Since the early 1800s, people have used the enormous water power of the Nickajack creek to power mills in the community. Grist mills, saw mills, cotton mills, woolen mills. In the area around the Covered Bridge Historic District, a mill-based community developed known as “Mill Grove”. A post office was established with that name in 1837, Alexander McLarty postmaster.
In the 1840s, a cotton factory was built in the area. From the September 1848 Marietta Advocate (reprinted in the Augusta Chronicle and the Southern Patriot):
Nickajack Factory. “We learn from a gentleman who is a stockholder, that this new factory, situated in Cobb county, has now in operation four hundred spindles. The building is large enough to operate one thousand and fifty spindles, with the necessary outfit. There is ample power to drive the machinery. A wool carding machine attached to the factory is now in operation. The proprietors, we are informed, will confine themselves strictly to the manufacture of cotton yarn.”
In the 1850s Cobb County accounted for at least 10 of the state’s 1,522 known factories (source):
Cobb County had 10 manufacturing establishments. Among them was Denmead’s Mill, which turned out 125 barrels of flour in a day. The Marietta Tannery prepared 7,000 hides in a year. At Roswell the Roswell Manufacturing company had two cotton mills, one wool factory and one flouring mill. At Marietta, Wm. McFlesh and Company had extensive variety works, making all kinds of furniture, sashes, blinds, etc. On Nickajack creek was another factory.
The 1860s brought devastating war to the area. Sherman’s battle maps record many of the mills along the Nickajack creek area where he sent General McPherson on a risky gambit to persuade Johnston to abandon his powerful stronghold on Kennesaw Mountain. The area is most often referred to as “Mill Grove”, with Ruff’s Mill, or Ruff and Daniell’s Mills being a prominent landmark in war time communications.
After the close of the war, Atlanta began reconstructing itself as a manufacturing center of the south. In the Concord area about 1867, the Concord Manufacturing Company was started.
1867-11-25 Concord Factory.–We are gratified to know that there is an extensive woolen manufacturing establishment in course of construction at the above named place, fifteen miles from this city. The location is in Cobb county, and is situated within two or three miles of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Messrs. Ruff, Daniel, McEntire, and others are at the head of the enterprise. They also have in course of construction a large granite building which is to be used for an extensive flour mill. The machinery for putting in motion and propelling both of these enterprises will soon arrive, and it is the intention of the proprietors to commence operations at an early day. This is a step in the right direction. We feel confident that the patronage which will be extended to this enterprise will induce other capitalists to follow the example and ere long, many of the rapid streams which flow through our State, will be decorated with manufacturing establishments, imparting new life, energy and prosperity to the country, and lead to the development of the now dormant resources of our State.
1869-03-05 Marietta Journal: One of the greatest Southern enterprises that Southern ingenuity and capital has brought into existence is the above named Factory situated on Nickajack Creek in this county, 7 miles from Marietta, and 2 miles from the Western & Atlantic Railroad. The construction of this Factory commenced last fall and is near completion. The machinery from New York is being received and skillful and efficient machinists are engaged in putting it up ready for operation. This is a Wollen [sic] Factory and will have in process 32 looms and 600 spindles, that will give constant employment to 52 operators, besides other laborers whose services will be needed. This Factory is calculated with the preparations made to turn out as fine woolen fabrics as are manufactured North and the benefits that will spring from this Factory to this county and State are incalculable.
1869-06-11 Marietta Journal: Concord Manufacturing Company. P O Marietta, GA. Our Mills are located on Nickajack Creek, 7 miles South of Marietta and 3 miles West of Ruff Station. Our machinery is all extremely new and of the latest improvement and we are now prepared with Custom Cards to turn out as good an article of Wool Rolls as can be made North or South. We are also manufacturing Woolen Goods in any quantity and style which we will sell low for cash or exchange for wool. We also manufacture Wool into cloth on shares. Messrs Stripling & Whitlock are our authorized Agents at Marietta, GA for the sale of Wool Rolls and the purchase of Wool. Merchants and others will find it to their interest to give us a call before purchasing elsewhere as we do not intend to be undersold. Address. J B Daniell. Agent.
