Tag Archives: Georgia Textile Industry

Water Tower, 1914, Milstead

This water tower supplied the mill village of Milstead. It reaches a height of 100 feet and is 14 feet in diameter. It was built by contractor J. B. McQuary for $3000 and was used until 1965.

Shotgun Row, Barnesville

Neighborhoods of nearly identical shotgun houses were once common sights in Georgia towns and cities where a textile or cotton mill was present. The utilitarian housing was provided as a benefit of employment. Most have vanished in the past thirty years.

Lindale Mill, 1896, Floyd County

Massachusetts Cotton Mill of Lowell, Massachusetts, opened this mill in 1896, and with 42,000 spindles and 1400 looms, it soon became one of the largest mills in the state. 75 multi-family houses were built to house workers and a free elementary school was also provided. The mill doubled in size in 1903 and continued to add employees. In 1926, it was purchased by the Peperrell Manufacturing Company.

During the Depression, employees built a huge lighted wooden star and strung it between the smokestacks at Christmastime. It has remained a tradition ever since. The mill played an integral role in clothing the military during World War II and remained an integral part of the local economy and community until it closed in 2001.

Today, the property features a wedding venue and has been used by the movie industry as a set location.

Mill Smokestack, 1898, Aragon

Aragon Mill was established in 1898 by Wolcott & Campbell of New York and the community bearing its name was linked inextricably to the fortunes of the business. It was purchased by Augustus Julliard in 1900 and saw numerous improvements and significant expansion during his ownership. It became a United Merchants Mill in the 1930s and shut down in 1970. Several efforts to revive the mill were made over the next three decades but most of the complex was lost to fire on 6 August 2002. The smokestack, bearing the name Aragon, is the most significant remaining relic of the mill.

The American labor and social activist Si Kahn penned a song about the loss of mill village culture entitled “Aragon Mill” in the early 1970s.

 

Goodyear Elementary School, 1930, Rockmart

This elementary school, built by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company soon after they opened a factory in Rockmart, is typical of other schools of the era. It is no longer in use. The Rockmart plant of Goodyear Tire & Rubber was responsible, for many years, for the production of the giant balloons used each year in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Willcoxon House, Circa 1860, Sargent

Colonel John B. Willcoxon built this house around the time he opened a grist mill near Wahoo Creek in the Lodi community. The grist mill opened in 1861 and remained in operation for five years. In 1866, with partners H. J. and George Sargent of Massachusetts, Colonel Willcoxon established the Willcoxon Manufacturing Company to produce cotton rope. The large four-story factory attracted many rural families to the area and primarily employed women and children. This was long before child labor laws prohibited such employment.

In 1888, H. C. Arnall, Sr., and T. G. Farmer purchased the enterprise and renamed it the Wahoo Manufacturing Company. The name of the town was officially changed to Sargent in 1892.

Sargent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Dixie Mills Saltbox House, 1890s, LaGrange

This saltbox house is one of several surviving employee housing units of the Dixie Mill textile village in LaGrange. The form was used throughout the neighborhood, and is quite rare in Georgia. Dixie Mill, established in the late 1890s, was the first of many modern textile operations that would dominate LaGrange’s economy throughout most of the 20th century.

 

 

Deconstruction of Crystal Springs Bleachery, Chickamauga

The Bowen-Jewell Bag Company first opened a bleachery across from the Central of Georgia Depot in 1909. A cotton mill was added in 1914 and the business was incorporated as the Crystal Springs Bleachery Company. A larger more modern bleachery was constructed in 1923, making the facility one of the largest employers in the region. The main product of the bleachery was printed cotton fabric, primarily in the form of bags. Dan River Mills purchased the business in 1969 and by 1976 had a peak employment of 1200. Downsizing began in 1977 and by 1982, Dan River announced plans to close the facility. In February 1983, former Chickamauga mayor Frank Pierce, Steve Tarvin and Stanley Cunningham purchased the business and saved about 200 jobs. Downsizing continued over the following decades and the business, by now known as the Crystal Springs Print Works, was shuttered in 2013. Even with a reputation as one of the best printers in the business, Crystal Springs is emblematic of the loss of U. S. textile business to China; whether that’s the fault of bureaucratic regulation or cheaper labor remains a topic of debate. Having grown up in a town with hundreds of textile jobs myself, the reason isn’t as important as the loss of a way of life. Chickamauga was unusual in that local investors did their best to keep it afloat, and that deserves some recognition.

The property was sold to a recovery company, which is slowly removing the valuable heart pine floors and other framework, handmade bricks, and salvageable historic fixtures and metal. A residential community is planned for the site in the future.