Telling Stories, Connecting Communities

Tag: Yarn (Page 1 of 2)

Berryton

Visit a town whose textile mill served as the foundation of a close-knit community.

This quiet town is completely founded around the formation of Raccoon Mill, later Berryton Mill, with the town itself serving as the mill’s mill village. Berryton no longer hosts any textile production as the mill closed down in 2000.


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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.

  • Berryton Mill and Mill Village, 850 Raccoon Creek Road: The mill has been largely demolished, but some remains might be visible. The mill’s village is laid out in the haphazard “mill hill” style that was common in the 1880s and 1890s. Many of the homes along Back Berryton Road, Racoon Creek Road, and Dove Circle are fine examples of historic mill village architecture. Look for homes with hipped roofs or two front doors!

History


Berryton, an unincorporated community in Chattooga County, began its textile journey in 1883 with the opening of Raccoon Mills along the banks of Raccoon Creek.   By the census of 1900, Raccoon Mill had a population of 441. Many area residents worked at Raccoon Cotton Mills operating the 104 looms and 3,400 spindles.

In 1910, John M. Berry purchased Raccoon Manufacturing Company, after the company declared bankruptcy, and changed the name to Berryton Mill. Berry, also owner of Rome Hosiery Mills in Rome, Georgia, used the mill’s 5,000 spindles and 200 workers to produce yarn for Rome Hosiery Mills and other mills in the area. Berry made extensive improvements and alterations to the mill, which operated by steam and waterpower and contained 5,000 ring spindles and 100 knitting machines.

The Raccoon mill village, later Berryton mill village, contained a mill owned company store, where residents could barter for goods, a public school, and three churches. The company owned about a 100 houses within the village and charged about 25 cents per room. Two families shared many of the mill homes and the village connected to other surrounding communities by railroad.

Although impacted by the national textile workers strike in the 1930s, through the decades the mill remained the center of Berryton life. The turning point for the mill occurred in 1951 during the Textile Workers of America strike with the killing of one non-striking female worker. Conditions for the mill continued to worsen when mill owner and President John M. Berry died in 1952. In 1958, a North Carolina company, Harriet & Henderson, purchased the mill from the Berry family and operated it until 2000 when the mill closed.


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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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Cedartown

Cedartown, known best for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company that produced tire materials and rubber parade floats, was also home to several yarn and cotton mills.


Visit


Things To Do

  • Cedartown Depot, 609 South Main Street: The depot houses the town’s Welcome Center and also contains a railroad museum. Constructed in 2004, the Cedartown Depot is a replica of the original Seaboard Airline Railway depot that stood at the same location. The depot is also a Silver Comet trailhead. The Welcome Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and Sunday from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.
  • Polk County Historical Society Research Library, 205 South College Street: The Society is headquartered in a beautiful building on College Street designed by noted Georgia architect Neel Reid. A grant from the state provided extensive renovations and made the building an ideal site for a museum, and in 1980 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first structure in Polk County to receive this honor. 
  • Polk County Historical Society Museum, 117 West Avenue: The museum, formerly headquartered in the original Hawkes Children’s Library, has now moved to the old Southcrest Bank building on West Avenue.
  • Silver Comet Trail, 609 South Main Street: The Silver Comet Trail is built on an abandoned rail line, once owned by Seaboard Airline Railroad. This historic rail line has been transformed into a walking/biking trail running through Cobb, Paulding, and Polk counties. Cedartown is right in the middle of of the trail making it a perfect location to see both sides of the trail
  • Cedartown Cotton and Export Co. Mill No. 3 and Mill Village, 591 West Avenue : Mill No. 3 is the last of Cedartown Cotton & Export Co.’s facilities that are still standing. It has since been converted into a flea market. The mill village, located next to the mill, was built during the 1920s. At this time, Charles Adamson began purchasing mail-order “kit homes” for his mill employees to live in. He continued to build homes in Cedartown’s West End.

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.

