Muscogee County - Clapp Factory - Deeds


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Story of Clapp Railroad

Similar Factories in Columbus Area

Historical Ownership

A brief history of the chain of ownership of the mill operations known as CLAPP's Factory in (now Columbus) Muscogee Co, GA

Note:  All of the following entries are believed to pertain to various companies that have owned the facility popularly known through the years as CLAPP's Factory.  Instances of contradictory information or different dates for the same event result from conflicting accounts in various sources.  - jml

1832 - Construction begins for a small textile mill called Clapp's Factory.

1834 - The earliest mention of a mill location in Muscogee County is the “Columbus Merchant Mills,” completed in 1834 and run by James Shivers and Co., which is located three miles above Columbus.  

The Columbus Cotton Factory, begun in 1834, is not completed until 1838.

In 1834 construction of the Columbus Factory three miles north of the city begins; however, work is delayed by the Creek War. Operating by 1838, J. R. CLAPP becomes its primary investor in the 1840´s.  Thereafter, it was always identified with him.

1835-36 - A successful cotton and woolen mill, with grist and flouring mill, are in operation, owned by Charles D. STEWART, Mr. ROBERSON, and Mr. SHIVERS.  

1837 - The factory and mill property [of Messrs. STEWART, ROBERSON, and SHIVERS] is bought by Charles D. STEWART, J. R. CLAPP, and E. [or Isaac?] C. CHANDLER, who will run the mill until 1848…Messrs. CLAPP, CHANDLER and STEWART are successfully and most profitably employed in manufacturing several descriptions of cotton goods. We have heard of other ompanies formed or to be formed.

1838 - 'Columbus Cotton Factory' is in operation in 1838. Three years later (than 1834 or 1838?) Adiel SHERWOOD mentions a cotton mill "three miles above Columbus on the Chattahoochee. "… The Columbus Factory is in operation by 1838, 'spinning cotton, yarn and carding wool.'

1840´s - J. R. CLAPP becomes a primary investor in the Columbus Factory; thereafter, it is always identified with him.  

1848 - The factory and mill property is bought by John FONTAINE, Julius R. CLAPP, Henry V. MEIGS, and Charles D. STEWART, with a charter granted by Robert B. ALEXANDER, Judge of the Superior Court.  The enterprise is now called the Columbus Factory, with Charles D. STEWART as president.  

1849 “Columbus Factory,” which commenced in 1834, is incorporated, “the location of the Factory to be three or four miles above Columbus on the river.”  The leading incorporators of the “Columbus Factory” are Charles D. STEWART, John FONTAINE, Henry D. [sic] MEIGS, J. R. CLAPP and George STEWART, said to be brothers and brothers-in-law.   The mill generally known as CLAPP's Factory is operated before and after the war by the Columbus Manufacturing Company.

1856 - The Clapp's Factory Cemetery is in use by this date, and probably before (said to be on the site of an old Native American burial ground).

1865 - CLAPP's Factory mill is burned by General Wilson's command, when the federal troops take Columbus and burn all the factories on April 17, 1865.  All of the stock in the company is owned by J. R. CLAPP and James METCALF.  In September, Messrs. CLAPP and METCALF form a partnership and give a contract for a new, three-story building to be constructed by January 1866.  The contract is given to Horace KING.

1866 - Although it is incorporated as the “Columbus Manufacturing Company,” this mill, as well as the previous one, is known as CLAPP's Factory.  One of the leading stockholders is a Mr. TODD, brother-in-law of General R. H. CHILTON (CSA), who is president; Robert B. GUNBY, is secretary and treasurer.

1867 - The company becomes Columbus Manufacturing Company, with R. H. CHILTON as president.

1876 - Julius R. CLAPP dies; he has remained in active control of CLAPP's Factory up until this time.  

1878 - The CLAPP's Factory mill is still in operation, with R. H. CHILTON as president and A. ILLGES as secretary.  The office of the company was in town at 32 Randolph Street (12th Street) .

1880 - The Columbus Manufacturing Company (“CLAPP's Factory”), which is located two and a half miles north of Columbus on the Chattahoochee River, is operating 4,296 spindles and 134 looms.  The officers are:  J. Rhodes BROWNE, president; A. ILLGES, secretary; R. B. GUNBY, treasurer.  Directors are:  J. Rhodes BROWN, C. E. DEXTER, Charles PHILLIPS, T. M. N. PHILLIPS, John PEABODY, A. ILLGES, and Joseph KYLE.  The property of the company covers 800 acres of land, 170 of which are on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee.

