The Mill Workers of Roswell
The little known story of the North Georgia mill workers is just one more heartbreaking example of the devastation wreaked on the families of Cobb County.
On July 6, 1864, Brigadier General Kenner Garrard, commander of the 2nd Division Cavalry Corps, Army of the Cumberland, sent a detailed report to Major General William T. Sherman, along with a map of the small mill town of Roswell, Georgia. Drawing the map on his arrival the day before, Garrard made a brief notation along the right hand side of the sketch. “Roswell is a very pretty factory town of about four thousand inhabitants. Mills & private property not injured by me.”
But before handing the map to the courier, Garrard took a pencil and crossed out the word “mills.” For Garrard did indeed put the factories to the torch, and as the mill workers, mainly women and children, stood on the bank of Vickery Creek and watched the mills go up in flames, not one could have foreseen the tragic fate that lay before them.
The Roswell Mills were rebuilt after the Civil War, and operated in one form or another until 1975. Fires and time have taken their toll, but ruins of the original mill site, including walls built by slave stonemasons, can be seen from several vantage points in Vickery Creek Park. The park is off Sloan Street, near Roswell Square. A staircase walkway with several landings leads you down to the site.
Across from the park entrance is Founders Cemetery, where a time-weathered obelisk marks the grave of Roswell King (1765-1844).
Also on Sloan Street are “The Old Bricks” antebellum apartments — among the first apartments built in America, circa 1840 — used by mill workers. The apartments served as a Union hospital in 1864.
Nearby is a monument recently dedicated to the Roswell mill women. Its base is topped by a shattered column, “symbolic of lives torn apart under tragic circumstances.”