Newton County, Georgia has always been an important agricultural epicenter. The county has just under 175,000 acres of vast, fertile, Piedmont soil with a red clay base. The famous Georgia red clay is chock full of nutrients, which makes Newton County some of the best farming land in the country. Early settlers and farmers grew barley, grain, sorghum, and corn for cattle.
Soon, vast plantations began dotting the landscape and farmers began growing the king of all southern crops, cotton. During the early 1800’s, Burge Plantation and Gaither Plantation pioneered the growing industry and would be captains of the business well into the Civil War. However, after the War, labor shortages and unlimited demands and high prices for cotton, most plantations were forced to outsource. Cotton was no longer a “one-farm-does-all” crop. Cotton needed to be milled and refined to meet the demands for clothing. These demands brought about the increased use of horse-drawn machinery and the need for mills.
Newton County became an epicenter for this cotton growth and production, with the establishment of two major cotton mills within its borders during the latter 19th century. The Porterdale Mill was the first, established in 1889, and was erected for wool carding and cotton milling. The factory housed 1,084 spin-dies and ten looms and could operate with a crew of forty-five employees. Ten years later, the company was purchased by the Bibb Manufacturing Company of Macon, Georgia and production changed to cotton yarn and twine.
In 1900, to meet the demand for finely milled cotton again, Covington Mills was established. The Mill was opened just north of the Covington Square and ran for a full 12 hours a day. In fact, it was this mill that allowed the city of Covington to survive the Great Depression. Without the money the mill accumulated, many families would have starved and the town would have become destitute. It should also be noted that Covington and its surrounding towns were the perfect location for a cotton mill empire. The Alcovy, the South, and the Yellow Rivers all feed into the county, providing power for the cotton and twine processing plants.
But, enough about the history. Let’s talk about how you can visit these historical sites for yourself! Unfortunately, the Covington Mill is no longer in existence, but the Porterdale Mill is. In fact, the Mills were restored and are now stunning loft apartments and a bustling shopping center.
Looking for a day on the farm? Visit Oxford, Georgia’s Double K Farms, also known as Mitcham Farm. This farm has been in operation through five generations and one-hundred years. Today, the farm is owned and operated by Tommy Mitcham, the great, great grandson of the original founder.
Mitcham Farm has been recognized by the state of Georgia as a Centennial Family Farm and visitors can still literally touch the history. You can pick your own strawberries and cotton boils here. And, in the fall, the farm is also home to Colonel Cob’s Corn Maze!
Burge Plantation in Mansfield is also still a fully operating organic farm as well as a hunting club and wedding venue. You can purchase their fresh, local foods at your local farmer's market. Visit Mitcham Farm in Oxford as well as the Mill in Porterdale to experience a slice of history, and see just how important Newton County has been to the agricultural history of Georgia.