After the bank failures and 'general depression" of 1901, the local economy struggled to survive. In 1902, the banks reopened and found few opportunities to invest their assets. Many of the local businesses, including the cotton mills closed, never to reopen. Some did re-organize and slowly began to recover. The most successful of these were the Barnesville Manufacturing Company and the Oxford Knitting Mills. Both have changed management and ownership throughout the years, but they remained the two largest employers in the entire county for many years.
By 1900, the population of Barnesville was 3,000. This figure remained the same throughout the 1920s. In 1909, the city aldermen were successful in obtaining a grant from the Carnegie Foundation for the erection of a public library. This facility operated at that site until a new library was opened across the Street in 1987. The Carnegie Library building is currently the studio and residence of local artist, Carol Wubbena.
In 1918, the downtown streets were paved and a new post office was built on Forsyth Street. This building is still being used today as the post office.
Barnesville's population in the years after the turn of the century was about 3,200. This was a factor in the decision of the state legislature to grant the new Sixth District School to Barnesville. Several of the towns in the district lobbied the legislature for the granting of the school, but Barnesville offered a central location, a great deal of free land, and was on the main line of the railroad. This district served Bibb, Clayton, Crawford, Pike, Monroe, Spalding, Butts, Fayette, Henry and Upson counties. The Sixth District A & M School was part of a state-wide school system introduced to teach mechanical and agricultural skills in rural areas. The main building was completed in Barnesville in 1906. The cornerstone was laid by the Pinta Lodge #88. The main building although renovated, is used today as the administration building of Gordon College. In 1931, the school's name was changed to Georgia Industrial College. When the industrial school was closed by the legislature in 1933, Gordon Institute moved from its original campus between Thomaston and Greenwood Streets to the A & M campus. This campus of nearly 400 acres was sold to the state of Georgia in 1872. At that point, Gordon became part of the university system. Today it boasts an enrollment of nearly 4,000 annually.
World War I brought a sense of unity through the Barnesville Blues. Once again, the unit was called into service. Hardly a family in town was untouched by the demand for troops. At this time, many long established businesses closed and few new firms were started. Times were changing and so was transportation. The auto was gaining favor with the public and the horse and buggy along with the train were going out of vogue. The local economy had been largely dependent on the buggy industry and its related businesses. The two largest buggy manufacturers decided that it was no longer profitable to manufacture buggies, wagons, and carriages. Summers Buggy Company dissolved due to the advanced age of Mr. Summers. The Smith Buggy Company decided to 'change over" to furniture manufacturing. The new firm would be known-as Smith, Inc.