Waynmanville Mill, one of the first cotton mills in Upson County, will be featured on GPTV this Sunday, October 28, 2012, at 7:30 p.m., in an episode of Georgia Outdoors titled “The Waters Edge.” The Waynmanville Mill will be one of several mills around the state featured in the program. The program will re-air Saturday November 3, 2012 at 6 p.m., for anyone who misses it.
Portions of the stone foundation of Waynmanville Mill along Tobler Creek are the only visible remnants of the mill, which at one time processed 1,100 bales of cotton annually. In its heyday, the mill and a mill village housing 240 people flourished.
Upson County was established by the state legislature on December 24, 1824. Thomaston, the county seat, was incorporated in 1825. Eight years after the founding of Thomaston, the Franklin Factory on Tobler Creek was opened as a business venture between four Upson County residents, Willis Journigan, Daniel Luther, Dwight R. Perry and Jackson Sprague. William Waynman and his wife, Deborah Swift Waynman, moved from New Jersey to direct the construction of the mill. When Waynman was killed in a fall during construction of the mill, his brother-in-law, George P. Swift of Massachusetts, entered the business.
The factory was open and operating by April 1833, and on December 21, 1833, it was granted a charter by the state legislature. In 1841, the owners used the profits to build a second factory slightly downstream from the Franklin Factory. It was named the Waynman Factory after William Waynman. The two factories were consolidated under the name Waynmanville Factory, with the Franklin Factory known as the Upper Mill and Waynman Factory as the Lower Mill. George P. Swift owned a controlling interest and directed their operations.
By 1849, the Waynman Factory was employing 125 people, operating 2,984 spindles and 26 looms, and processing 1,100 bales of cotton annually. It produced yard, brown sheeting and shirting, and weaving heavy osnaburg, a coarse, cotton fabric used for grain sacks, upholstery and draperies. The factory payroll was $900 a month, with employees working 12 hours a day, six days a week, which works out to about 10 cents an hour. The products were carried to the railhead in Barnesville in large, six-mule wagon trains.
The Waynmanville Mill Village grew and land was deeded for a church. The Waynmanville Post Office was established in 1846, and George Swift became Postmaster in 1855. Waynmanville Mill Village housed 240 people in 1849. They consumed 500 pounds of bacon, 700 pounds of flour, 20 bushels of corn meal, 20 pounds of coffee, 20 gallons of molasses, and 20 pounds of tobacco a week. There were no schools and it is estimated that fewer than 20 of the 240 residents could read or write.
The Waynman Factory came to a fiery end on April 18, 1865, when it was burned by Yankee cavalry under Major General James H. Wilson during the infamous Wilson’s Raid. Setting out to destroy manufacturing facilities in Alabama and Georgia, Wilson had reached Montgomery, Ala., when he learned of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Wilson ignored the surrender and continued his raid into Georgia. His raid came to an end on April 20, 1865 following the Battle of Columbus and after capturing Macon. The Franklin Factory survived the raid.
In 1866, a local merchant, Louis Hamburger, bought a 1/3 interest in the mills. Henry U. Perry and George Swift also maintained interests. The Perrys had moved back to Massachusetts years earlier. Hamburger took charge, and George Swift moved to Columbus.
The Waynman Factory was rebuilt, retooled and operating by 1870. In 1871, the Franklin Factory was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt. The Waynman Factory operated under the firm name of Swift, Hamburger & Co.
In 1893 the partnership was dissolved at the request of Perry, resulting in the sale of all Waynman land, approximately 877 acres. Waynman Cotton Mills became incorporated, bought back the land and facilities, and continued operation. By 1902 the corporation was in receivership, and the lands of Waynman were surveyed, divided into parcels and sold. An Atlanta bank bought three adjoining parcels totaling 148 acres, which included the factory site and its facilities, and sold them to Newton, Huddleston and Ensign. Several months later everything was sold to Upson Manufacturing Company.
The Waynmanville Post Office ceased operating in 1906. Later the factory machinery was sold and moved to Forsythe Milles. In 1911, Upson Manufacturing Company sold the property, water power and privileges, a grist mill, the water sheels, and all remaining structures of the former Waynman Cotton Mills to R. L. Duke of Henry County.
Today Mo Turner owns 20 acres of land, which includes the remaining foundations of the former Waynman Factory.
Editor’s note: Information in this story was obtained from articles found in the Thomaston-Upson Archives.