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Who are the 'Lost Mill Workers of Roswell'?

While modern Roswell is known for its thriving restaurant scene on Canton Street, antique shops and community events like Alive After Five, it’s also steeped in history dating back to the 1800s. Here’s a few things you might not know about the city that will change the way you see it on your next visit.

A version of this story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Living Northside magazine.

1. Roswell was founded as a cotton mill town.

The Roswell we see today is an extension of the vision of Roswell King, a businessman and manager of slave plantations in Darien and St. Simons. He built the cotton mills of Roswell Manufacturing Company in 1838 by utilizing the power of the Chattahoochee River and Vickery Creek. King built a community of houses for his workers and offered land to family and friends from the coast to build homes.

2. The city was home to Native Americans before the Trail of Tears.

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Roswell was home to several Native Americans who were forcibly removed from the land by the United States Indian Removal Act of 1830. “Although people come here because of Roswell’s charm, many do not know why we are in this spot or what happened — the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians [known as the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma] to make land available,” says Marsha Saum, a fourth generation Roswellite and Cherokee descendant. Saum is also tourism sales manager of the Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau.

3. Many people received their land through lotteries during the gold rush.

Before the area became what we know to be Roswell, it was divided into land lots and gold lots, although technically there was no gold here. It was, however, discovered in Dahlonega. Some residents sold their land, including some taken from the Cherokees, to Roswell King.

4. Roswell was greatly affected by the Civil War.

Roswell officially became a city in 1854. Ten years later, the Civil War devastated the mills, which had been producing cloth for Confederate military supplies. Union troops arrested 400 workers, mainly women and children and charged them with treason. They were banished north, and many were never heard from again. They became known as the “Lost Mill Workers of Roswell.” A monument to them was erected in 2000 in Sloan Street Park.

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