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Scull Shoals, early manufacturing community on the Oconee
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.

Part I

E. Merton Coulter's article, entitled "Scull Shoals: An Extinct Georgia Manufacturing and Farming Community," was published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly issue of March 1964.

The Oconee River's several shoals, which impeded navigation, also created excellent source for water-powered mills and factories.  The rapids were given the name of Scull Shoals.

While many thought this referred to a number of sculls being found in the area, it actually came from the boat's scull, a short oar at the stern of the boat used to guide it through rapids and other water course.

G.H. Collier's article, "The Settlement of Scull Shoals," was published in the “Papers of the Athens Historical Society” (1863) further explained how the town got its name.

Near to the shoals were indian mounds, whom freshets had washed away, depositing their contents along the riverbank. Collier also reveals there were Creek and Cherokee indian graveyards nearby.

O.H. Prince's book, “A Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia” (1837), stated that as early as 1799, the Georgia legislature banned anyone from blocking the passage of fish as far upstream as Cedar Shoals.

Several citizens secured a charter for their Oconee Navigation Company, which planned on clearing obstacles between Milledgeville and Barnes Shoals.

A.S. Clayton's “Compilation (of) Laws (of) Georgia” (1812) listed the tolls: 25 cents per hogshead of tobacco, 18¾ cents per bbl. of flour, 25 cents per bale of cotton or 1,000 feet of lumber, and 12½ cents for 100 pounds of material being transported.

L.Q.C. Lamar's “A Compilation of the Laws of the State of Georgia” (1821) revealed the legislature set aside a total of $15,000 for the Oconee River's navigational improvements.

Eventually, a plan was devised, dividing the Oconee River between Milledgeville and Barnes Shoals into 14 segments, which two men were hired to clean up one segment at a time.

Zachariah Sims opened one of, if not the first, mills on the Oconee, which included a grist, cotton, and sawmill by 1809. He also built a bridge across the river. Clayton's Compilation (1812) listed his fees.

They were: 37½ cents per loaded wagon/4-wheeled carriage; 25 cents for empty wagon/2-wheeled carriage; 12½ cents per hogshead of tobacco; 6¼ cents for a man on horseback; 3 cents per horse; 2 cents per cow; and 1cent per hog, sheep, or goat.

Sims advertised in Athens “Foreign Correspondent & Georgia Express” in November of 1809 that he was starting a paper mill, and asked citizens to bring all their rags to Sculls Shoals.

Greene County Deed Records (EE), in the Greensboro County Courthouse Records, show that on April 3, 1814, Sims sold Thomas Ligon a majority interest in the 7-acre tract with his paper mill, grist mill, and distillery.

Over the next 10 years, Ligon's property became known as "Ligon's Mills and Bridge." Then, what had grown to 1,620 acres were sold on July 18th, 1827 to Dr. Thomas N. Poullain.

Documents in the “State of Georgia's Department of Archives and History” reveal that Baptist preacher Adiel Sherwood, author of the “Gazetteer of the State of Georgia,” became Scull Shoal's postmaster in 1827.

He was succeeded in this position by Poullain in 1828. The “Acts of the General Assembly (of) Georgia” (1834) disclosed that Dr. Poullain and associates then formed the Scull Shoals Manufacturing Company.

The Athens Southern Banner of Nov. 11, 1845 reported a fire had destroyed two of his mill buildings, but his store, warehouse, flour mill, cotton gin, and workers dwellings were untouched.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at

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