  • Gildan Inc. Yarn-Spinning Facility, 270 North Park Boulevard: This manufacturing facility produces the yarns used by Gildan Inc. to make t-shirts.
  • Blue Springs Finishing and Dyeing Company, 701 Wissahickon Avenue: This location is private property and is not open to the public.
  • Cedartown Cotton and Export Company Warehouses, 5991 North 2nd Street: These warehouses were used by the Cedartown Cotton and Export company and stand directly next to where Mill No. 1 used to be.
  • Cedar Valley Golf Club, 1811 Buchanan Highway: Built by Charles Adamson, this facility was used to entertain northern textile investors. The Clubhouse is believed to be the original facility.
  • Goodyear Clearwater Mill/Paragon Mill and Mill Village, Goodyear Circle: These homes are private property and are not open to the public. Located at on West Avenue and Adamson St. near 2nd and 3rd Streets, the Goodyear mill village covered a radius of 25 city blocks and included a school that Goodyear maintained. Though the Goodyear mill is gone, the mill village, with homes built by both Charles Adamson and Goodyear, is still there.
  • Josephine Knitting Mills, 701 Wissahickon Avenue: The Josephine Mill is still standing and is now home to the GEO Chemical Corporation. The brick building with the blue doors, next door to GEO Chemical, is the old Noble Paper Mill and the Kuster Box Plant. Most of the housing constructed for workers at Josephine Mills was located along Cedar and Locust Streets to the west and Prior Street to the south.
  • Standard Cotton Mills and Mill Village, 4015 Cedar Hill Street: Although the mill no longer exists, its mill village still stands. These houses were constructed to house the mill workers of Standard Cotton Mills.
  • United States Finishing Company, 701 Wissahickon Avenue: : This location is private property and is not open to the public.
  • Wayside Inn, 500 West Avenue: The Wayside Inn was built by Charles Adamson in 1920 as a 32-room “mill hotel.” This inn offered rooms for travelers and a fine restaurant. Using a kit ordered from the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan, each piece of the building was individually cut, numbered, and shipped by rail for on-site assembly. The building was demolished in 2021.

History


  • Photo of a woman in the snow in front of the Mill
    Women in the snow. Photo courtesy: Polk County Historical Society

Cedartown was established as part of Polk County in the late 1830s. By the late 1880s, the city saw massive land sales which attracted industrialists like Charles Adamson. Adamson, Cedartown’s first factory owner, purchased land in the city and established a textile mill called the Cedartown Cotton Manufacturing Company in 1894. In 1899, the company expanded by adding Paragon Mills to his company; two years later, he added the Southern Extension Cotton Mill. The Cedartown Cotton and Export Company ran for twenty years producing high-grade hosiery yard. The Cedartown Cotton and Export Company continued to operate its first and third mills into the 1930s.

To house mill employees, Adamson ordered 33 prefabricated mail-order “kit homes” from the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan,
and had them assembled on site. The mill village included a playground, children’s nursery, and a mission school. Throughout the 1920s, Adamson continued to build new homes in Cedartown’s West End. Charles Adamson was instrumental in the early prosperity and development of Cedartown but unfortunately, due to the advent of rayon wiping out his fortune; Adamson died a pauper in 1931.

Cedartown was also home to several yarn mills including Standard Cotton Mills, Wahneta Knitting Mills, the Josephine Mills, and more recently Gildan Incorporated’s yarn-spinning facility, which is still in operation today. Standard Cotton Mills opened in 1900 and specialized in the manufacturing of high-grade hosiery, underwear, and yarns. Adding 6,000 more mule spindles to the original mill in 1901, the mill continued to slowly expand during the next few years. In 1902, the Standard Cotton Mill built a second mill to manufacture lower-grade cotton into coarser yarns. The addition of this second mill doubled the capacity of the Standard Cotton Mills.

Standard Cotton Mills ceased operation in 1931 and in 1935, it became the facility of the Uxbridge Worsted Company later known as the Bachman Uxbridge Company. In August 1960 Indian Head Mills Inc. purchased the mills, modernized, and expanded them. Unfortunately, profits slumped in 1963 due to increasingly cheaper foreign imports and the two Cedartown mills closed in 1964. Crown Textile Manufacturing then purchased the mills from Indian Head in May of that same year.

Crown did not put the mills into production and sold them to Hale Manufacturing Company, who purchased the mills to manufacture yarn for the carpet industry in Dalton, Georgia. Hale Manufacturing sold the plant to Polymer Corporation, one of its biggest customers, in 1988. Standard Cotton Mills is no longer standing but the smokestack remains as a reminder of the once-thriving cotton textile industry.

