Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.
John H. Goff’s book, “Place-Names of Georgia” (1975) revealed “One of Georgia’s most widely-known place-names is borne by Social Circle. Social Circle (appears) on most maps of the state."
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Heritage and Conservation Service’s National Register of Historic Places Inventory and Nomination Form was submitted in 1980 for Social Circle
The Social Circle Historic District Statement of Historic Significance stated the following. “Social Circle’s (origin) is unclear, (and) John Goff, an authority on Georgia (pointed) to an earlier community in Bulloch County.
"Goff postulates simply that the town in the Walton County community was named for the Bulloch County town. Now located in Walton County (45 miles east of Atlanta), Social Circle sits at the intersections of the “Hightower Trail” and the “Rogue Road.
John H. Goff’s article, entitled “The Path to Oakfuskee Upper Trading Route in Georgia to the Creek Indians,” was published the Georgia Historical Quarterly (1955).
In it, Goff wrote, “The Seven Islands Trail (led) to the mouth of Wise Creek at the Seven Islands on the Ocmulgee River (and) it entered the Etowah or Highpoint Trail that continued through what is now Social Circle.”
However, Goff went on to state that “an 1807 land plot for Bulloch County shows a route marked “Road to the Circle." Walton County wasn’t even settled until 1820.
The name was “applied to the place in Walton because of Eleazer Early’s map of 1818 (that) shows an older Social Circle (which was, Goff stated) possibly in existence for a considerable period.”
According to L.L. Knight’s book, Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends (1914), Eleazer was the son of John Early. He prepared and “published the first map of Georgia.”
Also, backing up this claim is the official history of the Social Circle United Methodist Church in Walton, which states that “a visitor or new resident from Bulloch County may have been the source of that (the town’s) name.”
Social Circle’s name appeared in both the U.S. Official Postal Guide and the Official Guide of the Railways. Furthermore, Social Circle was publicized by a Supreme Court case.
The town became the focus of a railroad freight-rate controversy, (and) the new Interstate commerce Commission made the ‘Social Circle’ decision. The challenge to the Commission's decision made the town famous.
The Georgia Dept. of Nat. Resources Historic Preservation Division’s “Social Circle Historic District’s Statement of Historic Significance” (2004) stated the following about Social Circle.
According to a report written on sites.rootsweb.com, articles from The Walton Tribune provided the following information. "The name seems to come from the comment of a visitor to the town."
"There was said to have been a community well and watering place at the settlement’s main junction of paths and trails where pioneers gathered and traded with each other."
And, "A stranger possibly following the Indian trail which later formed the bed of the Georgia Railroad to Augusta, stopped to rest and get a drink of water."
Then, having been "cordially received by those who had formed a circle around the well, the stranger made the comment, "This is sure a social circle."
So, "Before the group dispersed several agreed they would meet again at the circle and therefore the town became known as "Social Circle." J.P. Blackmon, built a log building where two Creek Indian paths met.
In quick succession, a shop, meeting house and storehouse were added and the small settlement was fast becoming a village. The town of Social Circle was finally incorporated in 1832.
The History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia, with Biographical Compendium and Portrait Gallery of Baptist Ministers and Other Georgia Baptists, compiled for the Christian Index, was published in 1881.
It declared, of, "the Baptists of Georgia who are not ministers, (but) deserve a place in these annals on account of their activity and usefulness in the cause of religion, is Mr. Thomas Alexander Gibbs, of Social Circle, Georgia."
It went on to state "for many years (he was) the efficient clerk of the Stone Mountain Association, (and) Mr. Gibbs is a deacon, of which office he is well-worthy."
"Often urged to accept ordination to the ministry, he has persistently refused, declaring that men have frequently ruined good deacons and Sunday School Superintendents by making preachers of them."
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.