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Roswell King (1765 – February 15, 1844) was an American businessman, planter and industrialist. King and his son Barrington King founded Roswell, Georgia in the 1830s.

Early life

Barrington Hall, built in 1842.

King was born in Windsor, Connecticut, the son of Timothy King, a weaver and Revolutionary naval commander, and Sarah (Fitch) King. At age fifteen, he moved to Darien, Georgia. His early professional life included jobs as surveyor in Glynn County, Justice of the Peace in McIntosh County.

He also became manager of Pierce Butler's rice and cotton plantations on Butler and St. Simons Islands, Georgia. The plantations covered hundreds of acres on each island. Five hundred slaves worked and lived there. Roswell King also owned slaves and a plantation of his own.

In the 1830s, King moved his family from the coast to the piedmont area around Vickery Creek (referred to as Cedar Creek at the time) that would eventually become Roswell. King had identified this as a good area for the construction of a cotton mill. He had the idea to put cotton production and cotton processing in the same place. He invited planter friends James Stephens Bulloch and Archibald Smith to join him in the new enterprise.[1]

When he moved, King transported 36 enslaved African-Americans from his plantation and bought another 42 slaves in Darien to work on constructing the mill, infrastructure and other buildings he planned in north Georgia.[2] The slaves likely worked on his house(s) as well.

King dammed the creek to power a cotton mill that became fully operational by the later half of the decade. The mill was incorporated as the Roswell Manufacturing Company by an act of the Georgia General Assembly on December 11, 1839, with Roswell's son Barrington King serving as the company president. Other people named in the act included John Dunwoody and James Stephens Bulloch.

After living in temporary homes for his first years in the area, Roswell King (who had been recently widowed) moved into Primrose Cottage in 1839 along with his recently widowed daughter Eliza King Hand and her children. He died on February 15, 1844, and was buried in what is now referred to as Founders' Cemetery on Sloan Street in Roswell, just to the north of the original location of the mill. Some of his personal "servants" (enslaved African-Americans) were buried near him in unmarked graves.

Roswell's son, Barrington King, and Roswell Manufacturing Company continued to depend on the skills and labor of enslaved African Americans as he built the business in Roswell. According to the 1850 Census Slave Schedules, Barrington King held 70 slaves, and he controlled another 13 slaves held in the name of Roswell Manufacturing Company.[3] In 1860, Barrington King still held 47 slaves. He may have sold some when the heavy construction work was finished.[4]

As powerful and successful men, Roswell King and his sons lived out some of the complexities of their times. Roswell King, Sr. had conflicts with Maj. Pierce Butler when he managed his island plantations in Georgia, because Butler took a more moderate approach to the treatment of slaves than did King. In addition, King was known to have fathered one or more mixed-race children there by enslaved women. At least one, Bran, who became a driver on St. Simons Island, was conceived and born during King's marriage. [5]

Roswell King, Jr. (1796 - 1854), his second son and namesake, took over as manager of the Butler plantations after his father resigned. During his tenure of 1820 - 1838, King, Jr. demonstrated his own abuses of power. He fathered at least five mixed-race children, including Renty, Ben and Daphne, and Jem Valiant, by forcing himself on slave women Betty, Minda, Judy and Scylla. The children by both generations of Kings continued as enslaved with their mothers. Fanny Kemble, the younger Pierce Butler's English wife[6], attested to these children by her own observations and from stories told her by slaves during her residence at the plantations in 1838-1839, documented in her published journal of those years. She complained to her husband about Roswell King, Jr.'s harsh treatment of slaves. [7]





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