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Our History: The Green Rice Mill on Anneewakee Creek

The area at that time was a wilderness with few folks in the area. It was a full thirty years before Douglas County would exist and at that time the city of Douglasville wasn’t even a thought.

Our History: The Green Rice Mill on Anneewakee Creek

Anneewakee Creek rises to the south of Douglasville and runs southeastward to join the Chattahoochee River at a point a little downstream and opposite the site of the old town of Campbellton.

The name is from the Cherokee language -- possibly from a Cherokee family name. Some researchers think members of this family might have lived along the creek. However, I need to point out Anneewakee Creek actually flows through land that was part of the Creek Nation….not the Cherokee. 

A Cherokee name in Creek Country is not so strange because around 1815 Cherokees were under the impression they would be able to settle on Creek lands as far south as today’s Heard County. In fact, there was a section of land designated as no-man’s land that ran from the river up to and across the ridge where Broad Street is in downtown Douglasville where both tribes hunted. It makes sense there would be some overlapping and mixture. The boundaries kept changing as white settlers began moving in and began their plans to seize Native American lands no matter which tribe claimed the lands.  

In 1821, both tribes agreed to yet another boundary line that began at Buzzard’s Roost Island on the Chattahoochee River where Douglas and Cobb Counties meet and ran westward to the Coosa River in Alabama.

The line passed far above the head of Anneewakee Creek.

When looking to early industry in Douglas County you have to zero in on the area along Anneewakee Creek. By the 1830s two important mills were situated on the creek and shared a property line. I wrote about the Alston Arnold mill here.

Today I want to turn the spotlight on the mills originally belonging to William Ely Green who came to Georgia via his home state of New Jersey in 1831. Green brought along his wife, Mary Stiles Green, and their children. His first stop was the area of Georgia where Morgan, Oconee, and Walton Counties converge.

An article by Arden Williams at the New Georgia Encyclopedia advises “after the War of 1812 some southern leaders, in an attempt to duplicate the prosperity of cotton mills in New England, built textile factories in the South.  Many of the earliest factories were in Morgan and Wilkes County. The idea faltered a little, but due to an economic depression in 1837 alternative sources of revenue for southern businessmen was needed, and the mills began to prosper.”

William Green and his family were welcomed to Georgia by a relative…. Ephraim Stiles Hopping….Mary Stiles Green’s cousin.   Hopping had been living in Georgia since 1825 when after graduating from Princeton he headed south to accept a teaching job at the University of Georgia. Then he decided he would build a mill.

The 1840 census shows William Ely Green living in Morgan County, and by 1846 Hopping’s High Shoals Factory was in full operation and remained so for years, however, at some point Green and Hopping parted ways.  Perhaps they had a disagreement, perhaps they had an amicable parting, or perhaps Green wanted to stake a claim of his own where new unclaimed lands awaited near Campbellton, Georgia following the Indian Removal.

At any rate Green did purchase a strip of land along Anneewakee Creek that Fannie Mae Davis describes as “laying off Anneewakee Road.”  It was there William Ely Green began a couple of mills – one for making cotton cloth and thread and a second mill for creating rope. My research indicates the rope mill was the only one at the time in north Georgia. Both mills were fully operational by 1840, but the process could not have been easy. 

The area at that time was a wilderness with few folks in the area. It was a full thirty years before Douglas County would exist and at that time the city of Douglasville wasn’t even a thought. The area where our old courthouse stands today was merely an intersection of Indian trails close to an old skint chestnut tree.

Green had to physically clear the land with no modern equipment other than an ax.  Once trees were cleared those same trunks had to be fashioned to use for building structures. It was back breaking and time consuming work. There were no corner groceries, so the family had to set to planting crops immediately to sustain them.

Fannie Mae Davis’ information regarding Mr. Green and his mill explains census records for 1850 and into the Civil War years clearly shows both mills employed men and women on an equal basis.  For the most part women didn’t work outside the home during antebellum years, but a few women were forced to out of need. Mrs. Davis names one such woman – a 65-year old widow named Mary Frails.   She worked in the mill alongside two of her daughters.

