Rockdale was created
from parts of Henry and Newton Counties. It was the 133rd
county created, and was incorporated October 18, 1870, additionally,
it was named after the Rockdale Church, and the vein of granite
running beneath the county. Conyers is the county seat, and
the only incorporated municipality. Conyers was named for a
local physician that donated the right-of-way for the first railroad
and the lot in town for the railroad depot.
The history of Conyers and Rockdale County is diverse and dates back
over ten thousand years. Early natives known as "The Mound Builders"
were only one of the many groups who visited Rockdale's gentle
hills, lakes and streams. Much later, the Creek and Cherokee Nations
shared a common border, the "Great Indian Road," now known as
Hightower Trail in northern Rockdale. In the early 1800's, this
trail was a main route for white settlers moving inland after the
Georgia stretched all the way to the Mississippi River, and this
Indian Road provided an irresistible magnet for European
immigration. State authorities officially opened up what is now
Rockdale County to settlers in 1816 and 1821. One of several
settlements grew up around Costley's Mill on Big Haynes Creek. This
settlement grew to include the first school, a gristmill, a sawmill,
a planing mill, and eventually a cotton gin.
Salem Baptist Church, which still performs baptisms in the sparkling
waters of the old millpond, was also part of this settlement. A
dozen or more mills appeared quickly, including the three-story
Kennedy-Baker Mill which used French burrs for grinding corn and
wheat, but several were eventually burned down by Indians. The
earliest settlement occurred in the extreme northern edge of the
county. The southern end of the county was settled as Scots and
Scotch-Irish began moving up along the rivers and streams from what
is now Henry County. These early families founded numerous churches
including Smyrna Presbyterian in 1827, the oldest Calvinist
Campground in the United States.