Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lost Mill Workers of Roswell

Can you imagine what it would be like to be arrested and deported just because you worked for a company that someone else didn’t like? That’s exactly what happened during the Civil War to women and children who worked for the Roswell Manufacturing Company in the cotton and woolen mills.

Just down from the Visitors Center is Sloan Street Park. At the far end of the park is a ten-foot Corinthian column, shattered at the top to symbolize the lives torn apart by the Civil War tragedy. This monument was erected and dedicated on July 8th, 2000 to the memory of the 400 mill workers, mostly women and children, arrested and charged with treason during the Civil War.

Theophile Roche, a French citizen, had been employed by the cotton mills and later the woolen mill. In an attempt to save the Roswell Manufacturing Company mills during the Union occupation of Roswell, he flew a French flag in hopes of claiming neutrality. However, the letters "CSA" (Confederate States of America) were found on cloth being produced. For two days the mill was spared, but on July 7, 1864 after it was proven that the claim of being neutral was false, General Sherman wrote: “I repeat my orders that you arrest all people, male and female, connected with those factories, no matter what the clamor, and let them foot it, under guard, to Marietta, which I will send them by cars to the North…The poor women will make a howl.”

The nearby cotton mills and woolen mill were destroyed. Mill workers, women, their children, and the few men, most either too young or too old to fight, were rounded up on the square, arrested, and charged with treason. They were transported by wagon to Marietta and imprisoned in the Georgia Military Institute, by then abandoned. Then, with several days' rations, they were loaded into boxcars that proceeded through Chattanooga, Tennessee, and after a stopover in Nashville, Tennessee, headed to Louisville, Kentucky, the final destination for many of the mill workers. Others were sent across the Ohio River to Indiana.

First housed and fed in a Louisville refugee hospital, the women later took what menial jobs and living arrangements could be found. Those in Indiana struggled to survive, many settling near the river, where eventually mills provided employment. Unless husbands had been transported with the women or had been imprisoned nearby, there was little probability of a return to Roswell, so the remaining women began to marry and bear children.

The tragedy, widely publicized at the time, with outrage expressed in northern as well as southern presses, was virtually forgotten over the next century. Only in the 1980s did a few writers begin to research and tell the story. Even then, the individual identities and fates of the women remained unknown.

In the New York Commercial Advertiser, dated September 9, 1864, the editor of the Louisville Journal recalled visiting the prisoners in an article entitled, “Sherman’s Female Captives”: As we ascended the steps, the first object that greeted our eyes was a child full of robust health engaged at play in the hall. Passing the lower apartments, the doors standing wide open, we found, on an average, three double beds in each room and seated around and on the beds, engaged in sewing, and other occupations common to ladies, were women - some with the bloom of eighteen years upon their cheeks and others advanced in years beyond the hey-day of life. . .Some moved about the building in sprightly manner, others with their robes gathered negligently about them, and with all the languor to be found in the invalid, or in the person prone to yield to gloomy thoughts, and grow sad and morose.”

A northern newspaper correspondent reported on the deportation …”only think of it! Four hundred weeping and terrified, Ellens, Susans, and Maggies, transported in springless and seatless army wagons, away from their loves and brothers of the sunny South, and all for the offense of weaving tent-cloth.”

Although the women mill workers were charged with treason, they were never tried for that crime. Shipped north, imprisoned and ordered to declare allegiance, they were eventually released—but without provisions or assistance to get back home. Some of the women would make their way back to Roswell, but what happened to others remains a mystery. We can only speculate. Because many of the women were young, they might have stayed in Indiana, married and settled. Some may have found employment in Indiana mills or other locations. If their fathers, husbands and brothers had been killed in the War, they may have had no reason to try to find their way back to Roswell.

Here are two stories of women that survived the deportation and managed to come back to Georgia:

One of the women involved in this tragedy was pregnant and working as a seamstress at the mill. She was sent north to Chicago and left to fend for herself. It would take five years before she and her daughter would return, on foot, to Roswell. Her soldier husband returned to Roswell after the war. Thinking that his wife must be dead, he remarried before she returned.

