Smithonia was the home of James Monroe Smith, one of Georgia's most successful and innovative farmers. In 1866, Smith and a partner purchased 1,000 acres of worn out farmland in northern Oglethorpe County and, through improved farming methods and experimentation, multiplied this fortune and acreage. He raised 500 to 700 head of cattle and built brick warehouses to hold 4,000 bales of cotton until market prices were in his favor. By the 1890s, he built the first cotton seed oil mill in Oglethrope County, and after constructing the Smithonia & Dunlap Railroad, the Atlanta Journal observed that, "Within the limits of his plantation, he has established a little world of his own and it is seldom he goes to market to purchase even the common necessities of life." Smith's empire grew to more than 200,000 acres and 500 buildings, employing 1,000 to 3,000; one of the largest farms in the state.