History of Sheffield District, Rockdale Co.
By C. I. Mann
The first State Constitution of Georgia was signed February 5, 1777, and eight counties were created; namely, Burke, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Richmond, Liberty, and Wilkes. When the Cherokee Indians ceded certain lands to Georgia in 1818, Walton and Gwinnett Counties were created. When the Creek Indians ceded certain lands south of Hightower Trail in 1821, Henry and Newton Counties were formed. Rockdale County was created on October 18, 1870, and named for Rockdale Church. Four districts were formed, of which Sheffield was one of them, reaching from Yellow River to the north and taken from Walton, Gwinnett, and Newton Counties. Some of the first industries in Rockdale County were in Sheffield District. The Governor of Georgia had the land south of the Hightower Trail surveyed and numbered; there was a drawing of the numbers and the lucky one, George Merritt, drew what is now known as Costley's Mill, and he built a corn mill there in 1823. Sometime later the Creek Indians attempting to regain the land burned the mill in 1827. The mill was rebuilt in 1830 and again burned in 1838 by the Cherokee Indians, who after the discovery of gold at Dahlonega, tried to reclaim the land thinking there was gold here. Upon hearing that the Indians were coming, with the help of neighbors the machinery was taken out of the mill and the rocks were placed in the tail race at the back of the mill were they still remain. This mill was just above the present mill. Sortly after this, the mill was rebuilt and when Sherman's Army marched to the sea, a part of them passed this way. When they threatened to burn the mill, they were persuaded not to by Mrs. Winnie Puckett. In 1868 the first cotton gin was built here by a Mr. Cushion, and it was a four-saw gin without condensers, having to use a lint room. Mr. Cushion also built gins for sale, which were powered with wood water wheels. This was the first mill nearby powered by water. This gin was owned by Jessie L. Baker, who formed a partnership with James A. Kennedy in 1868 and built a sawmill which was called an up and down sawmill. It was powered by two wooden water wheels, one to pull the saw and the other to pull the carriage. It was said you could put a 16 foot log on the carriage, start the saw, go to dinner, come back, and it would still be sawing the same line. The water wheel to pull the carriage for the sawmill was set in a diagonal shape. In 1869 a three-story house was built where the mill now stands to grind both wheat and corn, which was the most modern mill of its day. This mill was imported, the rocks were known as French Buss and were said to be some of the finest rocks in the world at that time. In 1873 a two-story house where the gin now stands was built for the first cotton mill in the County or Section. It made thread which was balled in small balls by hand. A small peanut oil mill was also added just for providing oil for the machinery. Also added was a woolen mill, which made woolen thread and wool hats only. Jessie Baker died in 1879 and the mills were sold in 1883. The cotton mill was sold and moved to Anniston and later burned. The other mills were sold to J. L. T. Costley in 1884. A Mr. Cushion, who worked there ran a wood shop, which made wooden shoe lasts used in the making or repairing of shoes which were pegged together with wooden pegs. These were some of the first industries in this section of the State. There is still an anvil vise, the bottom of an oil press, work bench, and some beams and corn rocks used at the place at the bottom of the mill water house still in good condition to be seen there. Costley's Mill was burned in 1909 and rebuilt in 1910 by the Costley Brothers with a roller mill, corn mill, cotton gin, and sawmill. In 1873 there were five water wheels used at this mill. In 1870 J. W. B. Summers built a mill on Little Haynes Creek. In 1855 Black's Mill was built and in 1884 Barnes Mill was built, which burned in 1953. All these were in Sheffield District. Of these only two are standing today. The first suction or modern gin in the County was build by P. L. Graham in Sheffield at Zingara in 1906. Churches of Sheffield District: Philadelphia Church met at the spring at back of the present site of the church about on quarter mile in constituion in November, 1850. This church is located on Hightower Trail, formerly Walton County, now Rockdale County. A small house was built on the present ground which was given by L. H. Montgomery. In 1869 another house was built while Rev. John Howard was pastor. In 1904 the present house was built while Rev. Olin King was pastor. The present pastor is the Rev. H. M. Driver. Per information recorded in Deed Book I Page 298 Clerk, Superior Court, Rockdale County, Georgia, in 1935 one half acre was given by the A. S. Farmer Estate. E. D. Holmes gave one acre more or less in 1956, recorded in Deed Book 31 Page 573. Pleasant Hill Church met at the spring below where the church now stands on August 30, 1873, in Constitution. The Presbytry was formed with Oliver Reagan, Luke Robertson, and J. Z. Bush, members. They then went into conference and elected J. Z. Bush the first Pastor and William Owens, Chruch Clerk. On September 2, 1884, W. D. Whitloe sold and conveyed