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Birthday Bash to culminate county’s yearlong 200th birthday celebration
fireworks - July 4 2021 - blast 5
Newton County will host a “Bicentennial Birthday Bash” later this month to culminate the yearlong celebration. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County is set to host a “Bicentennial Birthday Bash” this month to culminate the yearlong celebration of the 200th anniversary of its founding.

The event is set for Dec. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. on the Covington Square and will include music, fireworks and more, county officials said.

The funds are coming from a $75,000 budget the Board approved earlier this year for Bicentennial events.

As part of the yearlong celebration, Newton County government also hosted free showings of movies filmed in Newton County, such as historical dramas like “Selma” and youth-oriented films like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid II.”

Volunteers helped members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners during monthly community cleanup events in each of the five Board districts throughout the year.

Newton County’s Bicentennial Committee also offered commemorative “Legacy Bricks” for sale to be placed at the newly named Bicentennial Park adjacent to the Newton County Administration Building in downtown Covington.

It also asked residents to vote for winners of a 22 Bicentennial Awards “to commemorate and recognize the work and legacy of local citizens and Newton County businesses that reflect a stellar level of integrity, character, ethics, longevity in service, and community commitment.” 

The yearlong event celebrated the county being formed on Dec. 24, 1821, from parts of Henry, Jasper, and Walton counties. 

It was named for Revolutionary War hero Sgt. John Newton and the original center of activity was a settlement called Winton at the Brick Store in the eastern part of the county. However, state law required the seat of the new county to be as close as possible to its geographic center so a site between the Alcovy and Yellow rivers was designated the county seat and named Covington in honor of War of 1812 hero Gen. Leonard Covington.

The county’s other incorporated towns date from throughout the 19th century, with Newborn settled around 1819 while still part of Jasper County; Porterdale settled in the 1820s to establish a foundry; and Mansfield flourished from about 1896, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Oxford was incorporated in 1839 to support Emory College, which was chartered in 1836 in the Newton County town.

In 1919, the college opened a second campus near Atlanta, moved its main campus there, and kept the original campus as a two-year part of the main university called Oxford College of Emory University. 

Some Newton County unincorporated communities today include Almon, Brick Store, Cornish Mountain, Dial Town, Gum Creek, Magnet, Rocky Plains, Salem, Starrsville and Stewart.

Manufacturing and transportation also played major roles in the county’s transition from an agricultural-based community in the 20th century. 

In 1899 the Bibb Manufacturing Co. built a twine mill on the Yellow River and named it Porterdale Mill to take advantage of heavy cotton production here. Covington Mill followed and operated north of the Covington Square. 

Movement of the insect called the boll weevil into Georgia put a major dent into cotton production, which led to many local residents leaving the county for farming or industrial work in other areas of the country. 

In 1952 U.S. Hwy. 278 was built just south of the Georgia Railroad in Covington which helped spawn retail development outside the city core, according to information from the Chamber. 

Then, in 1977, state transportation officials declared Interstate 20 completed in its east-west route through Newton County and the entire state. As a result, major employers like General Mills, Pactiv Corp. and Becton Dickinson and Co. moved to Newton County and others, such as Bridgestone Golf and Nisshimbo Automotive, followed.

The county also became popular as a filming location for movies and popular TV shows — from the 1980s series “In the Heat of the Night” to the still-popular “Vampire Diaries” and its spinoff productions.

Rapid population growth in the county beginning in the 1960s also mirrored other suburban counties in Metro Atlanta. The population has tripled in about 40 years and is now around 112,000, according to the 2020 federal census.