To further examine this year’s Georgia History Festival theme, “From Marshes to Mountains, Georgia’s Changing Landscape: Geography, History, and Community,” this week’s #MarkerMonday reviews the First Cotton Mill in Northwest Georgia historical marker in Chattooga County. As discussed in the Old Savannah Cotton Exchange Marker Monday, there were four major factors that allowed for cotton production to become a major focus of Georgia’s economy: gaining independence from England, the patent of Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin in 1794, the reliance on enslaved labor, and the removal of Creek and Cherokee Indians allowing settlers to move into western and northern portions of Georgia.
In the early nineteenth century, industrialists in northern states saw an opportunity to take raw cotton grown in the South and manufacture it into usable goods domestically, rather than ship it to Europe for production. The organization of the Trion Factory in Northwest Georgia demonstrates the expansion of industries in western and northern regions of Georgia as White settlers moved further into formerly Native lands and began to focus on industrialization in the South.
Textile mills in Georgia were not widely successful until the 1840s and 50s. Georgia’s early textile mills were built along rivers in the upper Coastal Plain and Piedmont regions. The mills opened in conjunction with locations where settlers were organizing new towns and cotton plantations. As Georgia’s territory spread, so did its people and industries, which influenced the organization of roads and railroads across the state.
During the early textile mill boom in Georgia, Andrew P. Allgood, his father-in-law Spencer S. Marsh, and Colonel William K. Briers opened Trion Factory in what would later become Trion, Georgia, in 1869. The mill opened near the Chattooga River on October 12, 1845, as the first cotton mill in Northwest Georgia, and began production by 1847. After the factory was destroyed in a fire in April 1875, the Atlanta Herald noted that the mill was “perhaps one of the best and most successful, and prosperous of all our manufacturing establishments in Georgia.” To continue meeting demands, the factory was rebuilt and operating by the end of that year. Cotton ropes, sheeting, shirtings, and denim were sold from Trion Factory across the southeast.
Three families owned and operated the mill throughout its existence: The Allgood Family (1845-1912), the B.D. Riegel Family (1912-1987), and the R.B. Pamplin Family (1987-present). Under the Pamplin Family, the mill became part of Mount Vernon Mills. Today, the mill primarily produces denim and cotton-blend materials.
Explore the links below to learn more:
Marker Monday: Old Savannah Cotton Exchange
New Georgia Encyclopedia – Cotton
New Georgia Encyclopedia – Textile Industry
New Georgia Encyclopedia – Chattooga County
Chattanooga Times Free Press – Town Built On Cotton: Trion, Georgia is a true, dyed-in-the-denim company town