Watkinsville has been a center of local politics and a hub for social life in northeast Georgia since the early 1800s. It’s also the seat of Oconee County and the largest town. The city can be situated around sixty miles on Atlanta’s east and fifteen miles on Athen’s south.
A significant role has been played by the Methodist Church in the city’s history. It led to the establishment of a cemetery at the beginning of the nineteenth century. There were two famous methodists born in Watkinsville: Bishop Atticus G. Haygood (1839) and later in 1845, the sister Laura Haygood was born. Laura Haygood turned out to be one of the original Christian missionaries to visit China, as well as the principal of a girls school in Atlanta. During the Civil war in 1861-65, Bishop Haygood was the Confederate Army’s chaplain and also served as Emory College’s president in Oxford between 1875 and 1884. Today, their family Haygood House in downtown Watkinsville houses the famous Chappelle Gallery.
On the south of Watkinsville, there is one of the left wooden bridges that’s still on use on a public road in the city. The Elder Mill Covered Bridge was constructed in the late nineteenth century and is among the few remaining in the entire state.
The Oconee Enterprise is a family-owned weekly newspaper that is printed on Thursdays in Watkinsville; it is among the few left in Georgia. The paper was founded in 1884 by a country printer known as L. Shackelford. It received financing from legal advertisements that often reported farm closures. The Oconee Enterprise is currently owned by Vinnie and Maridee Williams, a mother-daughter team.
Watkinsville is currently a small but busy city that no longer relies on agriculture as its lifeblood. Small businesses, light industry, and the establishment of an arts community have been the replacement of the city’s agricultural economy. The city’s major employers are Southwire, a manufacturer of cable and wire products based in Carrollton, and AmeriPride, a service company dealing in apparel and linen. The Oconee Industrial Park comprises several light industries and businesses.
In downtown Watkinsville, there is the Town Center retail and office complex that consists of upscale shops, salons, and restaurants, while retail shops and antique shops line Main Street. Additionally, the city has a motto stating “The Artland of Georgia” and aids a flourishing arts community that plays a significant role in the local economy. Apart from the Happy Valley Pottery and the Chappelle Gallery, the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation, which is found in the old Watkinsville High School, is among the wide variety of artists and retail art stores in the area. Due to the city’s proximity to Athens, a majority of Watkinsville residents have jobs at the University of Georgia.
The Oconee County Courthouse, Harris Shoals Park, and Eagle Tavern attract visitors from the entire area. The National Register of Historic Places contains a list of historic places and South Main Street District is one of them. The historic South Main Street District consists of Ashford Manor, the Haygood House, and the Ashford Memorial Methodist Church. Ashford Manor, breakfast and a bed, holds summer pop and classical concerts and aids different charitable events such as “Grace’s Birthday Party,” a veterinary research and pet adoption fundraiser held on an annual basis. According to the U.S. Census conducted in 2010, Watkinsville covers approximately 3.23 square miles and has an estimated population of 2,832.