The Josephine Mills went into operation making cotton underwear in 1901 and also built homes for its employees. Cedartown Knitting Company consolidated both Wahneta Knitting Mills and Josephine Mills in 1907, in an attempt to bring back Wahneta Knitting Mills from its closure in 1905. The purchase of the Kuster Box Factory by the owners of Cedartown Knitting added to the mill complex. The Kuster Factory made paper boxes used to package the underwear made at the mills. With 126 of the most modern knitting machines, the capacity and output of the mills were about 500 dozen per day of knit underwear for women and children.

Updates to equipment at both mills in 1903 increased the output of the Wahneta Mill to 200 dozen children’s union suits per day. The Josephine Mills output was increased to 750 dozen women’s underwear. A consolidation of the parent company led to the closing of the Cedartown Knitting Company. Used as a Sunday school, day and night school, and a mission home, the Wahneta Mill building continued the benefit the community into 1907.  

In 1916, F. D. Noble, the new owner of the Kuster Box Factory, also purchased the Josephine and Wahneta mills. In the early 1920s, Noble moved his manufacturing operations to Rome, Georgia. In 1923, the United States Dyeing and Finishing Company acquired the Josephine and Wahneta mills and the Blue Spring mill village. The Josephine mill building received an addition while demolition began on the Wahneta mill building. The former Kuster Manufacturing Company paper mill served as the cotton warehouse.

In 1902, the Cherokee Mills opened in Cedartown. Equipped with the best machinery, Cherokee Mills manufactured fine-grade men’s heavy knit underwear. The mill’s president was William Parker who was also general manager of Standard Cotton Mills. Heated by steam and lit by electricity Cherokee Mills was a modern mill for its time.  Sold to Standard Mills in 1922, Cook Duck Mill became the new name of the Cherokee Mills. Utilizing twelve acres of land, the Standard Mills complex was an important industrial enterprise in northern Georgia.

In 1964, Arrow Company, a division of Cluett, Peabody & Co. Inc., opened a mill in Cedartown to make men’s and boy’s shirts. The Cedartown plant was originally designed to produce 4,000-4,200 dozen 100% cotton shirts per week but eventually produced 5,500 dozen shirts per week. The plant was in operation until it closed in 1995 due to slow sales with the rise of the casual dress in the workplace and increased competition from lower-cost overseas textile imports.

By the early twentieth century, cotton mills began manufacturing tire cord and other textile products for the new automobile industry. These operations proved costly, leading owners to sell the mills to national companies. In 1925, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company purchased the former the Paragon mills, its first mill in Georgia, to produce cotton cord and cloth for tires.

The Goodyear Clearwater Mill #1 added two additional buildings to the original mill building and 100 additional homes to the mill village. 288 homes were located in the mill village, providing housing for more than fifty percent of the plant employees.

Production at Goodyear Clearwater Mill #1 continued during World War II and African Americans in particular benefited briefly from wartime labor shortages. Working longer hours and sometimes receiving pay increases, some companies hired African American workers to fill production lines, positions not previously available to them. These jobs disappeared after the war and did not return until after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Goodyear mill closed in 1983, due to several causes including a decline in demand for tire fabric, increased production of smaller tires, and increased use of steel-belted radial tires. Destroyed by fire three years after closing, the mill complex is no longer standing. The mill village remains with both the original mill homes built by Adamson as well as those built later by Goodyear.

With a history steeped in cotton textile manufacturing, Cedartown still boasts a modern manifestation of the industry. In July 1998, Harriet & Henderson Yarns Inc. broke ground on a new yarn spinning facility in Cedartown. In 24-hour operations by October of 1998, the plant supplied the yarn to sock knitters in the Ft. Payne, Alabama area. In 2003, Frontier Spinning Mills and Gildan Inc., in a joint venture, purchased the two yarn-spinning facilities in Cedartown from Harriet & Henderson Yarns Inc., after the company declared bankruptcy. The facilities began operations as Cedartown Manufacturing LLC., spinning cotton yarn for t-Shirts and tank tops. Modernized and refurbished in October of 2012, when Gildan Inc. purchased 100% of the plant, the plant is still in operation in Cedartown.


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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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Tallapoosa

Come see an old mining town that struck gold in the textile industry due to its easy access to the nearby river and railroad.

An early gold mining town in Haralson County, Tallapoosa’s easy access to the Tallapoosa River and Georgia Pacific Railway made it an ideal place for cotton manufacturing. Due to the low cost of shipping and building in the city and the presence of a ready workforce Tallapoosa became the site of a series of industrial enterprises. The first successful cotton manufacturing company, Tallapossa Mills, brought new commerce and jobs to the city.

