Echoes Of Civil War’s Past

Published on June 20, 2021

The Roswell Mill sits at the edge of Vickery Creek. A short drive north of Atlanta, it is part of the trail network in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. At its entrance, visitors can cross a covered bridge, leading them deeper into the trail where you are thrust into a forest of lush ferns and greenery.

Roswell Mill Covered Bridge

A Mother’s Day trip to the mill’s location was right up my alley. Like most historical places in Georgia, it’s nestled amongst trees right off of a busy road. A hidden waterfall and scenic trail located right in the center of downtown Roswell, it’s the perfect day trip for an easy hike. And, of course, it’s haunted.

Trail at Roswell Mill/ Vickery Creek

Sounds Of The Past

Over the years, nearby residents have reported hearing clanking noises as if metal were banging against metal. And blood-curdling screams are often reported coming from the area when no one is around. With no occupational safety measures during the days of its operation, workers were often injured, some as severe as having their limbs torn from their bodies. Could these be their sounds of agony echoing through the woods?

The site is stunning, and it was the ideal location to build the mill as the natural water source provided the power needed to operate it. With a waterfall not far from the old machine shop, the soothing ambiance and tropical-like scenery make the sight a fun and relaxing destination for all to visit. And if you're lucky, you may even have a paranormal experience.

Waterfall at Roswell Mill

Built, in 1839, like most places in the metro Atlanta area, it witnessed the horrors and tragedy of the Civil War. Constructed to be a cotton mill, it was one of many mills that lined Vickery Creek. Numerous buildings once sat along the water's edge, where they housed workers of the mill. Today, the only original building standing is the old machine shop.

During the war, all men capable of fighting were sent off to battle, leaving the women and children behind. The women of Roswell took over running the mill in order to earn a living while the men were off fighting. Many of whom brought their children along to work beside them as there were no other options for childcare during that time. The children were used as laborers and put to work just as long and hard as the adults. Because of their small and nimble fingers, the children were used to fix broken pieces of thread when they snapped in the machines. They would run between the working parts of the moving machinery, tie broken threads together and rush back out. You can only imagine the number of injuries that took place.

Roswell Mill Ruins
Roswell Mill Ruins

A Fight For Survival

Union soldiers eventually took the city of Roswell. General William T. Sherman instructed his men to burn the buildings of the mill when it was discovered that the workers were manufacturing the grey uniforms for the Confederate army. In an attempt to claim neutrality, a French worker of the mill flew a French flag above the roof. But the attempt failed, and the Union army burned all of the buildings to the ground. Some residents tried to hide within the buildings when General Sherman charged all remaining workers with treason. Some reports say that it is likely there were fatalities during those fires from people trapped inside. In the end, over 400 women and children were rounded up, arrested, and put on box car trains to the North.

General Sherman received substantial backlash and outrage from the North, and the prisoners were never tried for treason. Though many had already died on the journey, and those who survived were never able to return home to Georgia.

Old Machine Shop of Roswell Mill

Today, it is not uncommon for visitors to glimpse apparitions of women and children roaming the grounds along the water's edge, or to hear screams coming from the boarded-up machine shop. Could these be the lost souls who were forced from their homes, returning to finish their work? Could the flowing waters of the creek be fueling the haunting, providing the energy needed for spirits to manifest? Or are these the residual haunts from wounded mill workers who suffered within its walls?

If you do visit, be sure to look for the signs of old foundations of buildings that once stood. Hidden beneath piles of dirt, moss and vegetation, the fallen bricks hold the stories of what took place. And, take a moment to listen carefully. You many just hear the sounds of the past echoing beside you.

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