The first marker is already in place on Adamson Square in downtown Carrollton. Four more markers are due to go up this week: one on Bradley Street near Carroll and Lawler hosiery mill sites; at the train depot, where raw materials and fabrics were shipped; at the Fabric Peddler shop on Maple Street, where the Mandeville family lived; and at Mandeville Lofts, former site of Mandeville Mills, one of the largest textile employers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“These markers do a wonderful job of telling the story of our textile past and how important that industry was, from cotton growing to manufacturing fabric to clothing production,” said Jonathan Dorsey, executive director of the Carrollton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re very proud that this project is coming to fruition, because of the visitors who will spend time here to see the trail, and the goal of preserving our area history.”
The markers are being installed with the help of a $5,000 product development grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division, and matching local funds. Local textile trail promotion is through a partnership of the city of Carrollton, the CVB and the University of West Georgia Center for Public History.
“One of the great things about being at the beginning of this project is that we’re setting the template for other communities that will join the trail,” Dorsey said. “The markers have the logo for the trail, with a sign style, fonts and certain elements of look which will make it easy for other communities to use the cohesive appearance.”
The Heritage Trail will be driving tour, mainly along the Highway 27 corridor, through Troup, Heard, Carroll and Haralson counties, which visitors can follow at their own leisure. They can learn the history of the industry, how it helped build the local economy and provide jobs for thousands of people. The trail will include focus points on mill sites, now being used for other purposes, as well as those continuing to produce clothing and other textile products.
A conference was held on April 30 at Sewell Mill in Bremen to bring together local businesses, governments and other organizations to discuss how to develop the trail project.
“Most everybody has a family member, if you’re from here, connected somehow to this industry,” said Dr. Ann McCleary, director of the Center for Public History at UWG, sponsor of the conference.
McCleary said at the time people were working in the mills, they thought of it as a way of life.
“But looking back, you realize the impact that the industry had, not just to your family or your community, but on the whole area.”
Haralson County also has a rich history in the textile industry. The Center for Public History has set up an exhibit on textile history at Sewell Manufacturing, one of several garment companies established after World War II. Others included Hubbard pants, Arrow shirts and Warren Sewell Clothing.
Dorsey said this is the first tourism trail honoring textile production in Georgia.
“It’s a new idea, which we hope to encourage,” he said. “A trail website is almost ready to go and we’re working on a brochure to cover the Carroll section of the trail.”
Georgia mills from Columbus to Dalton once produced cloth, socks, yarn, uniforms, grain sacks, rope, twine, carpets and materials for radial tires. While some of the factories remain in production, most are now silent. After passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, many companies found they could not compete with the cheaper labor in other countries.