Roswell is located on the northern banks of the Chattahoochee River in an area the Cherokee Indians once called “Enchanted Land.” Originally, the white man was forbidden on this land, but the law was often ignored and many treaties were broken. The discovery of gold in North Georgia brought more and more settlers with powerful weapons. The Cherokee became increasingly aware that they must learn to co-exist, or their way of life would surely perish.
In an attempt to survive encroachment, they adopted some of the white man’s ways and became shop owners, storekeepers, farmers, and even operated mills, ferries and other businesses. By 1821, one of their leaders had created the “Talking Leaves” consisting of 85 letters. Within a short time of adopting his alphabet, thousands of Cherokee were able to read and write. They created the first Native American newspaper and also had a centralized government and a constitution.
For all the tribe’s progress, they could not curtail the white man’s greed for the glittering substance found on their land. Georgia declared the Cherokee Nation illegal and took possession of their land, dividing it into counties and giving the land to white settlers through a land lottery. The Cherokee pursued action to protect their rights through the courts, but President Andrew Jackson ignored a mandate by the Supreme Court and approved removal of the Cherokee. In 1838, the Cherokee people traveled west on a path that was to become known as “The Trail of Tears”.
The Settlement of Roswell
In 1828, gold was found in north Georgia, causing many to prospect the areas of Dahlonega and Auraria. This activity attracted the interest of Roswell King of Darien, Georgia. As he traveled on horseback, following Indian trials, he came upon the Chattahoochee River near what is now Roswell. Here, he discovered vast forests and the rushing waters of Vickery Creek. He envisioned a mill, powered by the water, and a community close by.
In 1838, Mr. King began work on the first cotton mill. In 1839, it was incorporated as The Roswell Manufacturing Company. The mills were extremely successful, as orders for cloth, tenting, rope, flannels, and yarn poured in. Mr. King offered home sites and investment opportunities to his friends and associates from coastal Georgia. Magnificent homes were built for the founding families.
They constructed cottages and apartments for the mill workers, a church, and an educational academy for the children. Before Roswell King’s wife, Catherine, could move from Darien, she died. Roswell King lived until 1844, but his son Barrington worked to carry on his father’s dream.
There were several distinct styles of life in Roswell … the prominent families, the mill workers who often labored 11-hour days, and the slaves. The issues of slavery and states’ rights would have a major impact on the town. Secession of Georgia from the Union took place in January 1861. Those families who could afford to do so gathered as many possessions as possible and fled to safer areas. The Union cavalry, under the command of Brigadier General Kenner Garrard, arrived in Roswell on July 5, 1864. Retreating Confederate soldiers burned the covered bridge at the Chattahoochee River in order to slow the troops.
Theophile Roche, a French citizen, had been employed by the cotton mills and later the woolen mill. In an attempt to save the mills, he flew a French flag in hopes of claiming neutrality. However, the letters “CSA” (Confederate States of America) were found on cloth being produced. On July 7, Gen. Sherman ordered everyone connected with the mill to be charged with treason when it was found the neutrality claim was false. The nearby cotton mill was also destroyed. Mill workers, mostly women and children, were arrested, charged with treason, and sent north to uncertain fates. The magnificent homes and church escapade destruction. After the war, families returned to the area and began to pick up the pieces of their lives. The mills were rebuilt and the textile industry once again became a strong part of the town’s economy, remaining so until 1975.
Today, Roswell is filled with opportunities to explore the past: Antebellum Museum Home Tours (Barrington Hall, Bulloch Hall and Smith Plantation – known as A Southern Trilogy), the Roswell Mill Village, and the “Natural History” of the area is abundant all along the Chattahoochee River and at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.