The Brick Store & Community | Newton County, GA | c. 1821
Built in 1821, this historic brick structure has served a multitude of purposes over the years, its importance evident in that the community took its name from the landmark. But the building served a purpose for more than just locals. The settlers who traversed the routes that crossed out front depended on places like this to refresh their supplies, supplement their wagon trains, and learn more about what to expect on the trail ahead.
Early Area History
But before there were wagon trains of white settlers heading west, there were tribes of Creek natives in this part of Georgia. But by 1825, all of their lands within Georgia had been ceded in deceptive treaties that ended in the forcible removal on the Trail of Tears. As former native lands became available through the Georgia Land Lotteries, settlement expanded from the coastal cities of Charleston and Savannah inland. Following native footpaths, stage routes were established that became conduits for settlers moving west.
The Brick Store Is Built
One such road is marked on early maps as the ‘Rogue Road’ that connected Charleston, South Carolina with New Orleans, Louisiana. This road ran through what would become Newton County, and at its intersection with the road to Milledgeville (Georgia’s capital) would arise a crossroads community that would come to be called Brick Store, after this local landmark.
The store, first owned by Martin Kolb, is thought to have been built in 1821 by Solomon Graves. Graves had come from Caswell County, North Carolina to Georgia to establish Mount Pleasant Plantation, where he enslaved 69 people. Graves and Kolb were some of the earliest white settlers to this section and both owned plantations in what would become the community of Brick Store, also known as Winton.
The 1.5-story structure is built of hand-made bricks that were likely formed and fired in a kiln here on-site*. They are laid in the American Bond style with walls that are 3-4 bricks thick for reinforcement.
*In one historic account I found, it mentions that Graves built the structure out of bricks that were shipped here from England. But in the scholarship that has followed, most historians disagree, although it hasn’t been confirmed definitely where the bricks originated.
A Community Is Founded
The Georgia Land Lotteries of the 1820s attracted settlement and after the Brick Store was built in 1821, a community began to form around it. Later that same year, Newton County was established out of parts of Henry, Jasper, and Walton Counties. Surrounded by newly established plantations, the crossroads soon had a school, a church, and an inn, in addition to the general store.
One Building, Many Purposes
When Newton County was formed, the Georgia General Assembly named the Brick Store/Martin Kolb House as the temporary meeting place for elections and courts of the newly formed county. On April 15, 1822, the brick store hosted the first session of Newton County courts and also served as a jail, stagecoach stop, and site for political debates during this era.
Over the following decades, the general store would also function as a post office (1851-1866; 1879-1906), blacksmith, and carriage makers shop. It also served as the meeting space for the Independent Order of the Good Templars (I.O.G.T.) from 1879 to 1884 which would have a significant impact on local politics. But arguably its most important function to locals was its centralized location as a gathering place to catch up with other community members.
Who Owned The Brick Store?
Over the past 200 years, the building has changed hands many times. The brick structure served as a general store and home to Martin Kolb and his wife, Susan Ann Butt Kolb, from 1821 until 1826 when he sold the store and his adjoining 250 acres to James Todd for $1,200. Kolb moved west to Campbell County, Georgia to establish another large plantation.
After 3 more owners, Isaac H. Parker, a carriage maker, purchased the store in 1848 and operated an inn next to it. Thanks to its location, Parker’s businesses thrived from the access to the thousands of travelers who passed his door each year. He employed 5 workers and enslaved 7 people who provided the labor for his businesses throughout the 1850s.
Its next owner (from 1861 to 1882) was Peter Parley Knox, a farmer, tanner, and shoemaker, originally from western New York. Knox would be a central character in the community during his time here, principally for his involvement as a member of the I.O.G.T., which met in this store. Knox and the group were adherents of the Temperance Movement and as such, they didn’t drink alcohol or support the sales or consumption of alcohol by others. And while Knox kept liquor off the store’s shelves, many accounts shared that you could easily acquire the bootlegged variety just outside.
The Stanton Family owned it next from 1882 to 1932, followed by Mrs. J.M. Lewis, who closed the general store for good in 1935. Mrs. Lewis continued to live in the store/home until 1954.
The community of Brick Store (Winton) never grew much more as people moved to nearby Covington where conditions were more favorable. Suffering from 3 fires between 1954 and 1970, the Brick Store fell into disrepair, until 1971, when it was donated to the Newton County Historical Society (N.C.H.S) by C.M. Jordan. Renovation work was done, which included installing a new roof, new plaster, and new doors and replacing the broken shutters and front and rear stoops.
Now owned by the Trustees of the Newton County Historical Society, the Brick Store underwent another rehabilitation in 2009 thanks to a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation and funds raised by the N.C.H.S. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and today it functions as a museum, open periodically for school groups and special events.
The store is an excellent and rare example (perhaps the only one) of a store and meeting house in Georgia from the antebellum period. And although this area is being swallowed by Atlanta’s suburban sprawl, a place like the Brick Store can help keep us connected to the past, where you can still see a portion of the old dirt road that thousands of people trod on the way to their next destination.