I remember the day I got him. I had wanted a Raggedy Andy doll, like my rich cousin had. And when I saw him sitting under the tree, I was thrilled. An almost-Raggedy Andy. I named him Mingo, after Daniel Boone’s Indian sidekick on TV. And although he wasn’t like the doll I had coveted, he was mine and I loved him.
Yesterday, when I found him in his squalid state, I felt a little ashamed that I’d deserted him all those years ago. I took him out of the junk pile and put him in the laundry to wash. There were a couple of torn places that I mended. I brushed the knots out of his bright orange hair. When I inspected him, I noticed that he had a stamp on his back, “Made in USA.” It was strange to consider that once upon a time Mingo had been made, in a factory. Someone had cut out the muslin to construct him. Someone had stuffed him with cotton. Someone had stamped the smile on his face and glued on his bright orange hair. I wondered if Mingo had been made in this area.
For many years, West Georgia was the home of a thriving textile business. I suppose it sprang up because it was such a good place to grow cotton. One of our early industrialists was Joseph Amis Aycock who built our nation’s first modern cotton ginnery plant and organized Carrollton Oil Mills. Mandeville Cotton Mills (that burned a few years ago) was built and in 1890 employed 150 people. With these mills came “public work.” Folks had alternatives to farm work and were making hourly wages.
Before my people moved here in the ’50s, they worked in the mills in Dalton. It was hard work – long hours and poor conditions. But they were proud to have a job and bring home money to their families.
Over the years, the textile industry has been an important part of the West Georgia economy. Even as late as the 1970s, when I was a kid, there were lots of parents who worked in the mills. But as factories started to be built overseas, our factories here began to close, also forcing people to search for jobs in other places.
This Saturday we’ve got two big textile-related celebrations going on. The Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum and the Textile Heritage Trail are both having grand openings, at quilt museum, located at 306 Bradley St.
The Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum is a celebration of the art of quilting, the textile industry and the heritage that it represents in our area. The museum highlights the history of growing and manufacturing of cotton that was such a huge part of our economy here, for many, many years.
The Textile Heritage Trail, which runs from Dalton to Columbus, comes right through the middle of our town, guiding people to five different areas that were significant to the textile industry. Posted signs tell the story of our once-thriving textile mills and you can see sites like the old Mandeville Mill on Lovvorn Road and Carroll Mills on Bradley Street.
The opening ceremony for the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 15. There, we’ll get to see some amazing handwork by women and men in our community — quilts that not only reflect the history of Carroll County, but also celebrate the artistic talent possessed by members of the Carrollton-based West Georgia Quilters Guild.
As I read about the textile industry pioneers that brought this jobs and money to this area, as I look at pictures of the mill workers who lived hard lives and worked long hours to put bread on their families tables, I am proud to be a part of this history and I’ll be there on Saturday to help celebrate. But I won’t bring Mingo, my re-found ragdoll. Because in all my reading about West Georgia textiles, I’ve not had a chance to make him a new suit of clothes, so he will have to stay at home.
Gentry, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.