The town of Remerton, now surrounded by Valdosta, was once separated by forest and farmland. As Valdosta’s population expanded, it encapsulated Remerton leaving a city within the city.
Remerton owes its existence to the Strickland Cotton Mill, formed in 1899 and beginning operations in 1900. The new mill, located on the Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad, was then outside the Valdosta city limits. A new town was formed to house and support the employees of the mill. The name Remerton comes from Remer Y. Lane, president of Merchants Bank in Valdosta. Merchants Bank was pivotal in the financing and establishment of the mill.
The mill began as a single two-story brick structure that had a centralized tower and a skylight that ran across the roof of the 2nd floor roof. The bottom level was dedicated to opening, picking, carding and spinning of cotton while the second floor was a weave shop. The plant initially used machinery driven by a coal-powered steam engine. By WWII, the mill had been completely converted to electric power and air conditioning was added in the mid-1950s.1
Through its lifetime, the Strickland Mill steadily expanded. In 1900, it began with 5,000 spindles and 125 looms that produced 40,000 yards of cotton weekly. By 1972, the mill was operating with more than 20,000 spindles and 574 looms.3
During the early years, the material was primarily used for cotton sacks. As the use of cotton for packaging faded, the material was produced for bedding, clothing and draperies. When synthetic materials became available, they were also used in some of the fabrics produced.
The town of Remerton was centered, both culturally and financially, around the mill. The Stricklands operated the commissary, school, and paid the salary of the church pastor.1
According to Barry Herrin’s History of the Strickland Mill and Remerton, the houses were not in order based on size or design but the larger houses tended to be closer to Baytree Road on Sycamore Street. Many of the houses were four room duplexes, with each side having two rooms and a shared front porch. There were also single family homes with four, five or six rooms.1
As the mill expanded, so did the town of Remerton. More housing was constructed on Pine Street and Victory Drive.
Strickland Mill Operated in Remerton, from Albert Pendleton’s
Way Back When, Vol. I
Many citizens of Remerton and Valdosta remember the cotton mill whistle at Remerton. It woke us up and told us when to go to lunch and scared me as a child when my father and I neared the commissary to get a grocery order. It was much louder close up. Strickland Cotton Mill was organized in 1899 by B. F. Strickland, originally from Clinch County.
He and his brother Lewis had been large cotton buyers. B. F. became the first president of the mill after he organized it. When he passed away in 1915, he was also executive vice-president of the Merchants Bank of Valdosta.
A site for the mill was chosen near Valdosta and named Remerton in honor of Remer Y. Lane, founder of the Citizens Bank of Valdosta.
A. J. Strickland had established a mercantile business in 1888 in Valdosta known as the A. J. Strickland Company which engaged in buying of cotton and manufacturing of fertilizers. In 1916, he became president of the Strickland Cotton Mill in Remerton, and remained in that capacity until his death in 1939. His son, A. J. Jr., became president. Later A. J. III (Bubber) Strickland became president.
The mill company was never small although it employed less than 100 persons at its
inception. By 1968, there were 600 employees. A cotton mill was a natural to locate in Lowndes County because cotton was the main crop then and grown in great quantities.
The mill began operations with 5,000 spindles and 125 looms as compared with more than 22,281 spindles and 574 looms in 1972. With early machinery driven by steam engine, the boiler was fired with wood. Later the mill changed over to electricity during the residency of Will Strickland. The generator allowed the mill to do away with kerosene lamps in both mill and village.
In the beginning, Remerton was considered out in the country. It comprised about 60 acres of land and finally had quite a few houses built for the workers. With three shifts a day at the Mill, there was always activity. The town of Remerton grew up around the business, and Valdosta grew up around the town.
In January 1979, a place that gave jobs to many announced it was closing. The facility was in excellent shape and was offered for sale. The reason for closing was it had become difficult to compete with other textile manufacturers and there was a difficulty with foreign competition. At the close theme were 100 homes in Remerton.
The mill had operated three shifts, 24 hours a day, six days a week, and sometimes shut down on Saturdays. Using about 550 bales of cotton weekly, the Mill made a soft sheeting for infants, drapery material, bag cloth, materials for uniforms and sand bags for the federal government. Eleven years before closing, the Mill experimented with synthetic fibers.
Another mill company bought the Strickland Mills and operated it for several years, but closed. Now the very tall brick tower is still at the closed cotton mill as a silent reminder of many workers and many hours of work. There are businesses in the former homes now and Remerton still exists.
After attempts by community members and investors to preserve the structure, deconstruction on the Strickland Mill began in June of 2013.
1. Herrin, Barry S. History of the Strickland Cotton Mill and Remerton, 1987.
2. King, Nina. Memories II of Remerton, 1997.
3. Pendleton, Albert. Way Back When, Volume I. 1998.