1869-09-03 Marietta Journal: The petition of Concord Manufacturing Company sheweth, that in persuance of the Charter of said Company they commenced to exercise the powers granted by said charter, within the time prescribed by law–and that by section third of said charter, the capital stock was limited to twelve thousand dollars with privilege of extending the same to thirty thousand dollars at any future time–that they have extended said stock to the thirty thousand dollars and being desirous of extending said stock, your petitioners pray your Honor to allow them to amend said charter so far as to extend said capital stock to one hundred thousand dollars. Robert Daniell, Pres’t. J B Daniell, Sec’ty & Treas’r.
1869-09-10 Marietta Journal: The Concord Manufacturing Company Recently commenced operations with a capital of $20,000. It is now about to enlarge it to $100,000. The Factory is turning out good Woolen fabrics and is controlled by men in whose hands success is beyond a doubt.
1869-10-22 Marietta Journal: The Concord Manufacturing Company. We have demonstration now of the successful operations of this enterprising Company, in the form of a present of ample material for an excellent suit. The article is called Gold-mixed Jeans and is not only handsome but strong and well-woven. We will do the Factory the honor of ‘wearing its colors.’ And now a word to our people on our own industries. You can get no better material than this Factory is turning out at anything like the same price from abroad. Why should you send your money away instead of building up the interests of your own locality. It is manifestly your interest to foster and encourage every useful enterprise at home because they bring population, capital and a market for your own interests. If we would build up our prosperity by all means encourage the enterprises and industries at home.
1870-08-23 Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger: Georgia Jeans–The Concord Woolen Mills, near Marietta, Georgia, send us twenty samples of the Jeans they manufacture–all of different colors and textures. They are truly excellent goods, and the finer qualities are very handsome. Georgia has reason to be proud of such fabrics, and we hope the Concord Mills will go on and prosper in the ways of well doing.
1870-09-16 Marietta Journal: Concord Woolen Factory is now being enlarged and improved and is making fine jeans casimeres and is really one of the best Wool Factories in the South.
1870-10-20 Daily Atlanta Intelligencer: The Concord Manufacturing Company at Smyrna, Georgia, has on exhibition there, Cassimeres, Jeans and Flannels, which cannot be excelled by any mills in the United States, or in England as for that matter. Mr. J. B. Daniel, Agent, took special pains to show the goods, and to let the people know they were Georgia made. From what we saw at this hall we are inclined to think that Georgia has made more rapid strides in the third war for independence than any of her sisters of the South. Another curiosity was exhibited, which, though not of Southern manufacture, will meet with general welcome throughout the State. It is a collection of basins, buckets, spittoons, &c., made of pasteboard enameled or painted so as to render it perfectly impervious to water.
On woolen factories in Cobb County in the 1870s (source):
The Concord Factory was sold in 1872 to Zachary A. Rice, James H Porter, and Seymour B Love.
1872-05-07 The Georgia Press: The Concord Woolen Mills, in Cobb County, were sold on Monday for $18,500.
1872-06-08 Atlanta Daily Sun: Marietta on the go. The Concord Woolen Mills is located on Nickajack Creek. At this establishment they manufacture a superior article of woolen goods, which has taken the premium at every Fair where it has been exhibited. They are not running at present, but are putting in new machinery, and will soon be in operation. We learn that they intend manufacturing a fine article of broad-cloth. They have, at this establishment, machinery for carding wool for customers, which is in running order. The proprietors of the Mill are Messrs. Z. A. Rice and S. B. Love.
1872-08-28 Weekly Sun: adv. Wm. and R.J. Lowrey as general agents. This is a grand enterprise and a grand achievement. We have no doubt of the complete success which it deserves. And now we again urge our farmers to raise sheep and grow wool for market. It is far more profitable than making cotton, and does not require near so much care and toil.
1881 Textile Manufactures’ Directory of the U.S. (H. H. Babcock, 1881): Concord Woolen Mills, Rice, Love & Porter. J.H. Porter, Treasurer, Atlanta: Wm A Daily Superintendent. Capitol $36,000. Cassimers and Jeans. 2 sets 48-in cards. 816 spindles. 8 Crompton broad looms. 28 Gilbert narrow looms. 3 jacks. Water power. (Sell own Goods). (Cobb Co.)