three acres of land more or less to William Owens and W. J. Turner, Trustees for $45.00. This was recorded in Deed Book C, Page 417, Clerk, Superior Court, Rockdale County, July 17, 1886. A building committee was thus appointed as follows: W. J. Turner, W. H. Westley and W. R. Owens on June 19, 1875. On April 17, 1880, the Committee reported the house completed and paid for with $1.00 balance. The Treasurer reported $14.20 raised for support of the church for the first year and paid out $14.40. This church was replaced in 1916 with the present one. The Church is now eighty-one years old and is a modern building, and old landmark, and a beacon light to the community. Before there was a house in which to meet, they often met under the trees or a brush arbor, weather permitting, or in someone's house. It is an old landmark of which we are proud. The present pastor is W. C. Fowler, and Weyman Johnson, Church Clerk. The Church of Christ called Mt. Zion met in Constitution March 29, 1879. Rev. J. Hamby, N. B. Harde and T. Jordan, all regular ordained ministers sat as presbytery to constitute. J. Hamby was chosen Moderator and A. Whitaker, Clerk. Letters were called for and seven members came forward (viz) W. D. Almand and wife, Joel Marks and wife, Joel Summerlin and wife, and M. J. Bailey. They then went to conference and elected W. D. Almand first Pastor, James Summerlin, Chruch Clerk and Joel Marks, Deacon, and ordained by Elder N. B. Harde. The land was given by W. D. Almand who was elected first pastor March 29, 1879. The house was begun immediately. The present pastor is Rev. Beauford. Bethel Church was partly organized October 5, 1885, with thirty-five members and completed May 3, 1886, by the ordination of elders and deacons by Rev. B. W. Golightly. On May 2, 1886, B. W. Golightly was elected first Pastor; James M. Summers and N. H. Capehart, Elders; George Smith and George Haralson, Deacons and W. H. Trimble, Clerk. P. H. Cooper was first to be baptised October 4, 1885, by B. W. Golightly. March 31, 1888, a cemetery was surveyed and plat made. John H. Wood was ordained to preach by Rev. Thomas Munnell and W. A. Chastain Novemer 27, 1892. W. H. Moon was the only other member ordained to preach but date not given. November 7, 1885, David Graham conveyed the land for the Church to N. H. Capehart, G. L. Smith, G. P. Sigman, P. M. Born and W. H. Trimble, Building Committee for the Christian Church at Indians Camp Spring. This was recorded in Deed Book C Page 37, Clerk Superior Court of Rockdale County. December 31, 1889, Thomas A. White conveyed right of way to spring to N. H. Capehart, G. L. Smith, G. P. Sigman, P. M. Born and W. H. Trimble. Recorded in Deed Book D Page 417, Clerk of Superior Court, Rockdale County. The present pastor is Rev. Ted Jones. There are two colored churches in Sheffield District, both are Baptist. Double Springs, Colored Church, was orgainized in 1879. This land was given by James B. McCalla as shown on record for and in consideration of the love he bore for the cause of Christ and from an earnest desire to promote his heritage on earth, do give and grant by these present convey unto the Trustees of the colored church a certain lot. The present building (of Bethel Elementary School) was built in 1943. The gymnasium was built in 1935 and burned in 1948. Another gym was built of concrete block in 1949. This school has running water from a deep well, nice restrooms and a nice cafeteria. It is a meeting place for most of the activities of the community. There is a marker on Hightower Trail just off Highway No. 20, placed there by John McIntosh Chapter and State of Georgia D. A. R. in 1928. A part of Sherman's Army passed over this trail on the march to the sea from Atlanta. Many of Rockdale's best citizens were from Sheffield. Judge A. C. McCalla was first Ordinary and later a Representative. Other Representatives were James M. Summers, R. H. Cannon, Chester Carmon, J. H. McCalla, D. W. Leach, and others who filled county offices. Some were teachers, preachers, and business men in all walks of life. There are two Masonic Lodges in Rockdale County. The oldest is Philogia Lodge No. 178 which was first held in Sheffield District of originally Newton County, now Rockdale County, Sheffield District. This Charter was granted October 29, 1853 and directed to W. R. Milner, Worshipful Master, B. F. Sigman, Warden, and James White, Jr., Warden, J. P. Henderson, Secretary. The building was a two-story wood structure; the bottom was used for a school and the upper floor for the Lodge. This Lodge was moved to Conyers in 1870. B. R. Mize, Jr. is Worshipful Master and Clyde Grenade, Secretary, 1954. Zingara Lodge was chartered on October 31, 1907. T. J. Bowen, Worshipful Master and T. J. Day, Sr., Warden, C. A. Blake, Jr., Warden, P. L. Graham, Secretary. Zingara Lodge first met on the upper floor of a school house in 1907 and moved to its present site in 1931, which is on Haralson Shoals Road at Zingara Store. In 1908 C. A. Blake presented the Lodge with a sword which his father carried through the Revolution and he had carried it through the War Between the States. The present officers are: M. T. Bailey, Worshipful Master; J. R. Leach, Jr., Senior Warden; W. M. Ragsdale, Jr., Warden; C. I. Mann, Secretary, and D. E. Corley, Treasurer.