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The west side mill property

Tallasseee in Pictures:
Mount Vernon Mills

By Michael Butler

After the exodus of Native Americans from the area in the 1830s, better known as the “Trail of Tears,” textile mills became the foundation for Tallassee.

Indian agent and visionary Benjamin Hawkins wrote of Tallassee’s potential for industrial growth in his “Sketches of the Creek Country.”

“The narrow margin between the hills and river is convenient for a canal for mills on an extensive scale, and to supply a large area of flat land around the town.”

Thomas Barnett and William Marks purchased land from Barent DuBois and built the second cotton factory in Tallassee in 1844.  It would become the state’s second to be put into service.

E.W. Wadsworth wrote about the mill’s origins in his book, “A History of Tallassee.” “The early factory was built of gray rock quarried in the immediate vicinity of the falls.”

A Tallassee Carbine at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

In 1852 another mill began construction. The General Assembly of Alabama passed an act incorporating “Tallassee Manufacturing Company, Mill Number One.” Mill Number “One,” Tallassee’s second mill, was also called the Main Mill.

During the Civil War, Tallassee Mills manufactured carbines for the Confederate government.

Wadsworth noted, “150 hands turned out 150 carbines a week.  By 1864 it had turned out 6,000.”

The carbines are a rare find today. One was on display for years at the Smithsonian Museum. It now is kept in storage there.

Men, women and children were employed by the mills. According to Wadsworth, “Working hours in the early days were long, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a few minutes off for dinner.  Men in those days made from $8.00 to $12.00 per month, and women at this time made considerably less than men. Children from six to fourteen years of age averaged from $3.00 to $6.00 per month.

Spinning Room Section Supervisors at Mill No. 2 (left to right): Alva McClellan, Jesse Yates, John Miller. Courtesy of THPS. Bill Goss, "Images of America."

“Children were “put to work” when they were six or seven year old. The early overseers like parents and teachers in their day, believed in “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Frequently, the overseer resorted to whippings to get “better” work from the children employed.”

Wadsworth continued in his “History” noting how families were large with “five or six” working in the mills.  “In a few cases the father sat at home or “hunted and fished” while the children worked.”

Work on the east side mills began in 1897, which would be called Mill Number Two.  The extension of that mill was completed in 1925, known as Mill Number Three.

On April 7, 1943, more than 7,500 gathered at the Tallassee Mills as it received the prestigious “E” Award given by the U.S. Government during WWII for excellence and efficiency in the production of war materials. The mills were given the award again in 1944 and ’45.

The mills ceased operations in 2005, closing its doors after 161 continuous years of operation. In 2016, an extensive fire caused irreparable damage to the east side mill.

"To browse for a few hours in the peace and comfort of our bookshelves and to look out upon such a panorama of beauty refreshes one's soul."

That setting tha McCoy described is the same today. The libary on the east bank of the river, came to life in the early 1920s.

Panoramic view of the mills from Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge

East side mill property one year after the fire that did colossal damage

The 1951 Mount Vernon Mills Baseball Team

1980 pic of the west side mill
Courtesy of Suzannah Solomon Wilson

1908 poster indicating toll rates
Courtesy of Tallassee Falls Museum

East side mill in the 1970s

East side mill ablaze in 2016

Firefighters braved the raging inferno on May 5, 2016

E-Day at Mount Vernon Mills, 1944
Courtesy of Bill Goss, "Images of America"

Mill in 2017

Then and Now

Vintage shot from hillside near mills steps on east side next to filter plant

Early days of mill in Tallassee

Sign offering reward in the 1920 mill robbery

Early 1900s mill clock and label
Courtesy of Trey Taylor

Before and after the fire

Estinguishing the flames

Overhead shot as the fire still smolders

Entry to former front offices of east side mill the day after the fire

The east side mill site in shambles

Drone snaphot by David Lawrence

1913 Artist's Rendering

Another view from east looking west
Courtesy of Bill Goss, "Images of America"

East side mill
Circa 1980
Courtesy of Suzannah Solomon Wilson

Spinning room workers (l to r): J.H. Hagood, Howard Taylor, Bob Yates, Luther Lambert.
Courtesy of THPS

Bill Goss displays billfolds at the Tallassee Falls Museum issued by Tallapoosa Milling Company

1899 Bilbrey Photograph

1970s era photo of mill personnel

East side mill during deconstruction

Tallassee Redevelopment Authority clean up on the west side mill grounds

Looking westward from the mill property over the former train trestle that connected the mills

Early 1900s picture of Mill No. 3
Bill Goss - "Images of America"

Cooper Brothers concept plans for mill properties

More concept plans courtesy of Cooper Brothers

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