Sope Creek Paper Mill Ruins

Old Paper Mill Rd Bridge at Sope Creek
Old Paper Mill Rd Bridge at Sope Creek

Sope or Soap Creek was an industrious little area in the middle 1800’s.  Near intersection of Paper Mill Road and Sope Creek are several old industrial ruins. These ruins used to be the center of an industrial center based on the waterpower that the creek produced. During the period from 1850 to 1940, a paper mill, twine plant, flour mill and hydroelectric power plant occupied an area about one mile long.  At one time a wooden covered bridge spanned the creek here, but was lost on March 29, 1964 when it burned to the ground leaving behind only the steel shanks and masonry.

North of the current bridge, or upstream, Edward Denmead was operating a large flour mill, by 1854. I understand that there are still minor signs of this structure but requires a keen eye.

Abandoned Paper Mill in 1907; millrace in front. (Vanishing Georgia collection - Georgia Archives)
Abandoned Paper Mill in 1907; millrace in front.
(Vanishing Georgia collection – Georgia Archives)

About a quarter-mile downstream and on the east bank from the bridge is located the ruins of the Marietta Paper Mills. The mill was incorporated on December 19 of 1859, possibly by Andrew Schofield Edmondston and Saxon A. Anderson. Facilities at the Paper Mill included a mill, oil room, office, mill sluice (raceway), storeroom, dam, machine shop, pulp-grinding mill, and two shelters. The mills manufactured news print, wrapping paper and stationery.

The structure at the bridge on the west side of the creek is assumed part of the paper mill from an old photograph, but there is not any documentation I can find.

Ruins of Marietta Paper Mill - April 1930. (Wilbur Kurtz, America's Turning Point collection, Atlanta History Center) )
Ruins of Marietta Paper Mill – April 1930.
(Wilbur Kurtz, America’s Turning Point collection, Atlanta History Center) )

On July 5, 1864, the mills were burned by a detachment of Gen. Kenner Garrard’s cavalry division while guarding the left flank of Federal forces preparing to cross the Chattahoochee River at the mouth of Soap Creek. They were rebuilt after the war and then burned in 1870. They were restored yet again in 1871.  The Marietta Paper Mill operated here until 1902

Outside the west side building.  Notice the intact wood lintels.
Outside the west side building. Notice the intact wood lintels.

This summer, on July 13, Kaylyn and I checked out the ruins visible from Paper Mill road on the west side of Sope Creek.  I had known they were there and had driven by them several times and just never took the time to check them out.  We took the ½ mile walk from the parking lot and it was quite fascinating.  While we were there we started a conversation with a gentleman who gave us some history of the area. He said there were better ruins on the other side of Sope Creek about 1/4 mile downstream. About a month ago we went to check it out, but the path was literally about 6” wide with weeds and bushes waist-high, you know snakes and stuff live in places like that (shudder). Having shorts and sandals on…maybe another day.

So on September 10, 2013, Jenn, Jarrett and I headed out to see what we could find. The brush had died off to a more appealing level and we were dressed a bit more appropriately. The trail is about 20-30’ above the creek level and a pretty easy walk.

First Structure along the path.  The Store House
First Structure along the path. The Store House

We first came across two walls which from my research was the “store house”. Further along are stone piers that supported the “mill race” or flume that took water to the mill. The main structure came into view and it was larger than I thought it was going to be. The mill was approximately 210’ x 45’. It was truly amazing, a true piece of the past. General Sherman had these buildings burned when he and his army were crossing the Chattahoochee less than a mile downstream during his march to Atlanta. The stonework was amazing and was surprised how intact some of the wood lintels were over the windows.

The trail got a little rougher and was up against the walls of the structure. The trail dead ended at Caney Creek. Some internet sites say there are more structures on the other side. At this point we turned around, the mill being between us and the river, looking to find a place to get down to the creek level. We found a spot between 2 of the mill-race piers and headed down. Of course being barely able to walk 2 years ago, I am stoked, going very slow, but determined.

Main Building from Sope Creek
Main Building from Sope Creek

We then walked near the base of the creek, now being between the building and the water. It was slow going but I wanted to see it from this level. We get to about 50’ from where we were above the ruins and I see movement on the rocks out of the corner of my eye and heard a plop into the vegetation. Jarrett Mitchell was to my left and very calmly stated, ”That was a snake, I’m done, time to go home!!” I was very proud of him, no running in circles screaming, just calmly walking the other direction. We questioned Jarrett about the snake to see if it had markings or whatever to hopefully figure out what it was. After he answered our questions we have determined that there is a 30’ Burmese python with 6” fangs loose on Sope Creek in Marietta.

I guess we will wait until it gets a little colder before we go back…..

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