*originally appeared in About Covington magazine, 2011
Porterdale’s roots go all the way back to the early part of the 19th
century. Back then it was a community called Cedar Shoals and may have
also been referred to as Boston before that. The area would continue to
be known as Cedar Shoals until it was incorporated as Porterdale in
The town was named in honor of Oliver
S. Porter who was in many ways the father of this town; however, to
backtrack a bit, the grandfather of the town would have been Noah
Phillips, a transplanted Connecticut man, who purchased several acres
near Cedar Shoals in 1831 in order to start a wool and cotton factory.
Over the years different owners and operations would
come and go until the aforementioned Mr. Porter took over the Cedar
Shoals operation in 1869. Expansions and growth with the company and the
city would continue over the next several years.
as Oxford had a shared history with Oxford College, so did Porterdale
with the factory. In 1898, a Macon outfit, Bibb Manufacturing Co., took
over ownership of the Cedar Shoals Mill after having built their own
mill about a decade earlier on the other side of the Yellow River.
in the earlier days, Oliver Porter married Julia Camp, who had been
married to a Charles Camp before he passed away in the mid 1860's. Mr.
Camp owned half the shares of the mill at the time that Porter would
take over after he wed Julia in 1869. Julia already had a daughter with
Camp, and the Porters would go on to have four children of their own.
All of the Porter kids (excepting Mary, who died young) would go on to
college at Emory and return to their native town in order to help the
family business. In particular, their oldest son John was very
instrumental in helping to build a school for the town and also to start
bringing in medical care for the burgeoning mill village. One of the other
sons, O.W., became the manager of the village general store. Both John
and O.W. remained very much involved and active with the town through
As mentioned earlier, Bibb MFG Co. out of
Macon took over the Cedar Shoals Mills after having built their own on
the north side of the river about a decade earlier. At the time, Bibb
had mills in
several other cities including Macon and Columbus. In 1920, a newspaper was started up called The Bibb Recorder
which served all of the cities that Bibb had mills in. The paper had a
50 year run that ended in 1970. Ask anybody around who lived or was
raised in Porterdale back in the day and they'll no doubt tell you how
important the Recorder was.
the operations for Bibb grew through the 1920's and 30's more and more
improvements were made to the city. Multiple schools were built in order
to better serve the educational needs of the area. The first graduating
class of Porterdale High School commenced in 1939. In addition to
multiple stores, businesses, social clubs, and other things of the like,
even had its own hospital during this time. In fact, my wife's mother
was born at that hospital as were countless other folks throughout the
years. Throughout the 50's & 60's, the Bibb Mills employed
upwards of 2500 people. During the early part of the 20th century, the
company actually owned most of the quaint houses one will see in
Porterdale, but by the 1960's, those houses were starting to be sold to
Eventually, Bibb closed down
their operations and the town fell off a bit; however, over the last
decade, Porterdale has had quite a resurgence. At the center of this is
the lofts that have been developed at the mill on the north side of the
river and the remodeling of the downtown business district. The future
looks very bright for Porterdale, GA!