The Jackson brothers, owners of Tallapoosa Mills, sold their majority stock holdings in the company to the William Whitman Company, after World War I, but the organization remained mostly unchanged. At the beginning of the Great Depression, C. E. Pearce continued to serve as manager of the cotton mill, and A. V. Howe, one of the original organizers and officers, served as president. After operating part-time during the Depression, the mill closed in 1939 due to economic decline.

The northeastern-based American Thread Company (ATCO) purchased Tallapoosa Mills in 1943 to make combed cotton yarn and reopening the mill on January 28, 1944. World War II ended in 1945 and ATCO expanded the Tallapoosa plant in February 1947. The three-story extension of 110,000 square feet was built next to the original building, adding 25,000 spindles.Manufacturing volume increased by 140 percent as did the number of employees, rising from 315 to 680. In 1959, ATCO expanded operations once again.

To help promote ATCO brand yarn in the 1940s and 50s, the ATCO franchise published a series of knitting and crocheting pattern books, called “Star Books.” ATCO’s Tallapoosa mill closed in the early 1980s, the last textile manufacturer to close in the city. Venus Threads purchased the mill and reopened it in the early 1990s, and continue to operate it today.


Visit


Things to Do

  • West Georgia Museum, 185 Mann Street: This museum has exhibits on the Tallapoosa area’s history, as well as its natural history.

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.

  • Mandeville Mills Cotton Gin, 76 East Alabama Street: The Mandeville Mills of Carrollton had a number of side businesses including a cottonseed oil mill and a fertilizer factory. To supply the cotton for their textile operation and the seeds for their oil mill, they set up a network of gins in the surrounding countryside, even up into Haralson County. Their Tallapoosa gin still stands, it was repurposed into an antique mall and local business which have since closed.
  • Tallapoosa Cotton Mills/Atco Mill, 191 West Atlanta Street: This 100-year-old facility is still standing and remains in operation as Venus Threads. This building is an excellent example of both the early- and mid-20th century industrial architecture. The southern facing wall (opposite the water tower and smokestack) is the original facade. It features rows of windows that have been bricked over. The northern facing wall is the expansion added by ATCO and features a more sleek design with no windows, reflecting the fact that the building was air-conditioned. ATCO operated the facility until the late 1980s. It was purchased by Venus Threads, who still run it today. 
  • Tallapoosa Knitting Mill/Kimball Knitting Co., 2276 US-78: This location has since been demolished and unrelated buildings constructed in its place, but you can still see the surrounding area. This small-scale operation was only active in the 1890s and early 1900s.

History


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

Survival of the Fittest: Tallapoosa’s Early Attempts at Joining the Textile Industry

Founded as an early gold mining town in Haralson County, Tallapoosa’s easy access to the Tallapoosa River and Georgia Pacific Railway made it an ideal place for cotton manufacturing. Due to the low cost of both shipping and construction in the city, as well as the presence of a ready workforce, Tallapoosa became home to several textile manufacturing operations which brought new commerce and careers to the city.

Alliance Knitting Company, Tallapoosa’s first textile mill, opened in the 1890. Initially the mill employed a small shift of 13. However, they quickly expanded to employ 24 people, mostly women and children. The mill hired them to spin, knit, and weave materials such as cotton, wool, and silk fibers. However, textile companies that started with such a diverse product line often had a hard time making a name for themselves as they never focused enough on one product to catch the attention of selling agencies. In the end, Alliance Knitting Company went under after less than a year of production.

Students at the Tallapoosa School circa 1906. Photo Courtesy of the University of West Georgia’s Center for Public History.

Alliance Knitting Company was not alone amongst the Tallapoosa textile startups in the 1890s; Anchor Woolen Mills, Enterprise Cotton Company, and Southern Hosiery Company all rose and fell in the same decade. Tallapoosa’s young companies, such as Alliance Knitting, were always going to have a hard time without streamlining their production. However they also had the misfortune of starting a business in and around the Panic of 1893, which brought established mills along the Trail, even the mighty Eagle and Phenix of Columbus, to their knees. Tallapoosa’s infant textile industry had no chance.

Indeed, Tallapoosa’s shaky start in the textile industry continued with several mills either closing within a few years of being opened or never making it past the planning phase. W.C. Kimball and Co., opened in 1902, produced women’s and children’s ribbed hose with 8 knitting machines and 16 steam-powered cylinders. By 1904, this mill had closed and sold off its machinery. In 1902, local businessmen proposed the Tallapoosa Cotton Mill Company, but they abandoned it by the next year.