1880´s - The Columbus Manufacturing Company is not so profitable as in the years immediately following the Civil War.

bef. 1884 - CLAPP's Factory is sold and bought by a few bondholders, Messrs. BROWNE, ILLGES, GARRARD, and CLAPP, to be run under a new charter as the Chattahoochee Falls Company [another source says this transaction occurred in 1886].

1884 - CLAPP's Factory closes [another source says it ceased operation in 1887].

1886 - The CLAPP's Factory property is bought by the Chattahoochee Falls Company, which is owned by A. ILLGES, J. Rhodes BROWN and others [another source says before 1884].  The Chattahoochee Falls Company is later absorbed into the Stone and Webster Company, which also becomes the parent company of the Columbus Electric and Power Company.

1887 - The CLAPP's Factory mill ceases operation [another source says 1884].

[1899 - The Columbus Manufacturing Company is organized; this is the same name as above, but a new, different company, with operations in Columbus proper, between the Eagle & Phenix and the Bibb Mills.]

1900 - The machinery in CLAPP's Factory mill is broken down and sold as scrap iron by Mr. KNOX of Auburn, Alabama.

1901 - Apparently, the Chattahoochee Falls Company still owns the property, but the owners are prepared to sell out.  

1902 - The Columbus Power Company becomes a property of the Stone and Webster Corporation of Boston, Massachusetts, which continues thereafter to expand the operations of the company.

1904 - The Clapp's Factory Cemetery is still being used for burials as of this date.

1906 - All of the Columbus power companies merge under the Stone and Webster Company.

ca. 1908 - The CLAPP's Factory property has been bought by the Columbus Power Company, and four to five million in gold bonds have been issued to improve the property.  There is hope that the mill will soon be in operation again.  

19 MAR 1910 - The old, wooden, three-story CLAPP's Factory mill building burns [another source says 1908].

1922 - The Columbus Power Company becomes the Columbus Electric and Power Company, which in time is tied in with the distribution system of the South Georgia Power Company, and eventually is merged with the Georgia Power Company, head quartered in Atlanta.  Georgia Power owns the property today (2002).

1950´s - Oliver Dam is constructed near the former site of CLAPP's Factory.

Contact:  John Mallory Land/205 N. College St./McKinney, TX/75069-3823/(214) 544-0770/

Similar Factories in Columbus Area

Other Mills in Muscogee County, Georgia

“Textile Mills,” historical marker at Heritage Park Venue in Columbus, Georgia

Because of the tremendous waterpower generated by the Chattahoochee, Columbus quickly became the “Lowell of the South” and remained a major southern textile center.  In 1851, William H. YOUNG organized the Eagle Mill.  It quickly became the largest textile operation in the city and, by the 1870s, the largest in the South.  G. Gunby JORDAN and W. C. BRADLEY reorganized the company in 1896, and BRADLEY served as its president from 1916 until his death in 1947.  JORDAN and BRADLEY in 1900 organized Bibb Mill, which grew into the largest mill in the South under one roof.  In 1867, George Parker SWIFT organized Muscogee Manufacturing Company, which became the city's most profitable mill.  Its early directors included George P. SWIFT, Jr., A. ILLGES, and Edward W. SWIFT, who became president of the company in 1897.  A few years later, Edward W. SWIFT, along with A. ILLGES, J. P. ILLGES, and Clifford J. SWIFT, organized Swift Spinning Mills, which spun cotton  into fine yarns.  By 1910, over 10,000 men and women worked in the city's textile mills.


Cotton and Textile Mills in East Alabama

“My Father's family lived in Beulah, Lee County, Alabama, and a lot of them worked in the cotton mills.  These mills were located in Chambers County.  Each little town seemed to have its own mill, i.e. Langdale, Fairfax, Shawmutt, Riverview, Lannett, etc. These were cotton mills owned by West Point Pepperell, and the dates are 20-30 years after what you queried about [1880], but I thought I would drop you a line because I am interested in the mill families and their lives.   The workers had such hard lives and, with the way the system was set up, there was just no way to get ahead.   Lannett, Alabama and West Point, Georgia are towns that are side by side, just in different states.  As a child, I lived in what was then Langdale, where my Father had been born and raised.  All of the little towns I mentioned (with the exception of Lannett) have merged now into one town called Valley, Alabama - as in Chattahoochee Valley.   Valley has a Public Library and also a Historical Society, I think.” -  Pam in VA

The postmark says Fairfax, AL, 3 p.m. 23 NOV 1956, and the card was sent by an unknown party to Mr. & Mrs. Arn McLay (or perhaps McCoy) in Brownsburg, Indiana. Imprint reads:  “ Genuine Curteich - Chicago “C. T. American Art”  Post Card (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.)

