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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 77
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

   I 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…

   He 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 television.

   Not 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.” (Amen!)

   “Uncle 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.

   Mr. 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.

   In the 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.

   Mr. 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.

   He was 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.

   In his 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.

   Mr. 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.

   Two 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.”

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