A New Era: The Establishment of Tallapoosa Mills

An early postcard depicting Tallapoosa Mills. Photo Courtesy of Jarrett Craft.

Tallapoosa’s first prosperous mill was Tallapoosa Mills, Inc. A group of local businessmen, headed by A.L. Jackson, led the drive for the capital needed to start up the mill. They were successful, and they completed construction on the $200,000 mill building in January of 1908 during the second “Tallapoosa Boom”. By April of that same year, the contracting firm of A.H. Washburn of Charlotte, North Carolina completed the installation of the mill’s 10,000 spindles.

The mill complex consisted of the mill itself, two warehouses, an engine house, an electric plant, and a water plant with a 250,000-gallon reservoir. Thirty double-houses were built for operatives, with this number increasing dramatically during the first two decades of the mill’s operations. A major product of this mill was 20s 2-ply skeins, which means that each skein (the technical name for a ball of yarn) was made with 16,800 yards per pound. Later on, they produced 16s and 12s 2-ply skeins alongside their 20s. Even after changing ownership in 1923, this mill continued to manufacture similar products. The cotton used to create these skeins was locally grown and purchased from areas such as Carrollton, Tallapoosa, and Cedartown.

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

The Tallapoosa Mills did not employ a selling agent to act as a middleman in bringing their goods to market. Instead, they sold their products directly from their office, indicating that the majority of their early sales might have been from a relatively local market. However, by 1914 after operating for several years, Tallapoosa Mills had made enough of a name for itself to where their goods were demanded on a national market. It was in this that the Tallapoosa Mills faced a major complication: how could they efficiently ship their product to far away customers in New York, San Francisco, or Europe?

The challenges that the young company faced is illustrated by the sinking of the steamship Monroe, as reported by the New York Times. Struck by another ship, the Monroe went down within 12 minutes with hundreds of people, and ten bales of Tallapoosa Mills’ goods, on board. Although it might have been safer to ship the goods overland, it would have cost so much in shipping that the company could not make a profit. The shipping company employed by the mill, who chose to ship the product on the Monroe independently without consulting the mill, refused to cover the cost of the lost goods. A court case against the shipping company by the mill was not resolved until May of 1921, when the steamship company paid $671 ($9,805.67 in 2021) to cover the loss of goods.

Photo of a Tallapoosa Mill Paycheck

Tallapoosa Mill Paycheck. Photo courtesy: Tallapoosa Museum.

Although they made enough money in the 1910s to expand their mill’s machinery capacity twice, the Jackson family, who had also come to control the Hutcheson Manufacturing Company in Banning, opted to sell the majority of their stock holdings to the William Whitman Company of Boston, Massachusetts for $500,000 ($7.6 million in 2020) in 1923. This new ownership group promised to employ 325 operatives the year round; however, there was no real change to on-site management for quite some time after this purchase. The Times-Recorder of Americus, Georgia notes this sale as another move of northern mill interests to the south, which can be seen in many communities throughout the Textile Heritage Trail. Tallapoosa Mills slowly but surely increased the capacity of their mill, hosting 60 cards, 16,896 spindles, and three boilers by 1935. In November of 1938, the mill was reported to be running two full-time shifts. It was no secret that the mills awarded their employees with significant paychecks, money that in turn fueled the economy within Tallapoosa.

Plucked out of the Fire: American Thread Company Bails out Tallapoosa

Despite this growth, the mills closed in 1939 due to the Great Depression’s strong effects on all aspects of American industry. In the beginning years of the Great Depression, the mill continued to operate one to two days a week, just enough for its workers to be able to afford groceries. During this time, they also waived rent fees for anyone living in the mill village. This closure led to a drop in Tallapoosa’s population, with residents who remained in town having to seek work out elsewhere.

Throngs of partygoers at the American Thread Company barbecue in front of the Tallapoosa Mill. 3,000 people attended the barbeque thrown in January of 1944 to celebrate American Thread Company reopening the town’s largest employer. Photo Courtesy of the Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976 housed at the Photographic Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.

The American Thread Company purchased the mill in 1943 under the influence of an Atlanta promoter. They began producing fine cotton yarns and threads in January of 1944, operating 16,000 yarn spindles and 7,500 thread spindles. In May of 1944, the company hosted a celebration that included barbeque and a flag raising to officially open the mill. Three to four thousand people attended this celebration, including dignitaries and out-of-town visitors. Newspapers noted this event as the start of a “new era for Tallapoosa”.

