History of Newton County
In the 1700's, Newton County, then unnamed, belonged to the Creek Indians. They used the densely wooded area for hunting and fishing. In 1813, the Creeks relinquished their claim on the land.
The Georgia Assembly officially formed Newton County on December 24, 1821 from parts carved out of Henry, Walton and Jasper counties. The county was named in honor of Sgt. John Newton, a Revolutionary War soldier.
The first settlers in the area established homes in the eastern part of the county in a town called Winston. Today the historic Brick Store - the oldest brick building in the county, built circa 1821 - is all that remains of the site on Highway 278, east of the city of Covington. Brick Store served many functions: a general store, a stagecoach stop, and the location of the first county court session. The structure still stands today.
The settlers moved a bit further west to a more central location for the county seat. The new settlement was originally called Newtonsborough. It was later renamed Covington in honor of General Leonard Covington who served in the Revolutionary War, the Indian War and the War of 1812. The city was incorporated on December 6, 1822.
On September 16, 1885, Newton County's courthouse in Covington - which still is in use - was dedicated after 12 months of construction. The total cost of the new facility was $29,400, a real bargain by today's prices but very costly at the time.
A sawmill, cotton farming, textiles and the pulpwood industry flourished in Newton County until the Civil War. Under orders from General Sherman, Brigadier General Kenner Garrard and his troops entered Covington in the summer of 1864 with orders to burn bridges over the Yellow and Alcovy rivers and destroy the railroad between Lithonia and the Alcovy. Although Garrard's raid destroyed various public buildings, fortunately no homes or plantations were lost, and many are still left today.
In 1839, the town of Oxford was officially chartered. A total of 125 lots were made available to citizens on a 999-year lease. The only stipulation was that no intoxicating liquors were to be sold or brought onto these lots. The Georgia Methodist Conference founded Emory College is Oxford in 1836. The school eventually became known as Emory University after moving to a much larger campus in Atlanta. The original site of Emory College is still functioning today as Oxford College of Emory University. In 1972, the town of Oxford was designated a shrine of the United Methodist Church and is the first town in the country to be so named.
The town of Porterdale can trace its beginnings back to 1830 when it was little more than a large cotton patch. Because of the abundance of cedar trees on the banks of the Yellow River where the settlement began, the area was originally known as Cedar Shoals. It had a total of seven houses, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, a foundry and a small country store. Cotton became the major agricultural crop. The area's first textile mill prospered under the ownership of Oliver Porter and the town grew, finally becoming chartered in 1890 as Porterdale. Porterdale residents, governmnent officials and Newton County have embraced a major movement to refurbish the historical structures as businesses and residential areas. One such project has come to fruition with the opening of the Porterdale Mill Lofts.
Mansfield and Newborn
Mansfield and Newborn are quaint towns where neighbors know each other by name and a real sense of community exists. They each have the need to preserve the past.
A complete history of Newton County is available in book form. The "History of Newton County" can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce for $65 or through the Newton County Historical Society.