Another young woman was just a teenager working in the Roswell Mills with her mother and grandmother. All three were charged with treason and deported. The mother died on the train between Chattanooga and Nashville. The grandmother died on a steamship on the Ohio River, after being carried on board sitting in a rocking chair. The young woman married a Confederate veteran in Louisville, KY. The newlyweds tried to make a new life in Indiana but her health had been ruined by the deportation. A doctor advised that she would not live through another Indiana winter. The couple moved south to Cartersville, GA, back to the South she loved.

Sources: , “Roswell – The Lost Mill Workers of Roswell” monument brochure by The Roswell Mills Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, , , “The Guide to Roswell,” a publication of the Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau, Caroline Matheny Dillman, The Roswell Mills and a Civil War Tragedy: Excerpts from Days Gone by in Alpharetta and Roswell, Georgia, vol. 1 (Roswell, Ga.: Chattahoochee Press, 1996), Michael Hitt, Historian and author of Charged With Treason.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Help! My Kids Are Bored!

It’s summertime in Roswell and that means that children are out of school and looking to you for something to do. Back in the day, a new board game, clothes to play dress up, or paints, clay, and other craft items would keep them occupied for hours and when the newness wore off, you’d just send them outside to play with their friends. If the children that I’m around are any indication of today’s children, those toys and activities will keep them occupied for maybe a week and then it’s up to me to find something more exciting.

Watching my younger niece and nephews squeal with laughter when they swing or race each other to see who will be first to climb the slide, I know that playgrounds are still high on children’s lists of fun places. Seven of the parks in Roswell have playgrounds just waiting for children to enjoy them. Six of those seven parks have picnic areas so you can bring lunch and have a place to relax after working up a great appetite.

There are now two spraygrounds in Roswell. The original sprayground is in Riverside Park and the newest one is in East Roswell Park. A family pass is only $30 for your entire family to enjoy a sprayground for the summer. If you just want to come once or twice, it’s only $1 per person, per visit. Full information on the spraygrounds is available under “Recreation and Parks” at

For a little evening entertainment, come on down to Riverside Park on Saturday, July 23rd for “Shrek 4ever After,” and Saturday, August 13th for a back to school bash. Bring a picnic along with your lawn chairs and blankets, enjoy great music, play on the playgrounds, then settle in for movie fun. Food and drinks may be purchased at the concession stand. Movies begin at dark.

For older children, Grimes Bridge Park has a Skate Park and East Roswell Park has a disc golf course. The Disc Golf course is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the top places to play in the area. Information on tournaments and events is at

One of my favorite places to take children is the Chattahoochee Nature Center. In addition to all of the animals on display (my favorite part), children of all ages enjoy the hands-on displays and exhibits in the Discovery Center. A great summertime event is the annual Flying Colors Butterfly Festival in July with a lot of family-friendly fun for all ages. Full details about the Nature Center and all of their events is at

Prepare for the thrill of the ride! Gear up in your Andretti racing suit, slip behind the wheel of a brand new Stratos Superkart and prepare to take on the Andretti designed indoor track at Andretti Indoor Karting and Games. Sign up for the Andretti Ultimate Racing Summer Camp for ages 7-14. Lots of air conditioned fun with bowling, billiards and basketball. Full information on Andretti’s and the nationally-known comics performing at their Funny Farm Comedy Club can be found at

Monkey Joes is an indoor play center filled with wild inflatable slides, thrilling jumps, and wacky party rooms for kids - TVs, computer stations, and wireless internet access for the parents. What’s not to like? Full details are at

One of Roswell’s newest attractions is Area 51 off of Commerce Parkway, behind Roswell Towne Center. Enjoy first-run movies at the Aurora Cineplex featuring 10 screens, digital sound, 3D capabilities, stadium-style, and high-back-rocker seating. While you’re there, check out The Fringe miniature golf with two courses and 36 holes providing amusing surprises and adventures throughout each course. Full details are at

So grab up the kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews and head to Roswell where you really can Find It All.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How about giving your wallet a break while you’re experiencing what Roswell has to offer? It sounds like a deal that fits my budget perfectly.

