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Roswell’s Big Wheel

Roswell’s Big Wheel ( ROSWELL — Roswell powers up its Heritage Center with a new exhibit on a piece of its history that has not been explored before in any comprehensive way. “The Roswell Mills” ( narrates Roswell’s role in the textile industry — and in reclaiming the women and children lost to history during the Civil War — and recounts the gritty everyday life in the mill town through the people who lived it. Enjoy the audio tour, hear the voices from the past, and see historic images and memorabilia — all anchored by an imposing replica mill wheel. Then see how the other half lived: the founding families in their antebellum homes at Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall, and Smith Plantation.

Water that powered Roswell and empowered Georgia

Narrated through the bobbins and spindles left behind in the mills, the voices of mill workers and historic pictures that give testimony to the harsh realities of mill life - this is the first exhibit of its kind to plumb the story in depth and give greater context to Georgia’s role in the textile industry. By 1840, Georgia ranked third in the nation in production of cotton cloth, just behind Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which were ranked first and second, respectively. Roswell Manufacturing Company was one of the most successful mills in Georgia; the rushing waters of Vickery Creek and the topography of the land made the site ideal for such a venture.

Operating all those mills required hundreds of laborers, a work force whose story is explored as the exhibit dips behind the scenes of the Roswell Mills and its mill town. “We tell the story of the mills and the life of the mill workers and also reference other sites in the state where visitors may hear more of the story,” said Dotty Etris, executive director of the Roswell Convention&Visitors Bureau. The story in Roswell, comprised of exhibit, accompanying booklet, and audio tour, is one chapter in a story whose narrative thread is stitched across the Peach State: Enterprise Mill (Augusta Canal National Heritage Interpretive Center), Historic Banning Mills in Whitesburg, Porterdale Mill in Porterdale, and Sweetwater Creek State Park (New Manchester Textile Mill Ruins) in Lithia Springs.

“Lintheads,” child laborers, and women treasonists

The exhibition recalls the “Lintheads” — the name millworkers were given because the lint from the mill often settled on their clothes and hair — and their determined struggle to keep body and soul together. Entire families, including the children and the elderly, often labored in the mills, working such long hours that eventually the State of Georgia would regulate the work day: hours were not to exceed eleven hours per day or sixty-six hours per week!

It also recalls the women who were charged with treason during the Civil War, removed from their homes on General Sherman’s orders and banished north to prison and an uncertain future. Charged but never tried for this crime, they were eventually released - but without provisions or assistance to get back home. Some of the women would make their way back to Roswell; the fate of most remains a mystery.

Roswell’s Big Wheel

Anchoring the stories of the life, times, tragedy, and success of the mills and their economic impact on Roswell and Georgia is The Heritage Center’s mill wheel. The original wheel which once powered town founder Roswell King’s textiles mills measured 16 by 20 feet. The model was made to original specifications from reclaimed rough-sawn cedar.

Explore the past at The Heritage Center and Roswell’s three antebellum homes and then step into present day Roswell and its profusion of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Nature lovers, art aficionados, and foodies can follow their passion to Historic Roswell and indulge in all their favorite pastimes. Biking, hiking, picnicking, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and fishing are popular pursuits on the Chattahoochee River. History buffs will want to explore as much of the Historic District as possible, especially the 122 acres listed on the National Register of Historic Places that include the circa1839 Town Square. With a dynamic gallery scene that includes no less than three dozen art galleries, Roswell is shopping decadence from the period storefronts of the Shops of Historic Roswell that encompass boutiques, antiques, art galleries, tearooms, and an eclectic array of eateries to the Shoppes of Plumtree Village where bricked sidewalks lead to more shops and galleries and a coffeehouse to SOCA — the Shoppes on Oak Street, among the most avant-garde and stylish shopping destinations in the area.

“The Roswell Mills” and the Heritage Center at Roswell Visitors Bureau is a project of the Roswell Convention&Visitors Bureau and the Roswell Folk&Heritage Bureau. The project was supported by a Tourism Product Development Grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and a contribution from Georgia Power Company and Bank of North Georgia.

About Roswell

Located on the northern banks of the Chattahoochee River in Fulton County, Roswell, Georgia’s sixth largest city, is in an area whose history was impacted and shaped by the 1828 discovery of gold in north Georgia, the opening of cotton and woolen mills known collectively as the Roswell Manufacturing Company a decade later, and the occupation by Union troops in July of 1864 on their march to Atlanta.

Today, Roswell thrives with historic and natural attractions, shopping and gallery hopping, and casual and formal dining options. “The Roswell Mills,” a permanent exhibit at The Heritage Center at Roswell Visitors Bureau, is free of charge. Exhibit booklet and audio tour may be downloaded from the website ( free of charge. (Some MP3 players with the walking tour and some CDs of the driving tour are also available at the Visitors Center.) Roswell’s three historic houses — Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall, and Smith Plantation — are part of the new interpretive program, “A Southern Trilogy: Experience the Authentic Story of the American South” and are excellent sightseeing companions to the mills exhibit.

Tours are US$8 per house for adults; US$6 for children (ages 6 - 12); or save by purchasing a Trilogy Pass that includes admission to all three homes for US$18 per adult and US$15 per child. Passes may be purchased at the Visitors Center.

Roswell has nearly a dozen hotels, something to suit every taste and budget, from the oldest hotel site — now the newly-restored and renovated DoubleTree Hotel — to the new Holiday Inn, tricked out with Wifi and flat-screen TVs. For more details about Roswell’s history and its many heritage sites, contact the Historic Roswell Convention&Visitors Bureau by calling toll-free 1.800.776.7935 or by visiting .

Dotty Etris, Executive Director Historic Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau Phone: 770.640.3253 Toll Free: 1.800.776.7935 Email: Web:

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