This month’s featured
cemetery is Clapp’s Factory
Cemetery which is located in the northern part of Columbus,
Georgia, off River Road.
Clapp’s Factory was a mill
village, located at the head of the falls of the Chattahoochee River. Building of Clapp’s
Factory began in 1834. This factory was the first textile mill in Muscogee
County and was probably the first built in the Chattahoochee Valley of Georgia
In the beginning, the mill made
yarns, mainly for women in rural areas to use in home cotton looms, and also carded wool.
Operations would expand to include—as well as the textile mill and gristmill—a sawmill, cotton gin, leather
tannery and shoe factory, woodworking shop, and machine shop, as well as other facilities.
The mill village that grew
up around the factory included three substantial houses for company officers, rows of tenement houses for the mill workers’
families, gardens, a company-owned commissary, and even a little church.
By 1861, Muscogee
County was home to four textile companies with 755 operatives; the textile unit's
of Clapp’s Factory employed 110 men and women. The tannery and shoe factory
employed 30 slaves. Clapp’s Factory became a major supplier of material
to the Confederate Quartermaster’s Depot, at Columbus, and tripled its output
during the war. On April 17th 1865 the factory, mills, warehouse,
and tannery were burned by Federal troops and the nearby bridge been destroyed.
Famed African-American bridge builder
Horace King rebuilt the mill. Using second-hand equipment, the owners soon had
the mill running again. In the 1870s, it was one of six large cotton factories
in Muscogee County. Farm workers across the South had been lured to cities by the promise of the steady income available in
textile mills. The hours of work were long, and entire families would have worked
as “cotton factory hands” in the mill. There were no child-labor
laws in place o prevent children as young as nine years old from working around the often-dangerous equipment.
About 1882, the company had attempted
to develop the site, with its promising location at the head of the falls, to generate electricity for sale; this venture
failed. A variety of factors added to the mill’s decline; by the mid-1880s,
the doors of Clapp’s Factory had closed forever. Many workers went to work
for other mills in the area.
The once-thriving mill village is
no longer. Little appear to remain on the site of what was Clapp’s Factory. The old four-story frame mill building burned in 1910.
The last mill village buildings were taken down when the J.R> Allen Bypass was built in the 1980s although some
ruins of the gristmill remain.
Although very much overgrown, the
village cemetery still rests on one of the highest points in the county, a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee
River. The number of visible markers
has declined over the years because of vandalism, erosion, and deterioration. Only
a few markers remain. A recent archaeological survey, however, indicates that
300 to 500 burials are in the area known to be the cemetery. In 1928, it was
said to have occupied about three or four acres—and had, in earlier years, contained up to 20 or 25 areas. The currant estimate is that the present cemetery area occupies about one or two acres.
In a 1928 newspaper article, the
oldest of thee 20 remaining marked graves in Clapp’s Cemetery was said to be that of Benjamin Heath who died in 1856
although the first burials are thought to date back to 1835. Burials continued
there after the factory closed, until at least as late as 1904. It is said that
the workers paid for cemetery lots by having money taken out of their wages. The
1928 article also specified that an area of the cemetery was reserved for the poor (pauper’s section) and that at least
a few burials had been made there after Clapp’s factory closed.
Because of its remote and scenic
location, the site has been subjected to vandalism over decades. Much damage
may have been done by casual visitors who used the bluff as a picnic site as far back as the early 1900s.
The Clapp’s Factory Cemetery
Preservation League, Inc., is a nonprofit, volunteer group dedicated to achieving the restoration, maintenance, and protection
of the Clapp’s Factory Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia; to making on the cemetery property improvements that are respectful
of the deceased, pleasant for the visitor, and informative to the curiosity seeker, while also being mindful of security matters;
and to fostering public awareness of the importance of Clapp’s Factory and sites like it, through continuing research
and educational activities. Membership is open to all persons interested in pursuing
these objectives, irrespective o race or ethnicity, religion or creed, sex, age, or affiliation.
Anyone who wants more information
on the Clapp Factory Cemetery or to
make a donation should contact John Mallory
Land at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us.
This information was taken from
the CFCPL pamphlet.