Soon after opening, this company was able to give its workers a raise of eight cents per hour, bringing their hourly wages up to 73 cents per hour; today, this would be an increase of $1.07, bringing wages up to $9.74. By 1947, The American Thread Company was noted as being the largest thread manufacturing operation in the United States with plants scattered across the nation; this helps to explain how the company was able to increase their wages so soon after opening.
With the growth and wealth they were able to accumulate from this Tallapoosa mill, the American Thread Company saw fit to double down on their investment by expanding upon the mill itself as well as constructing a new sales and service branch in 1947. The new 3-story, 110,000 square foot mill building would come to benefit the company by housing 25,000 additional spindles and employing 680 operatives, an increase of 140%. The sales and service branch would carry a complete stock of the company’s sewing threads, crochet cotton, knitting wools, stamped goods, and Star Brand instruction books.

Company Men: Rejecting the Unions

Despite this company’s success in this Haralson County town, there were a significant number of disturbances that occurred relating to this mill, specifically against those who were interested in unionizing. A group of mill employees approached a known United Textiles Workers-AFL organizer, and threatened to harm him if he did not leave and not stop until he reached Alabama. Opposition to unionizing came mostly from those who benefited from an informal system put into place by managers and higher-ups, who often went outside of understood labor-management relations. A major case involving the American Thread Company and unionizers occurred when an organizer for the Textile Workers Union of America, C.I.O., claimed to be abducted by American Thread Company employees and dumped outside of Tallapoosa in 1948. Two employees were laid off for one and three days, respectively, but no other punishments seem to have occurred for this crime.

An arial view of the American Thread Company’s Tallapoosa plant after rounds of expansions in the 1940s and 1950s. Photo Courtesy of the Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976 housed at the Photographic Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.

Employees from the American Thread Company’s mill in Tallapoosa even threatened workers from the same company’s mill in Dalton, Georgia. Textile Workers Union (C.I.O) members from the Dalton mill were met in August of 1949 outside of the gates of the Tallapoosa mill with clubs and pistols. Those who were opposed went to the Attorney General to investigate this “mob action.” Two mill workers were faced with a restraining order after facing charges for assault with a deadly weapon. This altercation resulted in a suit for $300,000 to be filed for damages.

In 1951, a subcommittee of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee found that efforts towards self-organizing and collective bargaining on the part of employees were losing ground against their employers, specifically in southern textile mills such as the American Thread Company’s Tallapoosa plant. Employers being able to avoid this collective bargaining from their employees allowed for them to have a substantial advantage over their northern counterparts.

The Long Road Down: The Steady Decline of Tallapoosa’s Textile Industry

The Tallapoosa mill in 2020 under Venus Thread Company. Photo Courtesy of Jarrett Craft.

As with the Tallapoosa Mills in the early 1900s, the American Thread Company also relied on national and international business. In October of 1950, President Truman allowed for the importation of an additional 7,500,000 pounds of long-staple, Egyptian-type cotton beginning in the following January. Allowing this increased importation saved many southern thread mills from reduced production or even closure, including the American Thread Company in Georgia. Of course it cost money to import additional cotton, and over time the American Thread Company began to feel the strain as costs mounted.

The American Thread Company operated their Tallapoosa mill through 1985, but closed it in the face of international competition. Established in 1992, Venus Thread, Inc. began operating in the old Tallapoosa Mill and American Thread Company building, and is the only textile mill in Tallapoosa that is still in operation. This location currently hosts dyeing and finishing while employing around 20 workers. The company previously operated a twisting department at their Tallapoosa location, but it has since closed down due to a declining industry. Operations occur in a newer metal building, while the historic mill building is used only as a warehouse. The company is committed to maintaining their operation in Tallapoosa despite the continued decline of American industry.


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Newnan

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

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


Visit


Things to Do

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

Places to See

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

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

History


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Resources to Explore

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Grantville

This small town has a textile industry known for its appearance in the famous zombie franchise “The Walking Dead”.

The textile industry was brought into Grantville with the introduction of the railroad, as was the case with many other communities. Grantville Hosiery Mill and Grantville Cotton Mill called this community home and both closed down in 1980. Keep an eye out in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for the remains of the cotton mill and a ruined cotton warehouse downtown!