1883-09-08 Columbus Daily Enquirer: page 3: Marietta Journal: A new industry has sprung up in Cobb county. Mr. John Shaw hauled a two-horse wagon load of black sumac leaves to Concord Woolen Factory, in this county. He was two days in gathering and delivering them. We learned he has hauled several loads to Laurel Woolen Mills at Roswell, and received good prices for them. These leaves are used for dyeing purposes.
1888-09-27 Marietta Journal: Concord: After being suspended about two weeks for repairs, Concord Woolen Mills have resumed work. M L & John W Ruff had the work in charge. New floors, and even new sleepers were required both below and above in some important departments, where they have been exposed to the moisture, both from steam and natural dampness. Looms have been newly placed, and some long lines of shafting realigned by John W Ruff who is “at home” with any kind of machinery, from a factory to a sorghum mill.
Tragedy struck the Concord Woolen Mills when it burnt in 1889
Concord Mills Burned. The Concord Woolen Mills, below Smyrna in this county was destroyed by fire on Tuesday of last week. The fire originated in the pickers’ room which spread so rapidly that before anything could be done to control the flames they had enveloped the entire building and ceased only when nothing was left for them to feed on. An employee named Whitfield was the first to discover the fire. His labors required him to be constantly in the pickers room, where a large quantity of wool is kept for the purpose of cleaning it from foreign substances. The wool contains a great deal of oil, and the floors and beams had become saturated with. Mr. Whitfield saw a tongue of flame shoot up from the wool and immediately attempted to extinguish the fire by beating it with his coat. The flames, however, had ignited the oil saturated boards and it gained headway at a wonderful rate. In two minutes the room was a raging mass of flames. The cry of fire terrified the hands, among whom were over twenty women and girls, and a rush was made to get outside the burning building. All escaped uninjured, and were immediately put to work removing goods from the storehouse where $15,000 worth of property was stored. The wind fortunately blew the flames in the other direction, and when it was found that the storehouse was out of danger the goods were replaced. The mill was owned by Messrs. Rice, Love and Porter of Atlanta. The mills were built by Messrs. Daniels shortly after the war and sold by them to the present owners in 1872. The buildings were entirely of stone and during the past years they have been considerably enlarged. The insurance policies on the buildings expired recently, and the companies refused to accept the risk on them again until certain alterations were made: consequently when the fire occurred they were not covered by a dollar’s insurance. The loss is estimated at $100,000. The owners will decide shortly whether they will rebuild or sell their remaining warehouse and retire from the business. It is hoped that the mills will be rebuilt, as the goods made there were the very best. (Marietta Journal, October 24, 1889)
1890-01-09 Marietta Journal: Nickajack: The contract for rebuilding Concord Factory has been awarded to M L and J W Ruff. Dimensions, 30×140 feet, two stories, capacity two sets of woolen machinery. Work will proceed as early as practicable.
1890-04-03 Marietta Journal: A portion of the scaffolding used by the masons while building the walls of Concord Factory gave way last week and J W Kendley went down with it, and was severely, though not seriously bruised about the head and face. His escape was almost miraculous considering that he fell about twenty five feet, through two sets of sleepers, and a quantity of rocks going down with him. He is now walking around almost as well as before the fall.
Capt. Seaborn Love spent Sunday with his relatives Dr. and Mrs. J. D. Malone. Capt. Love is one of the three owners of the Concord Woolen Mills that was burned during the latter part of last year. He reports that the work on his new factory is progressing rapidly. The walls are up and the roof is on the house. (Marietta Journal, April 3, 1890)
One hundred and five thousand shingles and thirty seven thousand feet of flooring are a couple of items of the material used in building Concord factory. Mr. G W Brandt, formerly superintendent of the factory here, has gone to take charge of a woolen mill at Sweetwater, Tenn. His many friends wish him success in his new field. (Marietta Journal, April 17, 1890)
1890-06-10 Martin Ruff Jr. died of typhoid pneumonia.
