The mill at Roswell was a major objective of General William Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. It was destroyed at that time and at least some of the mill workers were sent north. Rebuilt, the mill continued to operate under a variety of owners until the 1970's
Roswell Mill today is perhaps most closely associated with a group of upscale shops on Highway 9 north of the Chattahoochee River. Behind this set of shops, however, is the remnants of the cotton mill around which the town of Roswell was built. Roswell King, overseer of the brutal Butler Plantation on Butler Island near Darien, came north shortly after the start of Georgia's gold rush. He purchased the site of the mill along Vickery Creek from Cherokee Indians.
Construction on the mill began in 1836 and the first cloth was produced before the Indians were forced west on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The mill was incorporated in 1839, and at about this time "The Bricks" were built to house some of the mill employees.
Despite the economic downturn after the Panic of 1837, the mill continued to operate. Barrington King, Roswell's son, expanded the operation with other water-powered businesses including a grist mill, carding shop (where wool was processed), and a saw mill.
When the war began Roswell Mill produced the famous "Roswell Gray" that is so closely associated with the Rebel troops. During the Atlanta Campaign, Roswell Mill was a major target for William Tecumseh Sherman's forces. He ordered Brigadier General Kennar Garrard to advance and take the mill and attempt to secure the bridge across the Chattahoochee River south of the mill.
Garrard met little resistance and secured the mill on July 5, 1864. He was not as lucky with the bridge, which Rebel forces burned. The owners transferred ownership to Theodore Roche, a French national who was a manager at the mill. Roche raised the French flag and attempted to save the mill for his employers. Garrard reported the development to Sherman, who ordered the mill destroyed and the mill workers shipped to the railhead in Marietta.
On Sunday, July 10, the workers (who were women and female children) may have been sexually assaulted by Union infantry soldiers prior to the arrival of Garrard's cavalry to take them to Marietta.
What happened to the women once they reached Marietta is known. Some were taken north to Louisville, Kentucky, where they were released north of the Ohio River. Some remained in Marietta, according to contemporary accounts of the incident. Northern papers reacted strongly to the transportation and imprisonment of the women, and to releasing the women in the north.
After the war portions of the original mill were rebuilt. In 1872 a new mill wheel was added, but it was difficult to rely on water power. In 1897 the mill wheel was replaced with a wood-fired steam generator, and in 1947 the mill was purchased by Southern Mills, who updated the buildings and began to purchase electricity from Georgia Power. The mill produced its final bolt of cotton cloth in 1975. It was a victim of foreign competition.
Today the remaining building are part of a great hiking trail maintained by the Roswell Historic Society. This easy hike is a great adventure for any family and we highly recommend it. For more information see GeorgiaTrails.com's Vickery Creek Trail
Other Attractions in Roswell
Swallow at the Hollow
Lee and Gordon's Mill