honestly cannot remember if I have used the story of G.W. “Uncle Billy”
Newton before. If I have, forgive me. It’s such an interesting story of
the early days of this area that it’s worth two publications if I have
printed it earlier sometimes…
didn’t live to see American astronauts fly to the moon and back, but G.W.
“Uncle Billy” Newton, member of one of Colquitt County’s earliest
families, witnessed the transition from “three track” trails through the
woods to four-lane highways and “dirt floor” education in a log cabin to
fine brick schools and “visual aid” teaching with movie camera and
long before his death on January 31, 1953, at the age of 86, Mr. Newton
contrasted “the old and the new” – the pioneer life with the “modern” –
and he concluded that “if some of the more current generations could have
experienced the lack of facilities and the hardships of the early settlers
of this area, they would appreciate wheat they have a great deal more.”
Billy,” gave more years and service to Colquitt County in more different
capacities than any man in the (then) 130-year history of the county. He
was sheriff, county commissioner, clerk of the commissioners, clerk of
courts, bailiff, chairman of the board of education more than 20 years,
first president of the Farmers Union in 1905-1906 (the forerunner of the
Farm Bureau), and served several terms in the Georgia Legislature from
Colquitt County, first as representative and then as state senator.
Newton gained wide fame as an arbitrator and referee, employing quite
often the “cooling off method” – postponing arguments and differences
between parties until they could “calm down” and view things logically.
Many people as a consequence, preferred to have “Uncle Billy” settle their
claims and controversies.
history of Colquitt County, Mr. Newton’s greatest value was his knowledge
of both the “past and present” of the walking and horseback riding through
ice-laden forests and of the automobile traffic in and out of town in the
more modern era. While he cut his “eye teeth” on horse and buggy, he also
drove a car until a few days before his death.
Newton possessed a keen recollection of the “way things were” before
people in this area had the comforts of good schools, electric lights,
fast cars, movie houses and daily television.
the son of Confederate veteran George F. Newton. His father was wounded
at the Battle of Gettysburg. “Uncle Billy” was born September 18, 1866.
He was a descendant of a line of farmers who helped settle this area. He
made farmers, public servants and civic leaders of his own children.
childhood, Mr. Newton recalled going to school in a log cabin which had a
dirt floor, wide chinks in the logs “and long poles against the wall” for
seats. It made him determined to do something for the children who would
come after him in future generations – hence his long service as a school
board chairman and legislator.
Newton vividly recalled when rice was grown in the area and separated from
the chaff with mortar and pestle…and he could remember when the sheep in
the territory far outnumbered hogs and cattle.
great achievements of agriculture came in his time and “Uncle Billy” was
quick to admit their “tremendous value.” One was the mechanization of
farming – arrival of trucks, tractors and harvesters to replace the mule
and wagon, not to mention the horse-drawn plow. The other was the
“electrification” of the farms which carried city living to the rural
sections and helped “keep ’em down on the farm.”