The Little River originates along the western border of Cherokee County and winds its way through the southern half of the county. Along the way, Mills Creek and Rubes Creek empty into it. In the early 1840s, a small settlement that included a cotton mill and a grist mill was erected along the river’s banks, because early American settlers recognized the sheer volume and power of the water coursing through it.
By the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, the mill almost certainly was the largest employer in Woodstock, having 15 of the 276 residents on its rolls. Along the hillside, next to the river, was a large warehouse where bales of cotton were stored before being dropped into a chute that began the process of turning the cotton into rope.
While the official name of the enterprise was the Cherokee Cotton Mill, it quickly came to be known to the locals as Rope Mill. Farther up the hillside was housing for some of the employees, and at the bottom, alongside the river, was the main building, said to be nearly 200 feet long. If you take Exit 9 off I-575 and forgo the outlet mall by heading in the opposite direction, you’ll find Olde Rope Mill Park. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Water power here didn’t quickly become obsolete by the advent of electric power, thanks in part to improvements made over the years, most significantly a dam built in 1925 to increase water power through the mill raceway to the turbine in the powerhouse. In fact, when fuel was scarce during World War II, low-cost water power gave the Cherokee Cotton Mill a competitive advantage, and it landed large contracts for making tent rope for the military.
But, the mill was situated in the floodplain of the new Allatoona Lake that was being built immediately after the war, so the land was bought up by the government, and the buildings were dismantled. On Sept. 30, 1949, the mill closed.
However, Rope Mill’s story doesn’t end there. Grab your hiking boots or your mountain bike, and go to Olde Rope Mill Park. It isn’t just historic; it’s beautiful. The trails are cherished by mountain bikers, as the paths are stacked loops that allow bikers to vary their route to achieve the desired mileage and level of difficulty they are seeking.
By rule, bikers have the right of way here, but hikers like me are entirely welcome, provided they walk in the opposite direction of the cyclists and yield to them on the trails. It’s all well-marked and easy to do. If you have little ones who may be up for only a mile or so, the paths by Little River are wide and paved on one side, and a little exploring allows you to see the mill raceway and several sluice gates, the remains of the dam and the foundations of various buildings.
– The Wanderer has been a resident of Cherokee County for nearly 20 years, and constantly is learning about his community on daily walks, which totaled a little more than 1,800 miles in 2021. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.