The Bowen-Jewell Bag Company first opened a bleachery across from the Central of Georgia Depot in 1909. A cotton mill was added in 1914 and the business was incorporated as the Crystal Springs Bleachery Company. A larger more modern bleachery was constructed in 1923, making the facility one of the largest employers in the region. The main product of the bleachery was printed cotton fabric, primarily in the form of bags. Dan River Mills purchased the business in 1969 and by 1976 had a peak employment of 1200. Downsizing began in 1977 and by 1982, Dan River announced plans to close the facility. In February 1983, former Chickamauga mayor Frank Pierce, Steve Tarvin and Stanley Cunningham purchased the business and saved about 200 jobs. Downsizing continued over the following decades and the business, by now known as the Crystal Springs Print Works, was shuttered in 2013. Even with a reputation as one of the best printers in the business, Crystal Springs is emblematic of the loss of U. S. textile business to China; whether that’s the fault of bureaucratic regulation or cheaper labor remains a topic of debate. Having grown up in a town with hundreds of textile jobs myself, the reason isn’t as important as the loss of a way of life. Chickamauga was unusual in that local investors did their best to keep it afloat, and that deserves some recognition.
The property was sold to a recovery company, which is slowly removing the valuable heart pine floors and other framework, handmade bricks, and salvageable historic fixtures and metal. A residential community is planned for the site in the future.