Concord Factory is finished, and was pronounced by one of the stockholders, S B Love, after a close inspection, to be the “best factory building in Georgia,” a deserved tribute to the skill and integrity of Martin L Ruff, the principal contractor, whose death is so deeply deplored by those who knew him best. The new carding machinery is now being set up and placed in position by Concord’s veteran carding-room boss, J R Kendley. The spinning machinery, which is self-operating, and looms, the latter not yet arrived, will be set up by the former “loom boss” S B Blair. It is all of the latest pattern and best of its kind. John W Ruff is aligner of the shafting of which there are three hundred feet. G W Brandt, former superintendent of Concord, but now of Sweetwater, Tenn. paid his old friends a running visit last week. He was in quest of weavers for the factory at the latter place, of which he is superintendent. Concord grist mills are being prepared for merchant work in meal. Two sets of stones with bolting attachment will be put on for corn at once. The mill is capable of doing a large business, as the water power is ample. (Marietta Journal, June 26, 1890)
1890-07-03 Marietta Journal: Mr Parker Rice business manager of Concord Woolen Factory has been for two weeks attending the sick bed of his father, Major Z A Rice who is seriously ill at his home in Atlanta. The Major’s aged mother died in his house recently during his protracted sickness. The looms of the Factory have arrived and been set in position for running. They are the latest improved Gilbert pattern. The spinning machinery seems very intricate, one machine known as the “Wright Spinner,” appears to be the triumph of incomprehensibility. It is the only one of its kind said to be in the South.
1900-08-30 Marietta Journal: Nickajack: Concord factory resumed operation last week, to the delight of our community and especially of the operatives. Much credit is due John Rice for getting things in trim for the early starting of the plant.
1902-12-13 Fibre and Fabric: The Concord woolen mills, Nickajack, Ga., have had a busy season under the superintendency of J. W. Mulligan, who comes from a family who have become well known in textile mills. One of his brothers is carder at the Knoxville, Tenn. woolen mills; another one is manager of the Detroit, Mich. Cotton Batting Co.
From the Textile World Record, 1907:
Nicajack. Mrs. J Lindsay Johnson has purchased the Concord Woolen Mills for $25,000. The mills will be continued in operation under management of John C. Prinup.
From the National Register nomination form for the John W. Rice house:
In 1907 John W. Rice retired from business. He sold the Concord Woolen Mills (then known as the Concord Manufacturing Company) and his summer house to Mrs. Annie E. (Gillespie) Johnson of Rome, Georgia. A New York native, she had married in 1876, J. Lindsay Johnson (1855-1915), a native Georgian who was a lawyer in Rome, a planter, a state legislator in the 1880s, and after 1903 publisher of the Rome Tribune. In 1914 he was appointed U. S. Census Bureau Chief in the Philippines, where he then moved. After his death in 1915, his wife assumed control of the Rome newspaper and continued to run the manufacturing operations. Previously, in 1910, she had tried to make arrangements for establishing a colony for Russian Jews in the mill village. This effort made her one of the few Georgians, and even fewer Georgia women, who sought to ameliorate the immigrant problems of the era. Even earlier she had been a founder of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs, and from 1897 to 1901 she served as the Federation’s second statewide president.
A pants factory in Cobb County, The Concord Woolen Mills start operations favorably.
Mr. J Lindsey Johnson, the brilliant editor of the Rome Tribune-Herald, one of the brightest and best of the Georgia dailies, was in to see us last Thursday, and he gave us some information of a new Cobb county enterprise that he started up–a pants factory. He has bought the Concord Woolen Mills, and now has them in operation turning out some excellent cheviot goods of several patterns, that are highly creditable for their strength and beauty. In connection with these manufactured goods, he has his son, Mr. J Gill Johnson, a graduate of the Technological School, as superintendent and general manager. Orders are taken by local agents in different towns, the measurements, etc., and sent in to the factory, where the pants are made, with a guarantee, for $2.00 per pair. E. G. Gilbert & Co. are the local agents for Marietta.
Among the patterns are stripes and solid cheviots, black and brown. His brown are called “Joe Brown” cheviots. Governor-elect Brown will be inaugurated in a new suit of these Cobb county brown cheviots, which will be presented to him by Mr. Johnson.