Visit


Places to See

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

  • Arnold & Baxter Cotton Warehouse, 17 Church Street: The brick remains of this building were used to film AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and still bear Morgan’s message, “Away With You”. It currently serves as a courtyard for the adjoined local restaurant.
  • Grantville Freight Depot, 30 Main Street: This train depot was originally built in 1852 to handle both freight and passengers along the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. In the early 1900s, a second depot was built across the street to accommodate passengers only.
  • Grantville Hosiery Mill and Mill Village, 78 Moreland Street: This building has been partially demolished. The surviving portion is home to an architectural salvage store. The Grantville Hosiery Mill Village is located along Banks, Shephard, and Rock Streets. These villages consist of mostly one-story, wood-framed houses.
  • Grantville Passenger Train Depot, 30 Main Street: This passenger train depot was built along the Atlanta and West Point Railroad.
  • Grantville Yarn Mill and Mill Village, 41 Industrial Way: This site was used in the filming of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. As of 2020, the 100-year-old property is vacant and has been for sale for several years. The mill village for the Grantville Mill is located along Grady, Smith, Maple, and Arnold Streets.

History


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

Homegrown Business: The Early Years for Grantville Hosiery Mills

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

The town of Grantville began as a small settlement known as Calico Corner in 1840. In 1852, the first train came to the settlement courtesy of the Atlanta and LaGrange Railroad, and it sparked economic development in the community The town was renamed Grantville in honor of the chief engineer of the railroad, Lemuel P. Grant. With the success of the regional cotton industry and the railroad by the early part of the twentieth century, Grantville flourished, offering opportunities for industrialists to invest in the growing textile industry.

On August 21, 1896, The Herald and Advertiser of Newnan, Georgia published a small article on Grantville’s industries. They noted that “The progress made on this [building] indicates that in a month or so we can hear the buzz of the spindles as they weave the cotton thread into serviceable fabrics.” This excitement was about the Grantville Hosiery Mills, which began operating in late 1896 or early 1897 under the leadership of Nathaniel O. Banks. The stockholders envisioned a fully-integrated hosiery knitting operation, one which would eventually spin its own thread or yarn and turn that material into a finished product. However, initially they did not have the resources or machinery to spin their own yarn, and they relied on costly imports. Therefore Banks and his stockholders built the mill along the railroad track, at the bend of modern-day Moreland Street, to lower production and logistical costs in obtaining their thread and shipping their final product. Their plans progressed quickly; in February 1897 The Herald and Advertiser announced that the company had goods ready for sale. By 1899, the Grantville Hosiery Mills operated with 38 steam-powered knitting machines.

Although the Grantville Hosiery Mills started small, its stockholders had big plans for their fledgling enterprise. In 1899, the directors announced that they would double its capacity; when the expansion was completed the following year, the Grantville correspondent for The Herald and Advertiser proudly announced that the company produced 450 dozen pairs of hosiery per day with 75 knitting machines. The Grantville Hosiery Mills’ client base was steadily growing with regular customers in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston as well as orders from as far away as Australia. With that in mind, the stockholders authorized a second round of expansion. On April 17, 1903, Nathaniel O. Banks, president of the Grantville Hosiery Mills, agreed to a contract with the R. D. Cole Manufacturing Company to build a two-story brick 48×56 foot addition to the mill, as well as a 30,000-gallon water tower.  The Herald and Advertiser expected that the machinery in the proposed addition would bring the total number of employees up to 125.

Having made a name for themselves and established a strong client base, the mill’s leadership finally addressed one of its most significant production costs: purchasing yarn and thread. The stockholders elected to build a yarn mill to supply their hosiery production. They chose a site, at modern-day Industrial Way, along the railroad on the opposite side of the town square from the original hosiery mill. They built houses for their employees and set up shop in 1905 with a capacity of 3,000 ring spindles producing knitting yarn; finally realizing their goal of creating a fully-integrated company. That same year they adjusted their charter to allow for greater investment, up to $300,000 in capital stock; although only $52,400 had actually been paid in at that point. By 1909, they expanded the yarn mill to 5,000 ring spindles with bleaching and dyeing facilities.

