville mills were both owned by a national corporation. U.S. Rubber renamed the former Calumet mill to Reid Mill, after longtime superintendent D.G. Reid, who had run the mill since the end of 1918. That same year, Hogansville reached its peak in terms of equipment totals: its mills reached a total of 49,092 ring spindles, 28,688 twister spindles, and 124 looms operated by over 1,400 employees.The Reid Mill continued its production of hose and belting ducks, while the Stark Mills produced tire cord and woven asbestos pipe insulation for the Navy. As World War II production ramped up, these materials became so important that the Army actually furloughed hundreds of soldiers so that they could work in private industries, including the Stark Mill, to boost production.

Resting on Their Laurels: The Postwar Years to the Present in Hogansville

Work in textile mills was, and still is a dangerous job. As can be seen here, Stark Mills only managed to make it 103 days without a serious accident. Photo Courtesy of the Troup County Archives.

After their wartime peak, Hogansville’s mills embarked on a golden age which lasted until 1970. During this period, U.S. Rubber invested heavily in the community by donating vast sums to churches, schools, and textile education programs. They also plowed millions into product research and development. They followed up on these investments with a $1,000,000 modernization program of Stark Mills in 1961. However, the 70 year old Reid Mills fell by the wayside. In 1969, the Reid Mills were demolished as the company attempted to cut costs. By the next year, U.S. Rubber sold Stark Mills to the textile division of Uniroyal Incorporated. Stark Mills remained under that company until 1992, when the mill closed. In 1995, Buck Bowen founded Bo-Tex Corporation which manufactured woven fabrics and industrial fabric nettings and employed 45 people. 3 years later the Stark Mills reopened. As of 2020, both Bo-Tex, now known as Bo-Tex Sales Corporation, and the old Stark Mills are still in operation. Bo-Tex is well known for its Bo-Lite and Bo-Tuff brands of pvc-polyester woven mesh fabrics and their Liberty Fabric Fence has also been used at the Masters Golf Tournament as spectator fencing. Industrial Specialty Fabrics, a division of Continental Tires, operates the Stark Mills plant which employed 200 in 2010. While not as large as it once was, Hogansville’s textile industry is still a major force in the community’s economy.

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