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Posted: September 22, 2011 7:23 p.m.

Morgan: A trip back in time

Neither "pack rat" nor "hoarder" is a term I would ever use about my precious mother. "Historian" is far better. Recently, she pulled out two boxes of old newspapers and invited me to have a look. They go back to 1936 when she was a student at Macon’s Wesleyan College, reading The Macon Telegraph and captivated by King Edward VIII’s abandonment of the English throne to marry American divorcee’ Wallis Warfield Simpson. On December 8, 1936, the headline blared: "Mrs. Simpson Offers to Give up King’s Love." (Drama queen, indeed.) On May 13, 1937, Edward’s brother Bertie (of "The King’s Speech" movie) formally ascended the throne: "George V crowned Ruler of British Empire." The papers are crisply fragile and huge (16 ½" wide x 23" long) compared to papers 11" wide x 22"long today.

The collection jumped ahead a few years, and I found myself gingerly turning the yellowed pages of the Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal. On August 15, 1945, the Journal headline read: "Death Machines Are Stilled As World Peace Era Dawns," this after Japan’s unconditional surrender. (Does anyone remember how long that world peace thing lasted?) I also found Atlanta papers from November 1963 about the assassination of President John Kennedy, an event that seared our collective psyche.

A second box held several copies of the multi-sectioned 100th anniversary edition of the Covington News on October 28, 1965. A lot in that paper is well known to many native Newton Countians, but a lot may be news to relative newcomers. For example, in 1857 Emory (now Oxford) College professor Dr. Alexander Means produced the precursor to the modern electric light. Newton County had the first rural telephone system around 1897 when Claude and H.B. Adams linked up about 14 Adams families near the Brickstore community. That small community — then called Winston and just beyond the Hub junction — was established in 1818 and was the county seat until 1819 when it conceded the title to Covington, then Newtonborough, because it lacked an adequate water supply. The Brickstore building, an early inn and tavern, was constructed by Solomon Graves of Mt. Pleasant with bricks made in England, shipped to Savannah and brought overland by oxen-pulled wagons. The Hub, an early bus station where as many as 20 buses could load and unload at one time, was judged to be the world’s largest rural bus station by Robert Ripley himself.

This headline caught my eye: "Mansfield’s Name Tribute to Temperance." Here’s the story as "legend" had it: The town was founded by five principals of the Carmel Land Improvement Co. The men spent the night before the first land lots were to be sold in Social Circle, and on the buggy drive to the new town’s site, it was agreed the town would be named for whoever among them remained sober, and that was a man named "Mansfield." The charter of 1903 said no intoxicating beverage "shall ever be sold within the city limits."

Dried Indian Creek that wends through a large part of Covington got its name from exactly that: a dried up Indian. Seems the fellow refused to give up his home on the creek when the government forced Native Americans westward. Some time later, circling buzzards along the creek’s route announced the presence of something that had passed on, and his remains were found, leading to the name. And did you know that famed Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia was named for Newton County native Dr. S.V. Sanford, once UGA’s president and Chancellor of the University System?

That 1965 paper re-printed a 1913 Atlanta Constitution story, wherein "Rural Schools of Newton Lead All of Georgia." Then, Newton County had more standardized schools than any county in the state, one-fourth of all there were. The school system was the first to enforce "individualized drinking cups," the first to ban smoking, the first to consolidate all county schools and the first in the South to provide transportation for students in covered wagons. At one time, the county was home to nine academies and colleges. Other Newton County firsts included the first traveling library, the first sanitary drinking water system, the first rural free mail delivery and the first Corn Club which became the popular 4-H Clubs. The Porterdale Mill was the largest twine mill in the world.

In 1915, a writer named A.D. Meador had this to say about Covington: "We boast of the very best health conditions and know we have the most beautiful little city to be found anywhere with the highest moral conditions, and its gates stand open to all the good and right-thinking people who wish to enter."

Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She chairs the Newton Advisory Committee.

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