The History: Coweta County comes through during a crisis
By Emily Kimbell, Newnan-Coweta Historical Society
Much of history is remembered through disaster. War, plague, natural disaster, death – these are the details, the numbers, the figures that we see throughout our history books.
The real beauty of history, however, is in the people and the communities that go through those disasters. Coweta County is no stranger to disaster, and our citizens have a consistent practice of coming together during times of adversity to ensure we make it through difficult moments together.
In 1867, shortly after the ending of the Civil War, Coweta County citizens were called together for a community meeting regarding a bread shortage. Due to the war, so little corn had been harvested over the past year that livestock could not be fed, and death by starvation had occurred in the county. Two widow families, who lived in the same house, reported that they had to limit their family rations to three bites of cornbread a meal per family member to ensure enough food for each person.
Word got out that Newnan needed help, and surrounding communities responded. People from Kentucky, California, and Philadelphia all sent money. Dr. Gore, of Kentucky, who was in charge of the hospitals in Newnan during the Civil War, sent bushels of corn, as did Professor H. F. Smith, who had once been a Newnan resident. Gifts came from around the country, and the food was distributed among the needy in Coweta, Carroll, and Campbell county.
Coweta County citizens once again supported their community during WWII. When war-time rationing began in 1942, Coweta responded with recycling projects, canning programs, and war-time efforts. Local 4-H club members produced and canned vegetables and fruits as part of the Food for Victory Program. The Local Boy Scouts collected enough scrap aluminum to build an army pursuit plane. Women donated their silk and nylon stockings for defense use. The American Red Cross sponsored classes in bandage making from old cotton sheets, and local industries like the R.D. Cole and Royal Manufacturing Company played an important role in manufacturing necessary products and materials.
With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, our county is quite literally living and making history. Every day across our television and computer screens, we see the new number of people infected with the virus and those who have passed from complications. Every day becomes a bit more difficult not to be discouraged by the current climate.
Still, as usual, Coweta County citizens make the best of a terrible situation and support each other. In mid-March, downtown Newnan neighborhoods participated in a Rainbow Hunt to encourage cheer among local families. On March 28 and March 29, hundreds met in the parking lot of Piedmont Hospital for a Prayer Gathering to show support for the nurses and doctors working the front lines of the pandemic. As of April 1, local sister duo – Moms Make Masks – have sewn and donated over 800 masks to medical professionals, and many more local seamstresses have contributed to similar causes. Libraries and museums are providing digital resources and community gathering alternatives, citizens are supporting local businesses as much as possible, and our community is doing whatever it takes to get through yet another crisis.
When the COVID-19 crisis finally ends, we will certainly analyze the numbers and consider future measures of prevention. However, our community will also remember the impact made in the everyday kind moments and support that we gave each other. History will be made through our citizens and the people that make Coweta great!
Newnan-native, Emily Kimbell is the director of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society and McRitchie-Hollis Museum. Emily is currently finishing her doctoral studies at Georgia State University, where she also teaches English Composition courses and is an active member of her community often seen on stage in local theatre productions and writing for local media outlets.