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Bowdon’s threads of history

When my brother and I were growing up, Momma provided for us by working many years in a textile mill.

She was employed at Carroll Mills on Bradley Street. No longer a textile plant, it is now known as Hudson Mill and houses residences on the first floor and businesses on the top floor. I am thankful the building has been preserved as a vital part of Carrollton’s history and the history of the textile industry itself.

That vibrant history and my mother’s part in it, was brought to mind recently at the opening of the Bowdon spur of the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail, hosted by the Bowdon Area Historical Society, the Department of Public History at the University of West Georgia, and the Georgia Humanities. The historical society also hosted a post-tour dinner for the participants.

The Bowdon segment is in an area of town along City Hall Avenue and Commerce Street, which was the home for the various plants of LaMar Manufacturing and Bremen-Bowdon Investment companies.

The tour map, which was created with the assistance of Dick Plunkett, Johnnie Huey and Marjorie and Charles Middlebrooks, starts at City Hall where the first historical plaque is located. Robin Sewell Worley, representing the Sewell family, who were pioneers of the clothing manufacturing industry in this area, presented the opening remarks. Worley, Dick Plunkett and Dr. Elizabeth Plunkett Buttimer (all grandchildren of Warren Sewell) provided input for the textile trail project.

The tour was directed by curator Chanell Lowery of the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia which is the home for the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail project. She is also a graduate student at the university.

Others working on the trail project included Dr. Ann McCleary and Keri Adams of the university and a local committee of Carole Theune, Johnnie Huey, Mignon Wessinger and Judy Rowell.

Most of the information in this column is based on excerpts from Chanell Lowery’s tour narrative and other printed brochures provided at the tour.

The first kiosk at City Hall shows history highlights of the development of Bowdon and its textile industry that once employed some 2,500 people. Bremen-Bowdon Investment Company, which according to Mrs. Buttimer, president of the company, is still the largest private employer in Bowdon, employing many making military uniforms in the apparel industry.

The tour includes 13 stops of three free-standing kiosks and 10 plaques at the various plants which were a part of the clothing manufacturing process. These buildings are now homes for restaurants and other businesses.

The operations include the plants where parts of clothing were manufactured: pockets for jackets; facings and linings; backs for coats; the offices for LaMar Manufacturing Company, which was founded in 1955 by Lamar Plunkett and his wife Frances Sewell Plunkett, and the personal office of Mr. Plunkett; Fabrication Shop No. 1, which was the first plant built by LaMar Manufacturing after the company was already established in Bowdon; the sales and marketing division for LaMar Manufacturing which was Bowdon Manufacturing Company; a pants shop, the press and finishing, inspection and shipping departments; a cafeteria for plant workers known as the Dayroom.

Adjacent to the Dayroom was Fabrication Shop No. 2 where the parts came together to make a suit coat or a sport coat. On the other side of Shop 2 was the first parts shop where components like sleeves, collars, backs, etc. were completed to be sewn to the front of the coat to complete it.

The last stop of the tour is the main office of Bremen-Bowdon Investment Company which, according to the brochure “From Cotton to Suits — Exploring Carroll County’s Textile Stories,” was the first major apparel industry in Bowdon and was established in 1946 by Warren Sewell.

According to the tour information, brothers Robert and Warren Sewell had opened a men’s apparel distribution company in Atlanta in 1918. In 1928, they, along with brother Roy, moved the headquarters to Bremen, and in 1933 they opened a third plant in Bowdon.

Part of the Bowdon textile history includes the fact that clothing for President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter was made by LaMar Manufacturing Company. One of President Carter’s suits made in Bowdon is on display at the Bowdon Area Historical Society Museum.

Momma didn’t make clothing. She ran a machine she called a “winder” which rewound thread from one shape spool to another of a different shape, as best as I recall from the times I would stop in to deliver her supper.

I wonder what pieces of clothing or other textile items might have been made from the miles of thread she rewound.

Bill Fordham is a Bowdon resident and retired journalist.

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