Cotton Avenue and its Name

Habituation occurs so frequently in terms of names placed on roads and streets, that rarely do we ponder the genesis of the label placed on our daily path.  Of course, 1st street and so forth are simple enough, and naturally Main Street rarely needs an explanation.  However, there are other streets, which if not careful, we may assume that an arbitrary name was given to it, when in fact it is actually eponymous for an individual, family or nevertheless has a purposeful meaning.  Although, if we spin our mind to wonder, we just might find the reason our street is has its name.  For instance, there is a short stretch of asphalt in Thomaston, which tethers Bethel Street and Barnesville Street called Cotton Avenue.  Living in the south, one might think the name is simple enough as cotton was the wind in the South’s sails for such a long time and perhaps the city leaders placed a tribute to the old King of the South.  However in this case simplicity is not to be found, and the history of this brief breath of pavement is wrapped in old prominence, mankind achievement of heroism and world intrigue.

The name for this street began, at least, on August 28,1840 when James A. Cotten was introduced to the antebellum world of Cobb County, Georgia.  Academics were an ease for James as he would attend the Georgia Military Institute, Emory College in Oxford, Georgia and would later be admitted to the bar in 1866.  In the midst of his education, Mr. Cotten served in the Confederate Army obtaining the title of Captain, which he would carry with him until he departed from this earth.  In 1867, Captain Cotten moved to Thomaston and set up his law practice, which he continued until his death in 1907.  However, in his life there were not many issues in which Captain Cotten was not involved.  For instance, he was a trustee for R.E. Lee Institute; in fact, he was responsible for bringing George A. Harrison to Thomaston to direct the Institute upon its inception in 1875.  Furthermore, Captain Cotten wrote the Code of the City of Thomaston in 1899.  Therefore, after such an illustrious life and civic sacrifice the City of Thomaston named an avenue for the former resident in approximately 1940.  The family later changed their name to Cotton rather than Cotten and now the street bares the same spelling.  This succinct explanation is reasonable enough and once told may never be questioned, however; the beginning of Cotton Avenue is actually the end as world events transpired and past honors withdrawn.

Perhaps one of humankind’s oldest dreams is to spread their wings and lift in flight; just as the flock of Geese we admire, and that lone hawk we respect, as they make a perennial trip south or a long journey over the Mountain in a very short spell.  However, humans are destined for the ground and anatomically we shall never float unassisted on earth’s thermals, we shall never ascend on wings of our own.  Although, this destiny has not stopped human ingenuity and determination to glide through the clouds, and thusly inspired one to create a motorized mechanism to propel us in the sky.  As a result, a Gentleman named Charles Lindbergh decided, in the infancy of flight, to climb aboard a plane in a solitary manner and fly non-stop from New York to Paris, France.  Today we do not think too much of this eight or so hour flight as we set back and enjoy our meal and the onboard movies.  However, in 1927 this feat could not pass the litmus of fathom as the flight, the young Mr. Lindberg was planning, was 3,600 miles and would take 33 ½ hours.  When the intrepid visionary landed in the City of Light, the name Charles Lindbergh spread to every corner of Earth and he was an overnight celebrity. Parades were held as a tribute, awards such as the Congressional Medal of Honor were given to him, children with outstretched arms could be seen as they were running through their yard’s pretending to be “Lindy” flying across the ocean, and among other accolades, Streets were named throughout this Country in his honor.  As a result, as early as 1927 the little cut through from Barnesville Street to Bethel Street was dedicated as Lindbergh Avenue in Thomaston just as it was in towns all over the United States and perhaps the World.  However, this can be a bit confusing, how can one street have two names?  After all, is this not Cotten Avenue as explained above?

It was a tumultuous time, more than normal, in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s and the human race found themselves at a crossroads.  There was a tyrant beginning to exact chaos, occupation and death in Europe from his station in Germany, and the world was beginning to be forced to choose if they wanted to side with evil or standup for the honorable innocent.  Consequently, Charles Lindbergh was in connection with the Nazi Party and received the German Medal of Honor from Hermann Goering.  Charles Lindbergh’s acceptance of this award and subsequent refusal to return it was perceived by many as an action of standing to be counted with the malevolent dictator Adolph Hitler and his despicable intentions.  Furthermore, Charles Lindbergh was seen as an outspoken critic of United States involvement against Germany and claimed England, Jewish supporters, and Roosevelt were leading America to a needless war.  As a result, Roosevelt condemned Lindbergh’s actions and the young pilot stepped down from his commission in the Army Air Corps.  Due to these circumstances, Lindbergh was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and the celebrity he once enjoyed was fast becoming infamy.  Therefore, the honors he was once inundated with, in the United States, were not only halted but also were rescinded.  An example of this was when in approximately 1940, the city of Thomaston decided to remove the Lindbergh name from the short Avenue and honor the civically minded Captain James A. Cotten with an Avenue of his own.

