Mildred Parker replaces full bobbins with empty ones on the spinning frame at Enterprise Mill in Augusta, February 1983 Photo: Millard Parker
Augusta Canal Textile Mill Employees: Oral Histories
Through tape-recorded oral histories, this legacy
project documents the lives and stories of the individuals and
families who worked in the textile mills in Augusta. Development of
the Augusta Canal in 1845 generated much needed economic prosperity
for Augusta and made the city a leader in the South in transforming
the agrarian economy to an industrial one. Key to this process was
the location of numerous textile mills and related manufacturing
facilities along the canal. The manufacturing companies were drawn
to Augusta because of the abundance of cotton raised in the
immediate vicinity and by the prospect of harnessing the canal
water for inexpensive hydropower to operate their manufacturing
The Augusta Manufacturing Company secured the first
canal water rights and constructed a five-story building. The
mill's first year of operation was so prosperous that in 1849 it
built a second mill, and by 1851 the company was running 20,000
spindles, making it one of the largest mills in the South. Other
mills followed, and the city's population doubled between 1845 and
1851. Soon that Augusta was called the "Lowell of the South" after
the northern mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts. Over the years,
the canal was expanded, and more mills were built. During the Civil
War, the Confederacy used the canal's water power at a mill which
manufactured gunpowder. Many of the mills closed during the 1960s
and 1970s, and by the turn of the 21st century only three mill
buildings remained. One of these had been converted to a mixed-use
residential, office and retail complex, but still was deriving
power from the mill.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the mills
practically dominated every aspect of the lives of workers and
their families. For instance, they lived in company housing in mill
neighborhoods, shopped at company stores, participated in
mill-sponsored activities, and started and left work according to
the ringing of the mill bells. Many of the retirees and individuals
who lived in the mill neighborhoods during this period were
interviewed for the project's oral histories. These personal
stories from people who lived through specific events or times add
rich detail and a unique perspective to historical records.
In 1996, the U.S. Congress designated the Augusta
Canal as a National Heritage Area, and the Augusta Canal Authority
as its management entity, mandated to establish and implement an
overall plan for the preservation, development, and management of
the canal as a public resource.
Documentation includes a text report, photographs,
and about two dozen cassette tapes of oral histories.
Originally submitted by: Charlie Norwood, Representative (10th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.