The Milstead Bell

“A thing of ageless beauty weighing 1000 pounds with a beautiful voice, sweet and clear, that could be heard for miles around the community.” Written by Frank Smith for the February 6, 1950 issue of the Callaway Beacon, this narrative describes the bell that signaled the beginning of the work day at Milstead Mill. The Milstead Manufacturing Company, chartered on January 2, 1902, was built on the site of an old paper mill near the city of Conyers, Georgia. The building was constructed using granite from a nearby quarry and electricity was provided by the Yellow River, which flowed through a wooden race, turning water wheels with long rope cables. In 1903, Milstead Manufacturing Company, which had been having difficulties earning a profit, approached Fuller Callaway Sr. for advice due to his experience with both Dixie and Unity cotton mills. Fuller Sr. advocated for the plant to convert from producing yarn to cotton duck, a material very familiar to Fuller Sr. This change, as well as Fuller Sr.’s election as President of the company on September 21, 1904, turned the tides for Milstead Mill, which began to expand in 1904 with the addition of another steam plant. Between 1906 and 1915, the mill also updated machinery, built a railroad connection, and developed more employee housing.

At six o’clock each morning, the bell, rang by Night Watchman I. M. Walker, would summon Milstead employees to work. Walker would also climb the 35- foot tower at the corner of the Milstead
Plant to ring the bell each hour of the night as he made his rounds, calling out the time and announcing, “All is well.” From 1916 to 1930, the rope was removed in favor of a new steam whistle. In 1930, a large electric magnet connected to an eight-day clock in the Superintendent’s Office allowed the bell to be used until World War II. Today, the bell’s sweet and clear sound can be heard by campers and visitors at Camp Southern Ground in Fayetteville, Georgia. The Milstead bell will be featured at Hills and Dales Estate as part of the Callaway Mills exhibit. -HM

Milstead Cotton Mill as featured in the Callaway Beacon on September 20, 1954.

Milstead Plant office and bell.

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