Selected for the 1986 edition of "The 100 Best Small Towns in America" and again in 1995,
Thomaston was incorporated on June 11, 1825, and designated as the seat of Upson County. The town was named for General Jett Thomas, an Indian fighter in the War of 1812 (1812-15). He is also credited with assisting in the construction of the state capitol at Milledgeville in 1805-7 and Franklin College on the campus of the University of Georgia in 1806.
The town was laid out with parallel streets running north and south, east and west, with the courthouse square in the center of town.
A few miles north of the square is one of the oldest houses in Thomaston, the Pettigrew-White-Stamps House. Built by John E. Pettigrew in 1833, it currently serves as the Upson Historical Society Museum. The African American Museum is housed in a late 1920s three-room shotgun-style house.
The Civil War erupted on Thomaston's soil on April 18, 1865, nine days after Confederate general Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, when Union cavalry raiders moving from Columbus to Macon embarked on three days of devastation in Upson County. The raiders, led by Major General James Harrison Wilson, looted homes, destroyed three of Upson's cotton mills, and set fire to a steam locomotive. In 1866 Thomaston's African Americans held an emancipation celebration, which has continued every year since; celebrated in May, it is the country's longest-running commemoration of freedom from slavery.
During the twentieth century Thomaston's economy was primarily based on the manufacture of textiles and tire cord. Granted a charter in 1899,
Even with the closing of Thomaston Mills, Thomaston's population has remained stable. Many of the mill's former employees enrolled in Thomaston's Flint River Technical College (later Southern Crescent Technical College) to acquire skills that would enable them to find other employment. Among other industries that have opened in the area are Yamaha, which manufactures pianos and audio speakers; DUNI, which manufactures plastic containers; and Quad Graphics, which prints such magazines as People and Sports Illustrated. Thomaston is now home to a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Home Depot store.
Hays Arnold, "New Vision Revives Former Textiles Town," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 14, 2004.
Charles Josey, Hard Times, Good Times, 1899-1999: The First 100 Years of Thomaston Mills (Thomaston, Ga.: Thomaston Mills, 1999).
Carolyn Walker Nottingham and Evelyn Hannah, The History of Upson County, Georgia (n.p, 1930).
David E. Paterson, Frontier Link with the World: The Upson County Railroad (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1998).
Penny D. Cliff, Thomaston-Upson Archives
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.