Factory Burial Project

Factory section 1

Athens Manufacturing Company

Established in 1830 by John Nesbit and Thomas Baxter, the Athens Manufacturing Company was at one time the second largest cotton mill in Georgia and an integral part of the thriving Athens textile industry. [1] At its height, the company owned several large mills on the banks of the Oconee River, easily making itself the largest textile mill in Athens during the 1800s. The Athens Manufacturing Company played an important role in the culture of Athens throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s, with cradle-to-grave services for its employees that were common during the time. Activities for employees of the company included things like a company baseball team to company awards awarded in categories such as gardening and livestock. [2]

The company began a burial ground for its employees on its premises adjacent to the Oconee Hill Cemetery in the late 1800s and established a burial association in 1899. The Athens Manufacturing Company Burial Association was founded to provide funds to pay for the funerals of employees of the company whose families were unable to cover the expenses themselves. [3] The fate of the burial association, however, is uncertain due to a scarcity of sources concerning the association. Regardless, the Athens Manufacturing Company experienced a steady decline throughout the 1900s, undergoing renaming, rebranding, and a loss of profits. An extended union strike in 1945 severely damaged the already struggling company. [4] In 1950, the Athens Manufacturing Company was purchased by Chicopee Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. [5] At some point during these transitions, the Factory Burial Grounds became incorporated into the management of the Oconee Hill Cemetery, although a lack of sources makes it difficult to determine exactly when this transition of stewardship took place.

            Extensive records of the Athens Manufacturing Company have been found under the Chicopee Manufacturing Company Records in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries. More research into the burial grounds themselves is being conducted, with the approval of Dr. Berry.

 

Sources:

[1] (1897, December 10). Cotton Manufacturing. Athens Daily and Weekly Banner. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/athnewspapers/id:adb1897-0277

[2] (1916, October 14). Opening of the recreation hall at Athens Manufacturing Company. Athens Daily Herald. Retrieved from: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/athnewspapers/id:ahd1916-1799

[3]  (1899, October 27). Burial Association Formed. The Weekly Banner. Retrieved from: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/athnewspapers/id:abw1899-0331  

[4] (2001, December 4) Clarke County's once thriving fiber industry has shrunk considerably. Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved from: http://onlineathens.com/stories/120401/ath_bitextile.shtml#.VyID3HhlzvN

[5] (1950, Dec 15). Athens plant is purchased by chicopee. The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984) Retrieved from http://proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu:80/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1533039943?accountid=14537

Factory Section 2

The People Buried in the Section

While many of the gravestones in the Factory Burial section are sunken, worn away or otherwise gone and Oconee Hill cemetery records were destroyed by a fire in 1897, the remaining headstones and post-1897 interment records can give us a record of some of those buried there, and a glimpse into the lives of those who worked at the factory.

The factory prided itself on taking care of its workers, running a small school for factory children and helping run an Episcopal chapel. They built cottages near the factory, with space for a vegetable garden. In addition, they thought it important to govern the moral lives of their workers, an article in the Southern Banner boasted that they didn’t hire alcoholic men or women who “have compromised their virtue.” There was a very communal, familal atmosphere. In addition to working together, employees often lived together, went to school together and went to church together. [1] The company held events for its workers, such as a barbecue which featured, in addition to food, speakers and awards given to the best flowers and vegetables grown by Athens Manufacturing Company workers [2]. Workers even played on a company baseball team that played other industrial teams around Georgia [3].

Children and teenagers of factory workers were often employed in the factory. Elizabeth and John Allgood are both buried in the factory section, and their oldest children, Charles and James were listed in the 1880 census as working in the cotton mill at ages 14 and 16 [4]. The children of Issac Vincent, another member of the factory section, also worked in the mill at young ages, James at 15 and William at 13 [5]. James continued to work at the factory until his death in 1943 [6]. Working children were such a common feature of Athens, that some local women got together to open the East Athens Night School for children working in factories during the day. It opened in 1897 with ten pupils, and grew to 150 by 1901.[7]

            Lucy Teat was buried in the Factory Burial section in 1927. [8] Her husband, William Teat was a weaver at the Athens Manufacturing Company, and four of their kids, aged 21-15 worked there as well. [9] Her son Thomas Teat appeared in the Athens paper as being on the honor roll as East Athens Night School as well as performing recitations at a year end event to show off what the students learned. He would later grow up to be a “well known decorator” in Athens and painter at the Athens Manufacturing Company. [10] Not all working children went on to similar success, however. Thomas’ older brother Charlie made the news three times in 1890 when the eighteen year old twice tried to rob a store, one of the robberies occurred because he was denied a beer on credit, and was perhaps drunk at the time. His third newsworthy moment was much better, when he got married to Letita Hall, which was newsworthy because she was significantly older than the 18 year old. [11] He continued to work in mills and factories until his death and burial in the factory section.