We are glad to know these famous Concord Woolen Mills have fallen into good hands, and have been started up again under such favorable suspices. It is a Cobb county enterprise and industry, with a capacity of twenty-five dozen pants per day, and ought to be patronized.
They are water-proof, and will wear well, look well, and are in the reach of every man’s pocket. (Marietta Journal, April 8, 1909)
From the 1912 Textile Directory of Mills in Georgia:
Smyrna. E.9. (Marietta 5 miles.) Western & Atl. Ry. (Pop. 600.) Concord Woolen Mills; J. Lindsay Johnson, pres.; A. E. Johnson, treas.; J. G. Johnson, supt.; Woolens; 1 set; 30 looms; dye (raw stock yarn) and finish; water and steam. (Shipping point. Rice, Ga., S. A. L. Ry.)
The following description of the Concord Factory property and buildings was recorded in the Marietta Journal for the Receiver’s Sale on September 10th, 1915:
Receiver’s Sale. Pursuant to an order of the Superior Court of Floyd County, GA in the case of First National Bank et al. vs Concord Manufacturing Co., et al. pending in said court, the undersigned, as Receiver of said Concord Manufacturing Company will sell, before the Court House door, in Cobb County, GA between the regular hours of sale, on the first Tuesday in October, 1915, the following described property: Lots of land Nos. 316, 317, 244, 260, and 170, the east half of 171; and the southwest half of No. 190 divided diagonally, subject to the following reservations, namely reserving the grist mill, now on said lot and the privilege of erecting a new mill, with all the privileges necessary for maintaining and keeping said mill in operation; also part of lot of land no. 191, the same being all that lies west of the road running north from Daniels and Ruffs Mill and South of the old saw mill road being three acres, more or less; also parts of land Nos 172 and 189, the said parts being so much of said lots as lie north or northwest of the south or southwest bank of the Nickajack Creek; also the east half of lot No. 189, described as follows; the line commencing at the bend of the creek south of the grist mill house, and running southeast with the meanderings of the road laid out and located by Robt. Daniel, Samuel Burdine and J D Moss. The road running in the direction of said Burdines to south original line of said lot; also that tract or parcel of land lying east of said road and east of said lot, containing twenty acres, more or less, in the aggregate; the lands heretofore described containing in the aggregate three hundred and thirteen acres, more or less; said land contains a rock factory and machinery, cloth house, card house, goods house, store house, one rock dwelling and several operatives houses; also parts of lots of land Nos 318 and 331, beginning at a point in the middle of Nickajack creek, where said creek crosses the line of lot No. 318, and running thence southwardly in the middle of said creek four hundred and forty one feet, to the right of way of the Southern railway, thence easternly along said right of way seventy feet, thence north four hundred and ten feet to the north line of no 331, thence westerly along the north line of 318 and 331 two hundred and twenty nine feet to the beginning point, containing one and eight tenths, acres, more or less; reserving the right of way through said premises deeded to the S A L Railway; also tract or parcel of land contained in land lots Nos 190 and 243, lying and being on the south side of the Atlanta and Birmingham division of the Seaboard air Line Railway in the seventeenth district and second section of Cobb County, GA. Also all the water rights and privileges conveyed in deed from B Stripling, President and J B Daniel, Secretary of Concord Manufacturing Co., to X A Rice, and others, executed the 20th day of September, 1872 and all the water rights and privileges conveyed by John W Ruff to John Rice and S B Love and all the water rights and privileges conveyed in deeds made by others to the persons under whom John Rice held. All of the foregoing property is described in deeds made on July 22nd, 1907, by John Rice to Mrs. A E Johnson and recorded in Book J. L page 639, in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Cobb County, together with all of the machinery of the defendant, located on said property, and in the building situation on said lands. Said sale will be cash and subject to confirmation by the Superior Court of Floyd County, GA. Geo. H. Magruder. Receiver of the Concord M’f’g. Co.
In 1962, The following historical advertisement ran in the Marietta Daily Journal:
In June of 1996, Engineers added a ghost frame inside the walls of the Woolen Mill to stabilize the structure while the East-West Connector was being built.