Battle of Brown's Mill

Looking into Coweta’s past for History Month

by Wes Mayer


From left, Tony Owens, his father and WWII veteran Frank Owens, and Duke Blackburn present the history of the R.D. Cole Company at the Newnan courthouse Saturday. 

On Saturday, history enthusiasts were given the opportunity to visit the downtown Newnan Courthouse to peer into the very beginnings of Coweta County.

This year is the sesquicentennial – 150th anniversary – of the Battle of Brown’s Mill, the famous Civil War battle fought in the county on July 30, 1864. To celebrate the anniversary, a number of historical and educational events are being presented by the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, the Sesquicentennial Committee and the Brown’s Mill Battlefield Association.

“From the Beginning” was a history display viewable at the local courthouse. Photos and maps of the county as well as local newspaper articles, some of which date back to before the Civil War, were available to those in attendance.

“Most items gathered for the show were donated from residents of Coweta County,” Bowyer said. “The Sandborn Fire Insurance Maps were donated by Bill Headley, the newspaper articles by Billy Thomasson with The Newnan Times-Herald, and the numerous old maps were provided by Carolyn Turner with the Sesquicentennial Committee.”

The maps, which are mostly copies of much older maps of Georgia and the county, once belonged to a Newnan High School history teacher. After the teacher retired, a box containing rolled up maps was found. Turner is unsure of exactly where the maps came from, but thinks the teacher’s husband may have ordered them for the centennial celebration of the Battle of Brown’s Mill 50 years ago.

Some maps are copies of Spanish and French expeditions that were drawn so long ago, the Chattahoochee River was not even discovered yet.

Frank Owens, an 88-year-old World War II veteran and a retired road foreman with the R.D. Cole Company, was also at the courthouse with both his son Tony and Duke Blackburn showing off some old photos, tools and other antiques from Coweta’s old manufacturing company.

Owens was one of the men who helped build the many water towers around Newnan and Coweta. During the war, Owens was in the Navy and worked as a shipfitter. After the war, his skills aided him in working with the R.D. Cole Company building water towers. Owens remained with the company for nearly 40 years.

Owens said he usually had a crew of 10 to build the towers and much of the work was done by hand. Some of the 100,000 gallon tanks could take four to five weeks to build, but some of the larger tanks, like the million-gallon tank on Bullsboro Drive, would take much longer.

Blackburn, whose great, great grandfather founded R.D. Cole Company, told of its humble beginnings repairing wagons during the Civil War.

“R.D. Cole Company manufactured and built steam engines, homes, fireplaces, coal chutes and more,” Blackburn said.

Saturday’s history display was the first of four educational events planned for Coweta County’s history month. “Church History Day,” will be held on July 18, where residents will be able to explore the early 19th century churches around downtown Newnan from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On July 20, “Sacred Harp Singing,” will be held in the historic courtroom from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This will be followed by dinner on the grounds. Reservations are requested and can be made by calling 770-254-2627.

On July 26, tickets will be available to tour the battlefield of the Battle of Brown’s Mill for “A Window into the Past.” Four tour times are available – 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and the $15 tickets may be purchased from the Coweta County Visitor Center.

Finally, from Oct. 10-12, a 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Brown’s Mill and a display of hospitals in Newnan will be viewable downtown, at the Coweta County Fairgrounds and at the battlefield. Tickets are $5. For more information, visit or call 770-253-8264 or 770-251-0207.

“Our focus is education,” Bowyer said. “People can’t say they don’t know their history because they have so many opportunities to learn.”

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