The Augusta Canal and the Cotton Industry

[Train Whistle] The Augusta Canal’s conceptual origins trace back to the 1830s and early 1840s when local business leaders, hoping to reverse Augusta’s declining population and economy, resolved to establish Augusta as a manufacturing center. Before the Civil War, Augusta had a well-established commercial environment. This was attributed to the entrepreneurial attitudes of city leaders, the construction of the Augusta Canal, and railroads and steamboat traffic into and out of Augusta. Following the Civil War however, the South found itself in economic disarray, and the city of Augusta considered selling the canal to help boost its struggling local economy. However, local businessman and mayor, Charles Estus advocated for enlarging the canal to increase horsepower, and attract additional factories along the canal banks. Enlargements of, and improvements to the canal, lasted from 1872 - 1875. Improvements included construction of a new dam, lock, and head gates. The damming of Rae’s Creek created Lake Olmstead. Labor was provided by Black Americans, convicts, and Chinese laborers. The improved Augusta Canal cost the city 1-million-dollars, double the original estimate. Its oppressed economy prevented capital investment in construction of new mills. Good fortune returned in 1877 when the Enterprise Manufacturing Company began construction on a large cotton mill. This was followed shortly by the mills of the Sibley Manufacturing and John P. King Manufacturing Companies. These mills joined the existing Augusta factories, the Globe Mill, and the Riverside Mill, to form the core of Augusta’s cotton mill industry. [Train Whistle]

Augusta's Story
  1. Paleo-Indians
  2. Stallings Island
  3. The Age of Exploration: The DeSoto Exhibition; 1540
  4. Early Colonial Period; 1685 – 1736
  5. Late Colonial Period
  6. The American Revolution, 1776 - 1783
  7. Antebellum Society
  8. Dave: Enslaved Potter and Poet
  9. Cotton
  10. Civil War; 1861 - 1865
  11. Reconstruction
  12. The Golden Blocks
  13. The Augusta Canal and the Cotton Industry
  14. Petersburg Boat
  15. Industrial History
  16. Mill Life
  17. World War I
  18. The Great Fire of 1916
  19. 1920s
  20. World War II
  21. Savannah River Site
  22. Integrating Augusta
  23. The Augusta Riot
  24. 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s in Augusta
  25. Augusta and the Late 20th Century to Today
  26. Thank you to our partners