Timeless Teachings in a Changing World
Bowdon has a long, distinguished history. It is near the geographic center of the last land in Georgia held by the Creek Nation and ceded to the United States on November 15, 1827.
In 1847, Carroll County troops from this area, fighting under General Winfield Scott defeated General Santa Anna’s army at Cerro Gordo, Mexico. The town of Bowdon was originally called Cerro Gordo to commemorate that victory. After Alabama Congressman Frank Welch Bowdon assisted the town in securing a post office, the citizens honored him by renaming their town Bowdon in 1848.
In 1849, Nathaniel Shelnutt moved his family from Fairburn in Campbell County to Bowdon, and in 1853 he and about thirty other citizens selected the present town site. The owner of the land, W.F.Johnson, sold lots to highest bidders, with the most expensive lot selling for $10.50. The city grew quickly and by 1855, Bowdon had “five stores, two barrooms, several shops, a good primary school and a high school.” ( Rowell 1990)
Pvt. Joe Cobb, in his 1906 Carroll County and Her People described Bowdon as “the educational center of a large territory in Georgia and Alabama” and there’s no doubt Bowdon College is synonymous with Bowdon’s history. Bowdon College was chartered in 1856. It was the fifth college chartered in Georgia and the State’s first coeducational college. It continued to furnish opportunities for thousands of poor but ambitious young men and women to attain higher education until 1936. The people of this community “with little resources and the vision of dedicated educational leaders, displayed rare courage in establishing a college…an achievement unmatched anywhere in Georgia at that time.” (Bonner, 1971)
In 1861, all seven of the graduating seniors “offered their services to the Confederacy and nearly 135 of the lower classmen volunteered, making a total of over 140 Bowdon boys who largely composed Company B, of Cobb’s Legion.” (Caswell 1978) After the War, Bowdon College was one of five endowed by the State of Georgia for the purpose of educating wounded and disabled Confederate Soldiers in 1866-67. Over 200 were educated in that way.
By 1906, Bowdon had “twelve stores and businesses, a bank, a good hotel, Masonic Lodge, three churches, no bar rooms and….a splendid weekly newspaper, The Bowdon Intelligence.” (Cobb, 1906) It was “an outstanding cotton market, plus a flourishing lumber market. Cotton bales were hauled by wagon to Waco, Carrollton, or Heflin, Alabama, then sold by local buyers. Cotton and lumber had to be taken to where freight trains came by. Seeing the need for rail service, Dr. J. L. Lovvorn headed a drive to get Bowdon a railroad and succeeded in selling enough stock to make the railroad a reality in 1910.” (Johnson, 1984) The Bowdon Railroad continued operation until 1964.
Warren Palmer Sewell attended Bowdon College from 1906 through 1908. In 1932 in the midst of the depression, Mr. Sewell built a clothing plant in Bowdon. Although the College had struggled to continue on citizen funding until 1936, State funding ceased in 1933. “The wounded and concerned Bowdon residents viewed the new Sewell plant as an affirmation of faith in the town, and they were proud of the new business” (Godbold).
At his death in 1973, Warren Sewell Clothing was one of the ten largest manufacturers of men’s clothing in the country. However, international trade agreements eventually dealt a mortal blow to US manufacturing and Sewell Clothing, which became Bremen-Bowdon Investment Company, was no exception. Today, it survives on a drastically reduced scale from its heyday--when it boasted well over a thousand employees-- due to the manufacture of military uniforms.
Textile Rubber Company first began manufacturing handlebar grips from crude and reclaimed rubber in 1942. The plant was located on the site of the former Bowdon Oil Mills on Wedowee Street and was constructed using German prisoners of war (Rowell 1990.)
Textile Rubber Company was always innovative in its field and held a number of patents. In fact, the first lunar moon rover was equipped with grips manufactured at the Bowdon facility. In 1978, the company was razed in a catastrophic fire, but in true Bowdon spirit, was rebuilt in only four months. It reopened with a new name, Trintex.
Trintex eventually became Carlisle. The Carlisle Company employed 320 people at the time of the second fire on November 16, 2008. Unfortunately the company was unable to rebuild.
Today Bowdon is still a small rural town where people enjoy Friday night football games, home cooked meals and neighbors stopping by for an evening chat. We welcome you to join us for a visit to the Friendly City.
Sources: Bonner, James. Georgia’s Last Frontier. Athens, Ga.: The University of Georgia Press, 1971; Caswell, Render R. The History of Bowdon College. The Warren P. Sewell Library, 1978. (Orig.pub. 1952); Cobb, (Private) Joe. Carroll County and Her People. Sesquicentennial Committee of Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, 1976 (Orig. pub. 1906); Godbold, Edwin C, Diligent in His Business: Warren Sewell; Johnson, J.L. (Jack). Yesterday: A Trip into the Past. A Compilation of articles by the author from The Bowdon Bulletin, ca. 1980-1984; Rowell, Judy Copeland. Bowdon: The First Hundred Years. Dallas: Curtis Media Corporation, 1990.