When Mr. Joel Strickland of Tattnall County learned that he had drawn Lot Number 96, First District of Walton County, in the 1820 Lottery, he and his wife, Elizabeth talked it over and decided not to keep the property.
Mr. Strickland was soon offered $118 for the 250 acres, and just five days after Christmas, Joel and Elizabeth signed the warranty deed making three men owners of the tract in southern Walton, on which the town of Social Circle was to evolve. The second co-owner ran in into debt and in 1824 his one-third interest was bought at a sheriff’s sale by John P. Blackmon, one of the other original purchasers, for $11 or approximately thirteen cents an acre. Blackmon was able to buy the remaining one-third share, giving him sole ownership.
John Blackmon brought and sold several tracts in the new county, but he was especially pleased with Lot Number 96. On this property was an excellent spring, near which the important north-south Rogue Road was intersected by the best known route from the southwestern part of the county, Hightower Trail. Near the latter’s ford on the Alcovy was the recently vacated campsite of a band of Creek Indians, whose choice of the location in itself spoke well for the region’s fertility and comfort.
Blackmon added his own dwelling to those standing near the crossroads and donated a nearby parcel as site for a Methodist Church. Soon a small storehouse, the meeting house, and a shop gave the little settlement 10 miles south of the county seat the semblance of a village. It was a likely spot for business, for at the junction of the two old routes travelers often paused to rest, friends frequently met, either by design or accident, and newly formed acquaintances were often renewed by the patterns of their travel habits.
Legend says that the settlement received its name when a new traveler, impressed by the exuberant hospitality of a little group of congenial pioneers, remarked enthusiastically, “This sure is a social circle!” This may be true, however, a less colorful explanation should not be ignored. Another community by the name of Social Circle was brought to this section by a former citizen of the older village.
Early in January 1826, Blackmon and Augustine B. Pope stuck a chestnut stake in the ground and measured off an acre to include the shop already standing. Blackmon specified in the sale of the property that Pope “not carry on any business of a public nature only such pertains exclusively to an apothecary (drug) shop.” The two men had discussed a site for a post office on the settlement and, on January 5, 1826, government authorization came through. John Blackmon was designated as Social Circle’s first postmaster.
In 1832, Social Circle was incorporated. New settlers continued to move in and, in June 1836, Mr. John Dally opened a grocery store in the city limits. During 1845, the Georgia Railroad reached this community as it advanced westward. The coming of the railroad was probably the most influential event in Social Circle’s early history and marked this city as the county’s first rail center. A Masonic Lodge was established in 1848 and the first officer was the engineer who had surveyed for the Georgia Railroad.
In 1869 Social Circle was incorporated as a town and limits extended to one-half mile from the center of town in all directions. Town ordinances of 1869 required merchants to close at 10:00 p.m. and any person found on the streets thereafter must give a satisfactory account of himself or spend the night in the guard house. Playing marbles on the Sabbath was prohibited and sale of liquor on election days was illegal. Fines were given out for cock fighting, fastening horses to shade trees or fences and for riding a horse in a “disorderly manner.” The head of each household was required to keep a strong ladder long enough to reach the top of the highest building on his lot as a precautionary measure in case of fire, and dwellings on public streets had to be underpinned as to keep out hogs and help abate the flea nuisance.
Social Circle was highly publicized by a Supreme Court case shortly before the turn of the century, when the town became the center of a freight-rate controversy of national importance, where the railroads challenged a finding of the then-relatively new Interstate Commerce Commission. The Court decision in this instance indirectly brought about another challenge of the Commission’s powers, with the result that Social Circle’s name was widely mentioned and repeated across the country for periods of years.
In 1904, Social Circle surrendered her 1869 charter and was subsequently incorporated as a city. Limits were one mile from the public well at the intersection of Madison, Monroe, Covington, and Gibbs Streets.