Located twenty miles north of Atlanta on the Chattahoochee River, Roswell was originally in Cobb County but in 1932 was annexed to Fulton County. The Roswell area has evolved from being a part of the Cherokee Nation to a textile mill town to a sleepy historical suburb; it is now the sixth largest city in Georgia. Roswell's proximity to the country's first gold rush, its links to former U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter and the influence of Greek revival architecture have played a significant part in its history.
In 1828, gold was found in north Georgia, thus causing a swarm of settlers to the area, especially Dahlonega and Auraria. This activity prompted Roswell King of Darien, Georgia to investigate the sites. Traveling on horseback, Mr. King followed Indian trails to the Chattahoochee River near what is now Roswell.
Following the river, Mr. King discovered vast forests and the rushing waters of Vickery (Vickery's) Creek. These natural resources inspired him to envision a mill, powered by the water, and a community close by.
In 1838, he began work on the first cotton mill and in 1839; it was incorporated as The Roswell Manufacturing Company. The company was extremely successful and expanded. Even a "flouring" mill was constructed. 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 and a community was built. They constructed magnificent homes for themselves, cottages, and apartments for mill workers, a general store near the mill, a church, and an academy to attend to the educational needs of the children.
Before Roswell King's wife, Catherine, could move from Darien, she died, never seeing the town that would be named for her husband. Roswell King died in 1844. Their son, Barrington King, and his wife, Catherine Nephew King, 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 of Roswell. Secession of Georgia from the Union took place in January of 1861. By 1861, Roswell families, who could afford to do so, gathered as many personal possessions as possible, and began to refugee 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 Union's advancement. However, there was a river crossing called Shallowford (located on today's Azalea Drive at the River Park). At Shallowford, in those early years, the river was only about waist deep. It was here that Union troops crossed the river. The fighting that took place involved the Spencer repeating rifle. This was the first time in U.S. History a rifle was used successfully under water during armed conflict.
The cotton mills and later the woolen mill had employed Theophile Roche, a French citizen. 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. For two days the mill was spared, but on July 7, after it was proven that the neutrality claim was false, General Sherman ordered everyone connected with the mill to be charged with treason. The nearby cotton mill was also destroyed. Mill workers, most women, and children since the men were fighting the war, were arrested, charged with treason, and sent north to uncertain fates. 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, only to find that her husband had remarried because he thought she was dead.
Although the mills were destroyed, the magnificent homes and church were not. After the War, families returned to Roswell 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 Roswell's economy. Today the city is thriving and the residents boast that with all the growth they have managed to hold onto a strong sense of family and community.
There is much to see and do in Roswell.
. City of Roswell
. Historical Roswell
. Shopping in Roswell