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History in Hollywood: The Earliest-Known History of the Newton County Area

Recently, we brought you a visual article spanning the history of the historic square in Downtown Covington, Georgia with some rare photographs of what it looked like during each decade. We had so much fun taking a step back in time that we decided to stretch it out into a local history series that goes into more detail about Newton County’s past throughout each decade. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as we go back to the earliest recorded days in present-day Covington, GA for today’s History in Hollywood…in the Hollywood of the South®!

Archaeologists believe that humans have lived in the region around Newton County for at least 12,000 years. Clovis and Folsom points have been discovered, which suggests that big game like mastodons, saber tooth tigers, and giant sloths once roamed the river valley that our land sits upon.

Because our community is located on the widespread Ocmulgee River Basin, the area was first inhabited by various groups of Native Americans. The Alcovy, Yellow, and South Rivers all join in Southern Newton County to form the Ocmulgee River. Each of these rivers were deep enough to allow large Native American canoes to traverse through their narrow pathways.

In fact, the word Alcovy is said to be an Anglicization of the hybrid Itza Maya-Creek word Al-cofv, which means Territory of the Mixed (people.) The word Ocmulgee is the Anglicization of the hybrid Hitchiti-Muskogee-Creek words, Oka-mole-ke, which means “water-swirling people.” So by this estimation, the earliest residents of our area were a diverse group of Native Americans that relied on the local water systems for their subsistence.

Shortly after Hernando de Soto and his expedition passed through Georgia in 1540, an epidemic of European diseases hit the Native American population. De Soto was said to have passed through Macon, GA in March of 1540. The indigenous people of this area would have been exposed to deadly pathogens at least by the summer of 1540 as they were transmitted up the tributaries of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers. Anthropologists currently estimate that the indigenous population of Georgia dropped by about 95% between years 1500 and 1700.

Almost immediately after Spanish missions were established on the coast of Georgia in the 1500s, the ancestors of the Creek Confederacy were growing European fruits and vegetables in addition to their traditional crops. A Spanish expedition in 1600 recorded the observation of peaches, pears and melons being grown in a village on the Ocmulgee River.

By the 1700s, the local Creek people were also raising European livestock. Chickens and hogs were the first European animals acquired to supplement their turkey flocks and Mexican meat dogs. By the late 1700s, most Georgia Creek men owned horses and had become skilled herders of cattle, horses and hogs. The area now known as Covington and Newton County, Georgia was inhabited by Creek peoples up until the land was ceded to the State of Georgia in 1818 and 1821.

If you want to explore more about our local History in Hollywood, stay tuned for our next blog in this series which will pick up in the 1800’s when the area became industrialized. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and let us know what you think about this new series!

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