John Hammond, U.S. Senator from South Carolina, popularized the phrase “Cotton is King” in the years leading up to the Civil War. This aphorism was well familiar to and associated with the coastal communities of Georgia, which focused on the growing of Sea Island cotton.
But, it also describes the economy of the area that became Milton County - as soon as settlers began actively migrating here beginning in the 1840s. This frontier region of Georgia grew what is known as Upland cotton, a short staple cotton that was easier to grow than Sea Island cotton. Upland cotton became a profitable option for farmers with the patenting of a new type of cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1798.
While our cotton industry was not associated with a plantation economy, it was an important mainstay of the subsistence farmers who grew it as a cash crop. This presentation will focus on how cotton affected virtually all who lived here until the mid-twentieth century - from growing and perfecting it, to processing and selling it, and to making it into important textiles that clothed and blanketed the local families.
Note on the photos above: Cotton growing and processing displays can be seen at the Roswell History Museum and the Museum of the Waxhaws in North Carolina.