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.