Decatur textile mill connected to Agnes Scott College benefactor

George Washington Scott. Courtesy: Agnes Scott College
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George Washington Scott. Courtesy: Agnes Scott College

Q: I read the article about Agnes Scott and was fascinated with the history. You mentioned two sons, U.S. Sen. John Scott and Col. George Washington Scott, a successful businessman in Georgia and Florida. Could Col. George Washington Scott or anyone in this family be involved in Scottdale Cotton Mills?

—Carren Sellers, Sandy Springs

A: This family is the namesake and builder of the Scottdale textile mills, which opened in 1901 in Decatur and closed in 1982. The mill complex was located on the west side of East Ponce de Leon Avenue, where Clarendon Avenue now intersects the road.

Col. Scott invested part of his wealth from a successful fertilizer business into the mills, his great-grandson, David Scott, who worked there, said in a DeKalb History Center interview. The operation covered 16 acres and produced textiles to wear and use in the home as well as for tents and military uniforms.

“I can remember in my early days at the mill, farmers would begin bringing in their cotton to the gin from around two o’clock in the morning so as to get a good place in line and not have to wait so long for service,” Milton Candler Scott, Col. Scott’s grandson, said in a DeKalb History Center oral history recording.

The mill village, on about 30 acres, employed “male and female workers for whom the mill management built housing, provided medical care and operated a general store. Like other textile mills, Scottdale was really a self-contained village,” according to info on the Library of Congress website.

The mill, which had about 600 workers, closed due to international competition.

Born in Pennsylvania and the fourth son of John and Agnes Irvine Scott, Col. Scott’s connection to Georgia dates to 1850, when he left the Northeast in his early 20s in search of a warmer climate due to ailing health, Milton Candler Scott said.

A diary entry, he said, notes that Scott arrived in Decatur on Oct. 30, 1850. In an entry the next day, he described Atlanta as “the most stirring place of the size that I have ever seen. I suppose I saw between two hundred and three hundred wagons in town today, principally hauling cotton.”

Scott spent the next year in Quincy, Fla., before moving to Tallahassee in 1852, where he opened a mercantile, according to “The Story of George Washington Scott, 1829-1903,” by Betty Pope Scott Noble. He led the Fifth Florida Cavalry Battalion during the Civil War, according to the Florida state archives.

When he returned to Decatur in 1877, opened a fertilizer manufacturing plant in the town of Edgewood. Then in 1897, he constructed Atlanta’s Century Building, now known as the Flatiron Building, on Peachtree Street.

Scott donated money to the Decatur Female Seminary, which was renamed Agnes Scott Institute in 1890 in honor of his mother and would become Agnes Scott College. He died on Oct. 3, 1903, two years after Scottdale Mill began operations.

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