Besides providing jobs for those in need Mr. Green’s mills also provided an important market closer to the folks who were raising cotton along the Chattahoochee River and on the Chapel Hill plantations.  

Green then shipped his finished products out to various towns that existed near and far.  He used ox drawn wagons as his method of transport.   Davis states, “A round trip to Atlanta took the wagons four days….a trip to Villa Rica would take two days.”

One of Green’s first team drivers was Wylie Preston Tackett.  He began driving a wagon for the mills in 1848 when he was only ten years old!   Driving the wagons was lonely and dangerous work. The roads weren’t roads that we know today. They might have followed some of the same routes but they were more or less Indian trails that were barely wide enough for wagons let alone people. Wild animals such as wolves and mountain lions were prevalent.

Some of the towns could be a little scary, too.  In 1848, Villa Rica was a rough and rowdy gold mining town.

Fannie Mae Davis advises her source for the information regarding Tackett comes from a written account his daughter left behind following her death in the 1960s. The daughter advised Tackett held the job driving the wagons until he was 23.  At that point he volunteered to serve in the Confederate army.

The area surrounding Green’s mills became a little community since he and the neighboring mill Alston Arnold owned provided housing for many of the workers.  A thriving community store was set up to help those who lived in the community.  Arnold’s property adjoined Green’s tract of land making the area along the banks of Anneewakee Creek.  

In fact, the area was populated to the point that Campbell County leaders placed a district courthouse in the area much like our own mini-courthouses (see my article here) from the past. The district courthouse was basically a rough log cabin and when it was not in use for government purposes it served as a school as well as a religious meeting house.  I know that seems strange today with the constant cry for the separation of church and state, but this was a frontier of sorts.  Necessity was more important than matters involving how a government building was being used. Since public education didn’t exist at the time the school would have been a private concern and folks could make a choice regarding sending their children.  There was also a post office. The Anneewakee Factory Post Office was a log structure on Green’s property. Fannie Mae Davis states the building stood until well into the 20th Century.

Of course, the mill provided Green and his growing family with a nice living.   It is reported he had one of the first fancy buggies in the area.    His transport wagons were known to carry cotton cloth and rope out to customers, but would return with such things as a fancy cook stove for his wife’s kitchen and a piano for his daughters to play from such places as Charleston.

The Green mills survived the Civil War even though Union soldiers were aware they existed. Perhaps Green’s Yankee heritage helped him keep his property intact.

Even so, the Civil War impacted William Ely Green and his family.  His son Henry Martyn Green was killed in action at the Battle of Fort Stevens near Silver Spring, Maryland.  Green’s first-born, Robert Edgar Green also served in the Confederate Army. He came home from the war and attended medical school while overseeing some of the operations at the mill, but he soon tired of it.  Mill work wasn’t for him.   Dr. Green departed for Gainesville where he would end up making his home.   He actually began the city’s first street car line and served as Gainesville’s mayor in 1879. 

William Ely Green eventually sold his business to his son-in-law, Major Zechariah A. Rice.  Major Rice served in Cobb’s Legion during the early days of the Civil War, and during the last months of the war he was an officer with the Fulton County Home Guard.  Fannie Mae Davis quotes the deed of sale as, “Deed book U, page 504, for 870 acres of land lots 100, 101, 102, 103, 112, 113, 1st District, 5th Section, Douglas County – Factory House and all machinery appertaining to it.”

Major Rice and his wife Louise lived on the property, but he maintained his interests in Atlanta as well. Rice was actually returning to a “home place” of sorts.  You see, Rice’s mother was a member of the Bomar family and his grandfather….Armistead or A.R. Bomar built the Sprayberry-Henley home I wrote about here.

Wylie Preston Tackett returned from the war as a captain and became Rice’s foreman. Fannie Mae Davis states Tackett, “operated the factory and rope business almost single-handedly.” He and his family….wife Melissa J. Underwood Tackett and his daughter Ella Virginia (1870-1956) lived in the area. Tackett was also a Mason. He died in 1907 and is buried at New Hope Baptist in the Chapel Hill area.

While the business did continue after the Civil War it never operated at the same level as it did before the war. William Ely Green died on April 14, 1867 and is buried in Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery (see my article here) in Block 95, Lot 1.

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