In 1864, General Sherman ordered the Roswell mills burned, and the 400 women mill workers arrested for treason. Lucinda Wood, her sisters, her mother and grandmother were among those mill workers. Lucinda was 18 years old.
A mill woman’s descendant
Danny Forsyth of Rockmart emailed me when he read my column last week and told me he is descended from one of the Roswell mill women. Lucinda Wood is his great-great grandmother.
Danny told me has a notebook filled with handwritten stories about Lucinda Wood and her family. Those stories, written by Lucinda’s oldest son, chronicle how Lucinda met and married her husband. They give a narrative on their life in Kentucky and journey back home to Georgia. Danny let me borrow the notebook of stories. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and I am delighted to tell Lucinda’s story.
Lucinda Wood’s story
When Lucinda and her family were arrested for treason, and deported, they were given nine days of rations and loaded into boxcars in Marietta. They were among the two trainloads of women and children transported north to Chattanooga, Louisville, Indiana and Ohio to uncertain fates.
A few months prior to their arrest, Lucinda’s father died in Roswell. Evidently, Lucinda’s father enlisted in the Roswell Battalion, which was a local defense unit comprised of Roswell mill workers. Lucinda’s father was home on furlough in 1864 when he died.
Lucinda’s mother died on the way north, aboard a train, in Tennessee. On arrival in Tennessee, the refugees were transported by steamship up the Ohio River. Lucinda’s grandmother, according to records, was so feeble that she was carried on board the boat in a rocking chair. Shortly thereafter, she died while the group was on the steamship. Therefore, Lucinda and her sisters were orphaned by the time they arrived in Louisville, Kentucky.
It is unclear if Lucinda’s brothers, Joseph and William, were with them on the trip north or if they found them later in Kentucky. At any rate, Lucinda left a refugee house and lived with her brothers and sisters until 1866.
Lucinda meets James Shelly
James Shelly served with Company K of the 23rd Alabama Regiment, in the CSA. The hardest fighting he experienced was at Vicksburg, and New Hope Church (near Dallas, Georgia). Near the end of the war, Shelly’s regiment was somewhere in Tennessee when he got sick with typhoid fever. So weakened was he, by the fever, that it took him three months to recover. By that time, General Lee had surrendered and the war was over. Shelly was, of course, discharged from service and he decided to leave Tennessee and go to Kentucky. He arrived near Louisville and got a job as a farm hand. That is just about the time he met Lucinda Wood.
Lucinda married James Shelly in 1866. Soon thereafter, Lucinda’s sister Molly married John Tarrant from Illinois. John and Molly chose to move from Kentucky to Illinois and Lucinda and James decided to go with them. Lucinda became seriously ill in 1886, and her doctor cautioned her that she might not survive another unforgiving northern winter. So Lucinda and James determined to come home to north Georgia.
The journey back to Georgia
Lucinda and James loaded a wagon with a few belongings and eight children and headed south in October 1886, at which time Lucinda was five months pregnant. They arrived at her uncle’s house, in Jasper, early in November after a journey of 32 days — the cost of which was $33. They settled in Ballground, where Lucinda gave birth to their ninth child. The Georgia climate was much better for Lucinda. She lived another 34 years.
There you have it, the story of one of the Roswell Mill women. Reading those stories, handwritten by Danny’s great-grandfather, put a face on this legendary, tragic event from the War Between the States.
I have written about a historic event that took place at the Roswell Mills. Today I wrote the story of one of the Roswell Mill women. However, I haven’t yet written about Roswell, and the founding of the Roswell Manufacturing Co.
I remain keenly interested in the Roswell mill workers, and the working conditions of a 19th century north Georgia textile mill, and how the owners ran their mills. I want to know what the mill workers earned, what kind of hours they worked, and whether there was a school for the children. Next week’s column, therefore, will be the final part of the series on Roswell, and the Roswell Manufacturing Co.