Hiawassee: The first Settlement House in Athens

The Southern Manufacturing Company began textile milling operations in 1908 on the west side of Athens, just northwest the present-day Boulevard neighborhood, and it quickly established itself as one of the largest cotton mills in north Georgia. For this company, as for many textile manufacturers that established themselves in the South after the Civil War, opening a mill also meant building a community. Twenty-five houses filled up as the mill began to open.

The Athens Banner reported the opening of the mill along with its new homes for the operatives.

The Hiawassee Settlement “radiates influence for good.”

As part of their community-building efforts, the Southern Manufacturing Company established the Hiawassee Settlement House in 1911 to provide uplift and entertainment to its workforce. Mrs. J. L. Morris, who was hired to manage Hiawassee, was paid a salary by the mill owners.

According to the Athens Banner, by 1914, the “attractive cottage” had “ample ground for tennis and other out-door sport, with reception room, library, kitchen, and living rooms. Holidays were celebrated at the house “with appropriate decorations and unique programs, that leave behind and tend to obliterate the sordid things of life.” Mrs. Morris, the sole employee of the house, was also responsible for attending to “the sick and the unfortunate,” and for giving lessons “unobtrusively…in household economics and right living.”

In 1916, the Athens Banner highlighted the accomplishments of the Hiawassee Settlement in its first four years. The Settlement reported over 25,000 visits to club meetings, over two thousand visits to the sick, as well as relief given in the form of cash and food.

This article is one of the first instances of “social work” being used to describe professional activities in Athens.

The Settlement offered classes in Bible, cooking, sewing, sanitation and more.

Editorial, The Athens Banner, January 16, 1916, Georgia Historic Newspapers, Digital Library of Georgia

The 1918 Sanborn map labels the Hiawassee Settlement as a “club house.” The Southern Mill was located just north of the Settlement across the railroad tracks. The mill has now been repurposed and redeveloped as commercial space.

The Hiawassee Settlement was located in a cottage at the corner of Hiawassee and Tibbetts Avenues–directly across from what is now White Tiger Barbecue (on Hiawassee Avenue at Boulevard). White Tiger was once Southern Mill’s grocery; the lot that held the Settlement House is now a church parking lot.

An early 20th-century postcard of the Southern Manufacturing Company looks south from the factory over the train tracks and into the mill village. Hiawassee settlement was located in one of those cottages at the corner of Hiawassee and Tibbetts Avenues.

Postcard courtesy of Gary Doster

Cite this Article

McPherson, J. (2024, January 6). Hiawassee settlement. Complex Cloth. https://complexcloth.org/hiawassee-settlement/