Though it resides in a relatively young country, Roswell has an old soul. For many years, this area around the Chattahoochee River was primarily inhabited by the Cherokee Indians. These people referred to it as the “Enchanted Land.” The Cherokee Nation is thought to be one of the most progressive of the Native American tribes. They were the first to create their own alphabet and written language, known as the Talking Leaves. They even had their own newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix, which released its first issue in 1828. The Cherokee had their own centralized government and constitution. They expertly adapted to the ways of the white settlers in order to survive.
Ancient American Heritage
However, the Cherokees were not permitted to keep their land. In 1802, the United States government declared the Cherokee Nation illegal. Its land was divided into counties and given to white settlers in a land lottery.
Some Cherokees remained in the Roswell area and maintained a shaky truce with the Georgians. Many married white settlers and ran farms and businesses. They continued in this fashion until President Andrew Jackson approved the removal of all Cherokees, against the mandate of the Supreme Court. In 1838, the Cherokees were forced to travel west on what is now known as the Trail of Tears.
The founder of Roswell, Mr. Roswell King of Darien, came to the area after gold was discovered in north Georgia in 1828. King followed the river until he came upon Vickery Creek. He became inspired and decided to build a mill, utilizing the natural resources. In 1838, he began building the cotton mill. By the following year, the Roswell Manufacturing Company was in full swing. The company expanded and flourished quickly, producing a number of goods in high demand. A community quickly formed around this successful business, comprised mainly of distinguished families from the coastal regions, poor mill laborers and slaves. When King died in 1844, his son Barrington took over the company.
Cotton & The Civil War
When Georgia succeeded from the Union in 1861, many Roswell residents packed up their belongings and fled to safer areas. The mills of Roswell produced a significant portion of the cloth used by the Confederacy. When Sherman’s army arrived, the Confederate troops had burned the bridge over the Chattahoochee and retreated, leaving the mill workers to fend for themselves. One employee of French descent attempted to spare the mill from the fires of General Sherman’s army by flying the French flag, a symbol of neutrality. This ruse worked for a couple of days until it was revealed that the mill’s cloth products were marked with the initials CSA. The Confederate States of America. Greatly angered, Sherman ordered that the mill be destroyed and all of its affiliates arrested and charged with treason. Nearly 400 employees, mostly women and children, were arrested, loaded onto trains and taken to the north. All were released after the war, but received no assistance in getting back to Roswell. Some managed to return while others seemed to vanish. These people are remembered as the Lost Mill Workers of Roswell.
Though the mill was destroyed, the city itself was left largely undamaged. The mills were rebuilt after the war and Roswell remained a vital part of the textile industry until 1975. Many of the original family homes remain in good condition and are open to visitors.