Roswell Mills & Old Mill Park
On the banks of Vickery Creek you will find the ruins of the Roswell Manufacturing Company Mills nestled among the trees that line the creek. The largest mill building was constructed in 1853. A few hundred feet down stream from that location is the site of Roswell’s first cotton mill, built in 1839. Fire has been a constant in the mill area. The 1839 and 1853 mills were burned by Union forces on July 7, 1864. During Reconstruction, the 1853 mill was rebuilt and used until destroyed by fire in 1926. The mill building seen today was a machine shop built in 1882 as an addition to the complex.

Stroll through this beautiful area as you hear the rush of the water falling over the much photographed waterfall created when the dam was built to harness the power of the water. A covered pedestrian bridge connects Old Mill Park to the National Park trails on the other side of the creek, if you’re ready for more adventures. Interpretive markers in the park will help you learn more about the history of the area.

Wear walking shoes and bring water so that you can enjoy the area to the fullest. To access the park, turn onto Mill Street from Atlanta Street and look for the signs. There’s plenty of parking in the area.

Roswell Mills and the Civil War – Free Downloadable Audio Tour
There’s that beautiful word, again – Free! On our website is an audio tour that tells the stories of the Roswell Mills and Roswell Mill workers, including the 400 women and children who were charged with treason and sent north to uncertain fates during the Civil War occupation of Roswell.

General Sherman’s orders for the mill workers were, “I repeat my orders that you arrest all people, male and female, connected with those factories, no matter what the clamor, and let them foot it, under guard, to Marietta, whence I will send them by cars to the North … The poor women will make a howl.”

Download the audio walking tour at and enjoy exploring the history of Roswell. The tour gives you a glimpse into the lives of the mill workers before and during the Civil War as you explore the areas where they lived and worked.

Self-Guided Walking Tour of Roswell’s Historic District
Come into the Visitors Center at 617 Atlanta Street to pick one up or just download it at The map includes a description of many of the houses and buildings that have been part of Roswell since Roswell King founded Roswell over 150 years ago.

While you’re in the Visitors Center, take time to enjoy the displays that tell the story of the importance of water power to the founding of Roswell and the vital role that cotton played in our mills. There are even two videos that will tell the story of Roswell and give you an idea of everything there is to see in Roswell. All you have to do is to decide if you want the 12 minute “overview” video or the longer 25 minute video that starts with the Cherokee and takes you through reconstruction after the Civil War. A friendly staff person will be happy to start the video for you and answer any questions you may have.

Monthly Free Events from summer through fall
Riverside Park on Riverside Drive is the place to be the first Saturday of the month, from May through October. Bring your blankets and spread out a picnic spread and enjoy the Riverside Sounds music series. These free concerts are from 7 to 9 pm. Details on the concerts are at

Another fun event each month from April through November, is the Alive After Five held on Canton Street the third Thursday of the month, starting at 5 pm. Enjoy live music, outside vendors, late hours by retailers, face painting, free trolley, balloons, and more. Enjoy with family, a date or your friends. Full details can be found at

All of this free stuff to do and I didn’t even mention the miles of walking trails, including one along the Chattahoochee River going right by Shallow Ford, the first place in U.S. history that a rifle was used successfully under water during armed conflict, cemeteries in the Historic District to explore, parks with playground equipment for the children, a disc golf course at East Roswell Park, great places to window-shop for antiques, art work, or even unexpected finds in shopping areas like the Historic District, SOCA, and Sweet Apple Village. I could go on and on.

So get off your couch, lace up those walking shoes and head out!