 West Point is in Troup Co, GA.  The following is excerpted from "Columbus on the Chattahoochee," by Etta Blanchard Worsley (1951): “The third dam constructed since 1900 was the Bartlett's Ferry dam (completed in 1926) on the Chattahoochee, 21 miles north of Columbus. The Bartlett's Ferry reservoir created by the great dam made a beautiful sheet of water known as Lake Harding. This reservoir has two main arms - the Chattahoochee river and Halawaka creek - and covers an area of nearly ten square miles, extending up the river to the dam at Riverview, where the West Point Manufacturing Company interests begin, a distance of 10.5 miles.”

"Property on which the cemetery is located is owned by the Georgia Power Co., which purchased it from the Clapp family about 30 years ago [or ca. 1925]." [Article in the Columbus Enquirer, 04 FEB 1955, pp. 1 and 8].

But the article from the Atlanta Constitution, 13 FEB 1901, Part II, p. 2, states: " 1886 the property passed into the hands of the present owners, the Chattahoochee Falls Company. The old mill stopped running in 1887, and has not been in operation since."

F. Clason KYLE, on p. 139 of "Images: A Pictorial History of Columbus, Georgia," says that "...the Chattahoochee Falls Company, owned by A. Illges, J. Rhodes Browne and others, was absorbed into Stone and Webster and [later] the Columbus Electric and Power Company."

And according to Etta Blanchard WORSLEY in "Columbus on the Chattahoochee," p. 377: "...the old wooden dam was of no value, and subsequently the property was purchased by the Stone and Webster Company, and became in time a part of the holdings of the Columbus Electric and Power Company."

KYLE, p. 102, says that "all the [Columbus] power companies merged under the Stone and Webster Company in 1906." WORSLEY mentions on p. 397, that: "The Columbus [Electric and Power Company] system was tied in with the distribution system of the South Georgia Power Company, and in time was merged with the Georgia Power Company, with headquarters in Atlanta. Edwin M. Clapp is local vice-president and general manager of the expanding utility [as of 1951]."

So it seems to me that the first statement above, that the Clapp family sold the property in the 1920's to the Georgia Power Co., or anyone else, does not jive with the other source material I have found so far. Does anyone have any other information or references that might shed light on this matter?

P. S. The 1901 Atlanta Constitution article was optimistic: "...the new industrial spirit is sweeping up the Chattahoochee from Columbus. It has already chained the river at Lovers' Leap, and built two big cotton mills [one of these is evidently the Bibb Mill organized by G. Gunby JORDAN and William Clark BRADLEY in 1900] just a little over a mile from the old factory, and that it will seize the Chattahoochee Falls property and put new life into the place is a foregone conclusion."

This was not to be. WORSLEY says the three-storied Clapp's Factory mill building burned in 1908. However, the Atlanta Constitution article says it was four stories, and KYLE in "Images" says the three-storied building burned on 19 MAR 1910.

Clapp Railroad

I've been checking some more on the "Narrow Gauge Road," on which Worsley states that there was a railroad station named "Clapp's." I suspect it was the Columbus & Rome line (see below), which was narrow gauge, as opposed to standard gauge. There may even have been a short track connecting Clapp's Factory to the main line heading north out of Columbus to Hamilton. I have seen the Columbus & Rome Road on maps, but have not captured any of the images. I'll try to get one that I can post. I had wondered why it was called the Columbus & Rome Road - the history of this rail line explains that. Note that the town of Chipley mentioned in this passage is present-day Pine Mountain.
Columbus & Rome RR Chartered in 1871 as the North & South RR of Georgia in hopes of building a line from Columbus, GA to Chattanooga. The N&SRRofGA had 23 miles of track from Columbus to Hamilton built by 1877 and was forced by financial problem to be sold to new investors. In 1877, it was reorganized and renamed the Columbus & Atlanta Air Line in hopes of building the line into Atlanta. In 1882, the C&AAL RR was sold and went through reorganization to emerge as the Columbus & Rome RR to reflect the intentions of its new investors to build the line from Columbus to Rome. By 1884, the track had been extended only 9 miles from Hamilton to Chipley and in 1885, 17 additional miles were built from Chipley to Greenville. By 1888, the C&R RR only had 49 miles of narrow-gauge track in operation between Columbus to Greenville. In late 1888, the Savannah & Western RR was authorized to purchase and merge the C&R RR into the S&W RR. The track from Columbus to Greenville was never profitable and operated as an unimportant narrow-gauge branchline on the S&W RR and part of the Central RR's plans to reach Chattanooga.
Posted at: Berky's Georgia Railroading

John M. Land - Author Copyright John M. Land 2002

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