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

Grantville Hosiery Mills experienced a leadership crisis in 1908 and 1909 which put all that growth in jeopardy. First, Thomas Arnold died and had his estate advertised for liquidation in The Herald and Advertiser after his death. He was an original incorporator of the mills and a major stockholder who owned seven $100 shares of Grantville Hosiery Mills’ capital stock as well as a $1000 gold bond from the mills. Just one year later in 1909, the mill’s president and “one of Coweta’s best and most useful citizens”, Nathaniel O. Banks died at 56 years old. This loss not only shook the leadership of Grantville Hosiery Mills to its core, but also had a significant impact on the greater Grantville community.

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

 

However, his son, William N. Banks assumed Nathaniel’s role as president of the company shortly after his death. Those who expected the young company to flounder under its relatively inexperienced new president would have been pleasantly surprised by William Banks’ performance. He quietly stabilized the company and oversaw a period of unprecedented expansion which would become Grantville’s golden age of textile production, albeit with a couple of hiccups along the way.

In June of 1910, the Grantville Hosiery Mills joined a multitude of other Georgia mills charged with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. Those indicted frequently purchased all of the locally produced cotton and sent the surplus to New York. This kept the price of cotton in the South low and prevented it from fluctuating; all at the expense of the farmers. This example shows how serious of a business the textile industry was in the South during the early twentieth century. Not long after this scandal, the mill’s employees avoided a major tragedy on February 27, 1912. That day, a hosiery press exploded within the mill, injuring no one except the press operator who was “severely scalded”. The February issue of The Atlanta Constitution describes the explosion as having “pieces of iron flying to the ceiling.” After overcoming those two mishaps, William Banks pushed for yet another round of expansion, traveling as far away as New York to purchase the best equipment for the yarn mill. The expansion added 5,000 ring spindles, effectively doubling the yarn mill’s capacity.

The Golden Years: Grantville Mills under William N. Banks

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

By 1920, Grantville Hosiery Mills boasted 10,000 ring spindles, 150 latch needle knitting machines, 30 ribbing machines, and 12 looping machines, with the number of employees rounding off at around 300. Just seven years later, these numbers rose significantly to 15,000 ring spindles and 200 latch needle knitting machines, as well as the addition of 3,400 twister spindles employing 300 people. W.N. Banks was directly responsible for this period of growth and was duly recognized for his success within the textile industry when he was elected president of the Cotton Manufacturers’ Association in 1936. By this point, he was a textile executive with 25 years of experience and had even gone so far as to rebrand his company as Grantville Mills.

The honors did not stop there for Grantville’s most prominent citizen. By the end of his career, he served on the boards of The Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, Bibb Manufacturing Company, West Point Manufacturing Company, and AMCO Mills. He also served as president of the Montgomery Knitting Mills of Moreland, the McIntosh Mills of Newnan, and the Habersham Mills of Habersham. To firmly cement his family’s legacy amongst the people of Grantville, Banks founded the Grantville Mills Foundation to benefit the people of his hometown. In 1950 the Grantville Mills Foundation built a new recreation center for Grantville’s African American community. The foundation also contributed to scholarship funds for textile education.

William N. Banks passed on the day-to-day leadership of Grantville Mills to his brother in 1956, promoting himself to chairman in a sort of quasi-retirement. In his nearly four decades as president, he doubled the capacity of the hosiery mill and tripled that of the yarn mill. He took a small firm with 210 employees and tripled it to 600 by 1957.

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

In 1961, William Banks decided to hang up his hat and retire for good. He passed away four years later in 1965. In the meantime, the Grantville Mills began experiencing a change in ownership for the first time in its history with the mill being sold to Flaggs-Utica Corporation. Flaggs-Utica shut down the hosiery mill shortly afterward, opting to invest in modernizing the yarn mill alone. The mill operated under this company for nine years when ownership was transferred to Kingtex Fabrics Company, Division of Gensco; but this company did not own the mill for very long. By 1976, West Point-Pepperell purchased the mill. They owned it for the next four years until its closure due to competition from foreign imports in 1980. Former employees of the mill were forced to file for benefits under the Federal Trade Readjustment Assistance Act. That undoubtedly helped in the short term, but it did little to replace the permanent loss of Grantville’s largest employer.

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

Today, Grantville’s textile past has been put on national display. The yarn mill and the ruins of the Arnold & Baxter cotton warehouse were used in the filming of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. The show featured the warehouse with particular prominence, famously painting the warning “Away With You” on the ruined structure and drawing visitors to Grantville from around the world. Now, this old building is once again a meeting ground for this small southern town in Coweta County.


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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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