Friday, April 23, 2010

23 April 1897: First Factory in Georgia "Run By Electric Current."

On this day in 1897, the Athens Weekly Banner ran a story announcing that the Check Factory would become the first cotton mill in Georgia to use electric power. They would get their power from the Athens Electric Railway Company's Mitchell's Bridge hydroelectric plant.

According to the paper, the move from steam power to electric was "a chance to save money" for the Check Factory's owner, Athens Manufacturing Company. It would be several weeks until new motors could be installed, but that
Then the power will be turned on from Mitchell's bridge and Athens will furnish the first cotton mill in Georgia driven by electricity.

That sight will be one well worth seeing and will be a notable event not only in the history of Athens but also of Georgia.

The president of Athens Manufacturing Company was Asbury Hull Hodgson, who in the 1880s had served two terms as Mayor, overseeing the installation of electric street lights in the business district of town. Athens Electric Railroad Company was the primary electricity source in the county, and also provided power to some downtown businesses, as well as for the streetcars that ran through town.

The Check Factory was actually the Athens Manufacturing Company's weaving mill that was known for the "Daisy Checks" gingham fabric they produced and distributed nationwide. In 1862, the land and buildings were converted into the Cook & Brother Armory by Francis L. Cook and Ferdinand W. C. Cook, but were purchased by Robert L. Bloomfield's Athens Manufacturing Company in 1870.

By the mid-1890s, the factory employed hundreds of people and had over 200 weaving looms. In 1947, Johnson & Johnson's Chicopee Mills subsidiary bought the property, later deeding it to the University of Georgia after it closed the mill in 1978. Today, UGA uses the property as their Physical Plant.

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