Newborn: A Town Full of Characters

by Kari Apted

If you blink as you drive through rural Newton County, you might miss the tiny town of Newborn, and even if you see it, you’ll probably pronounce it wrong. You don’t say it the same way you’d describe a just-birthed infant. Instead, it sounds more like “NOO-burn.” It was first known as Sandtown, but a traveling preacher’s invigorating sermon inspired leaders to choose a name that reflected the Evangelical Christian concept of being born again. The Georgia General Assembly incorporated the Town of Newborn in 1894, 30 years after General Sherman marched through it on his way to the sea. 

Though the town occupies just 1.6 square miles, it boasts a post office, town hall, adjacent park, a tiny library and even a traffic light. The Historic Newborn Schoolhouse—a circa 1923 school building now serving as an event center—is the heart of the area. People gather at the Schoolhouse every April for the annual Hornyhead Fish Festival, a fun event dedicated to an appropriately diminutive fish. 

The Schoolhouse is a central meeting place for many regular events that unite Newborn’s residents. Spring and summer usher in monthly community yard sales, and community bingo games are regular events. Pickin’ in the Park is another frequently scheduled event where local musicians bring their acoustic instruments and play bluegrass music together.

“They had people on shifts to bring us food. They took care of us for months. That was Newborn.”

Paul Zimmerman

However, Newborn’s real treasure is its residents—a motley crew of good people who all agree that their town and neighbors are special. Paul Zimmerman opened Newborn’s BBQ restaurant, ZimSkillet, after the pharmaceutical company he worked for decided to downsize. Zimmerman admits he was excited by the slogan on the Town Park gate: A Town With Characters. 

“I was hoping the ‘s’ wasn’t a typo,” he said, “and it wasn’t.” In 2010, a fire destroyed the home Zimmerman had built with his own hands. He has only recently been able to talk about it without getting choked up. “We had six kids when we lost everything, but people just came out of nowhere to take care of us. It blew my mind,” he said. “They had people on shifts to bring us food. They took care of us for months. That was Newborn.” Zimmerman and his wife once considered moving back to Florida, where they were from originally. “I started getting sad and realized we can’t leave Newborn,” he said. “There’s nowhere we’d rather live. The seasons are good; the people are great.” 

Dave Norton has been a “Newborn Character” for about 20 years and also plans to stick around. He owns Turkey Strut Farm, where he breeds heirloom turkeys and ships them around the nation. Those who have been to the Hornyhead Fish Festival might have played a round of his hilarious game of Turkey Poop Bingo. 

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“Newborn is one the few remaining true small towns left in America,” he said. “We love it here.” 

Bonnie Martin moved to Newborn from Fayetteville, North Carolina, 11 years ago and has no desire to ever go back. She loves how everyone to whom she says “hi” says it right back. 

“It’s such a kind and friendly town,” Martin said.

Ernest Horton and Elisa Rowe work for the Town of Newborn and agree that it is an enclave where everybody looks out for one another. 

“I love this little place,” Horton said. “It’s very quiet, everybody is very nice and it’s a place where people try to help one another.” Rowe agrees that there is a strong sense of community in Newborn: “I’m very proud to represent this great town and its great people.”

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted. 

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