Whitfield County broke from Murray County in 1851. Its name remembers Reverend George Whitefield, a preacher whose tent revival sermons lent fire to the First Great Awakening and whose energies, combined with those of John and Charles Wesley, defined the Methodist movement. Actively engaged in communities throughout Georgia, Whitefield founded the Bethesda Orphan House in Savannah. Although it seems an error, county founders purposefully misspelled the preacher's name to reflect its proper pronunciation. Once known as Cross Plains, Dalton, the county seat, earned its new name when residents decided to compliment a civil engineer who had worked in the area, John Dalton.