First called Lexington, Shoals was the site of what was probably the first woolen mill and iron foundry in Georgia. In 1794, Col. William Bird, Revolutionary soldier from Pennsylvania, and Benjamin A. Hamp bought several thousand acres of land including the shoals, a natural site for a dam, where they built the mill. The race was made by alternately burning pine logs on the granite and pouring cold water over it so the stone would split off. Hamp soon sold his share in "Bird & Hamp" to Col. Bird. After Col. Bird's death in 1812, his heirs sold the property to Thomas Cheely, who built a grist mill for grinding wheat and corn. This, with the woolen mill, was burned by Sherman's forces in 1864. In later years there have been grist mills and ginneries at the site operated by the Coleman family who own most of the original Bird property.
"Aviary," the home of Col. Bird and his wife, Caroline Dalton Bird, with its family cemetery where both are buried, was on the hill overlooking the dam. Among their descendants were William Lowndes Yancey, "Orator of Secession," and Benjamin Yancey, Jr., minister to Argentina under President Buchanan.