The Culp family are one of the more notable families buried here, and unlike the Teat family, have many gravestones still standing and legible. Peter Culp moved to Athens in 1860, at the age of 47, and quickly became a beloved figure. The Banner-Watchmen affectionately referred to him as “Uncle Peter” and reported on his garden and published his letters with such frequency he eventually got his own column in the newspaper [12]. While census reports list him as a “farmer” he appeared to be a constant fixture at the factory, presumably living nearby, or tending to the gardens on factory grounds. When delegates from a railroad convention came to Athens, one of the highlights of the trip was visiting the factory and meeting Peter Culp, “the liveliest man of his age in the state” [13]. Him and his wife, Martha Culp, are both buried in the factory grounds as are their son, Reuben H Culp and his wife Elizabeth Dunnaway Culp. Many of Peter Culp’s grandchildren are buried in the factory section with legible gravestones, including Lamar Luther Dottery, a Spanish-American War veteran.  

Jesse Green Blair was buried in Oconee Hill in August of 1889. He married Elizabeth Jane of the more notable Culp family in 1856. Together, Jesse and Elizabeth had three daughters: Emma Alice (1857), Lettie Jane (1859) and Cora C.L. in 1866, who died only one year later. A few years after that, in 1871, Elizabeth Jane passed away as well. Jesse, being left to raise two daughters and earn income for his family, remarried in 1872 to Mary Seagraves. Together, they had a son Ferd Eugene Blair, known affectionately as Ferdy in 1974. [14] During Jesse’s life, he worked in a cotton mill for Athens Manufacturing Company, and as a mason. Evidence of Blair’s masonry background is seen in the picture of his headstone, which is slightly more decadent than most headstones in the factory section. [15] Blair died in 1889, when he was only 50 years old.

Emmett A. Cook was born February 2, 1882. Soon after marrying May Bell Hubert, they settled in Athens, Georgia. Cook was a night watchman for Athens Manufacturing Company. [16] They had two children. Dewey Cook was born in 1909 and died in 1961.During his life, Dewey married Myrtice Cook. Max Hamilton Cook was Emmett’s and May’s second child, who was born in 1919 and died only five years later in 1924.

 

[1] (1871, June 30). Athens Factory. Southern Banner p. 3

[2] (1914, July 12). Barbecue Fine. Athens Banner p. 8

[3] (1926, July 25). Athens Mfg. Company Defeats Milstead Nine. p. 8

[4] 1880 Census

[5] 1900 Census

[6] 1940 Census

[7] (1901, June 16). The East Athens Night School. Athens Daily Banner. p. 18

[8] (1927, December 11). Mrs.Teat to Be Buried Sunday at 3:30 O’Clock Athens Banner-Herald. p. 3

[9] 1900 Census

[10] (1899, July 11) Closing Exercises At Opera House. Athens Daily Banner. p. 1; (1928, June 7) Well Known Athens Citizen Passes Away. Athens Banner-Herald. p.5

[11] (1890, May 27) A White Burgler. Athens Weekly Banner. p. 6; (1890, June 10). Another Attempt. Athens Weekly Banner. P.7; (1890, December 16). Orange Blossoms. Athens Weekly Banner. P.4

[12] (1855, Septebmer 6). Uncle Peter’s account of the Battle of Yorktown Southern Banner. P.1

[13] (1855, July 5). Anxious Athens: Meeting the Deelgates from Morgan and Oconee. Sunday Banner-Watchman. P.1

[14] Marshall, C. T. (2009). Oconee Hill Cemetery of Athens, Georgia. Athens, GA: Athens Historical Society.

[15] Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Blair&GSiman=1&GScid=35965&GRid=32075675&

[16] Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011.