Although Charles Lindbergh would fly approximately 50 missions in the pacific as a civilian pilot for the United States, it seemed too synthetic, it seemed too little, it came too late.  Charles Lindbergh found himself on a rapid descent from his flight through life above all of his fellow men; the fellow men he could have used his fame to protect, but instead he chose the wrong company, he promoted the wrong ideas.  Lindbergh’s decision to not distance himself from the tyrannical regime caused cities throughout the United States to remove his name and honor in order to place a more fitting name upon their streets; and as a result, we have today Cotton Avenue in Thomaston, Georgia.

The above discovery was made by the Thomaston Upson Archives Director Penny Cliff, without which the above narrative would not be possible.

Below is an image of a Sanborn Map identifying Lindbergh Avenue Circa 1930. Notice Nehi Bottling Company located on the Avenue.

1940 Lindburg Avenue

Below is a 1940 City Directory identifying Nehi Bottling Company on Lindbergh Ave.  Green dots denote the business.


Below is an image of a Sanborn Map identifying the Avenue which Nehi Bottling Company is located as “Cotton” Ave.

1940 Cotton Ave.

Below is an image of a 1941 City Directory now listing Nehi Bottling Company as being on Cotten Ave.  Green dots denote the Business.



R.E. Lee Victory Bell

Traditions can be very curious things.  We love and adhere to them as if our world may end if we fail to continue the time honored. Often times we have no idea why we follow them and have no idea how they started.  It is as if they were developed during creation and we just follow the crowd.  Although, at times we learn of how traditions began and if we are very fortunate, we are there at their inception.  R.E. Lee Institute was rich with traditions and one of which was the Victory Bell that would ring upon victories of the Rebel Basketball teams.  However, we learn that the bell was intended to ring at the proud Institution at any glorious moment such as academic success and all victorious sporting events.  Furthermore, we actually found when the tradition began.  Below is a newspaper article regarding the creation of this tradition, in the January 14, 1965 Thomaston Times.  Below that article are two photographs of the actual bell, which now sits in the Thomaston Upson Archives as well as an article from the Rebel Yell January 29, 1965.

R.E. Lee Bell 3

R.E. Lee Bell 1

R.E. Lee Bell  1-29-1965 Rebel Yell

R.E. Lee Bell 2

By Popular Request

We have recently had a wonderful request from a wonderful visitor to this blog regarding the Thomaston Mills 1988 Spinning Wheel Christmas edition.  We are thrilled that this was requested and honored to place this edition on our blog.  We hope everyone will feel free to request information they would like to see. We thank the wonderful visitor who inquired about this edition.  










Flint River Freezes

January is quite rude; meteorologically speaking it may be the rudest of them all.  At December’s end, the air becomes just crisp enough to be refreshing and we look up dreaming into the majestic stars of the early winter sky. Then, a New Year rings out across the land and just as we convince ourselves with a new year comes a new me, Old Man Winter comes around for a visit and chases us back indoors, running from his cold uncouth manner.  Some years are crueler than others as we are left completely frozen in the trough of the jet stream blowing south from the Tundra, bringing fevers of the body and the cabin.  Consequently, January of 1879 happened to be an incredibly unenjoyable blast of Winter’s crude insolence as it was the 7thcoldest winter on record.  Essentially the entire country was in the grip of the cold solstice as the Harbor in New York City was a block of ice and Long Branch, New Jersey registered ten below zero as livestock were frozen in their stalls.  Other cities also awoke to find themselves suffering from the same artic nightmare as St. Louis relayed out of their frozen station that the mercury had fallen to the depths of fifteen degrees below zero and the Mississippi River was under twenty inches of ice.  Meanwhile, in lower latitudes Upson County was endearing a lashing from Old Man Winter’s walking stick as famed War Correspondent, and Editor Col. P.W. Alexander, reported in the Upson Enterprise that it was the coldest he had ever experienced in Georgia.  Others were reporting the same as residents on the Flint River sent word into town that the River “was frozen over” and they had never experienced anything colder.  The last time, before 1879, that the Flint River turned to ice was forty-four years previous in 1835.  At times, the Flint River likes to peek over her banks and even go exploring the land just as she is doing now.  However, as January once again has shown the cheekiness of winter, we may again see the flow of the Flint halted and the water, before reaching the tide of fortune in the Gulf, will enjoy the beauty of Upson County just a little while longer.

Thomaston’s Coca Cola

The day once existed when one walked in off the street seeking for that sweet reprieve from thirst and found it in a little 8-ounce glass bottle of pure bliss called Coca Cola.  Furthermore, this little glass bottle of delight was filled just down the street at their local Coca Cola bottling company.  There was also a chance that one could be drinking out of the same bottle as days before, as the bottles were returnable and purified in order to not waste but rather hold that liquid magic once more.  Thankfully, we can still find that liquid dream in stores all around us but the glass bottles are rare and the small town bottling companies are no more.   The last Coca Cola was bottled in Thomaston on December 31, 1969.  At that time it was estimated that if every bottle, Thomaston’s plant had bottled, were to be laid end to end they would cross the American Continent and return.  When this plant was shut down it was capable of bottling 120 bottles a minute.

Coca Cola 2-1-1929

The above photograph was found in the February 1, 1929 Thomaston Times.

Coca Cola 4-17-1941

The above photograph was found in the April 17, 1941 Thomaston Times