Tag Archives: Georgia Festivals

Stilesboro Academy, 1859, Bartow County

Stilesboro was incorporated in 1866 and retained that distinction until 1995. It was named for Savannah attorney William Henry Stiles, who served in Congress and the Georgia House of Representatives.

A high school was established here in the late 1850s and the community raised funds and completed the present structure in 1859. It was the center of the community and during the Civil War was used for sewing Confederate uniforms. Though it is likely apocryphal, a legend persists that in May 1864 Sherman spared the Academy due to an interior inscription: Deo ac Patriae [God and Country]. [I say it’s likely apocryphal because there’s a story like this for nearly every surviving antebellum building in the South].

The Stilesboro Improvement Club, a woman’s benevolent society, lobbied to save the old Academy when a new school was built nearby, and has owned the building since the school closed in 1939-1940. Formed in 1910, the club, at the suggestion of Miss Campie Hawkins, began holding an annual chrysanthemum show in 1912. The Stilesboro Chrysanthemum Show continues to be a popular event, 108 years later. It has taken place every year, except during the Great Influenza (1918) and World War II (1942).

The Etowah Valley Historical Society notes that research on the history of the Academy is incomplete.

Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters at the Gathering, Riceboro

I drove down to Riceboro yesterday to see the wonderful work Jim Bacote (above, right) has done with Geechee Kunda and to check out his Gathering, an annual celebration of Geechee and Gullah folkways. Jim is passionate about preserving this history and it’s tangible. Geechee Kunda is the culmination of his lifelong fascination with this endangered way of life. I first met him a couple of years ago when he was still working on his museum and history center so I didn’t get to make any photographs. He invited me to come back and  I’m so glad I finally got to see it yesterday.

The highlight for me was a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters (not to be confused with the McIntosh County Shouters, who organized about a decade before the Geechee Gullah). This group of dedicated men and women share the ring shout with the world and aim for authenticity. They’re historic interpreters of the highest order and preserve a tradition that was thought to be extinct as recently as 1980. Historians believe the ring shout is the oldest surviving African performance tradition in North America. While “shouting” in the vocal sense is a part of the performance, linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner, who spent a lifetime researching the Gullah language and culture, suggested that the term came from the Afro-Arabic word saut. This is a reference to the forward-moving shuffle, during which the feet are not to cross, associated with pilgrimages to the Kabaa at Mecca.

It’s hard not to come away from a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters with a better understanding of a culture that, especially as white Southerners, we have kept at a distance at best or dismissed altogether at worst.

One thing you’ll quickly notice when you’re around the Shouters is their charisma. They’re very passionate about what they’re doing and you can feel it. You not only learn but you’re uplifted, as well.

In 2011, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters set the Guinness World Record for leading the largest recorded ring shout, during the “Word, Shout, Song” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D. C.

Besides the world record ring shout, the group is also proud to have among their performers Mrs. Butler (above, right), who at 90 is the world’s oldest living ring shouter. She’s amazing.

At the end of the performance, a narrative of Emancipation is re-enacted and is quite powerful. If you couldn’t already tell, I was very moved by these living historians and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend one of their events.

Madison County Fair Ground, Comer

The Comer Lions Club has been organizing an old-fashioned county fair for 68 years. The Ferris wheel caught my eye when I was driving past; though no longer operational, it remains a symbol of the fair and a landmark in its own right. Originally a water wheel at another location in North Georgia, it was acquired in 1949 by Pinky Martin, owner of Comer Motor Company. With the help of mechanic Jeff Turner, it was converted by hand into a working Ferris wheel and was used until the early 1970s.

Nearly every county in Georgia once had a place like this but they’re quite rare today.

The property and structures are well-maintained.

Traditional exhibits like crafts and livestock remain highlights of the fair.

Popular musical acts also play here each year.

If you’re in the area in September, check them out. The Lions Club is a great non-political organization who not only do charitable work but also give back to their communities in tangible ways. Madison is a traditionally rural county and the fair is still the biggest event of the year.

Frick Steam Engine, Junction City

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Steam engines revolutionized farm and mill work in the 19th century. George Frick was among the most successful manufacturers. I enjoyed learning about this one in Mike Buckner’s collection from his son, John.

Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

 

1918 Paige Truck, Junction City

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Richard Wall of Valley, Alabama, is the owner of this great old truck.

Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

Model A Fords, Junction City

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These beauties, along with many others, were on display by members of the River Cities Model A Car Club of Columbus & Phenix City.

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Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

Potter Allen Gee, Junction City

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Bulloch County native Allen Gee now lives and works in Meriwether County at the former home/studio of the late D. X. Gordy, one of several Gordy family members well-known for their pottery skills.  Gee’s traditional high-fired stoneware has earned him quite a following of his own and he works with a motorized washtub and electric wheel at festivals throughout the South to share the process with others. He says, “I mix the stoneware clay from a traditional recipe. After the clay is properly prepared, bowls, pitchers and mugs are turned on a pottery wheel. The glazes are made from local minerals including ground glass, hardwood ashes, and a gneiss-hornblende stone. These minerals are pulverized and milled to produce a fine powder that is mixed with clay ad water then applied to a bisque-fired pot.”

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He also notes, “The stoneware is fired in a wood-burning kiln or gas kiln where it reaches temperatures hot enough to melt the homemade mix into a permanent glaze. Hot embers and flames enhance the clay and glazes causing glaze runs, pooling, and fire flashing marks on the clay.”

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I have one of Allen Gee’s pieces and the quality is great. He creates a variety of one-of-a-kind pitchers, bowls, plates, pots and even face jugs.  If you’re interested in purchasing something, you can contact him at 23825 Roosevelt Highway, Greenville, Georgia 30222. (770) 927-0394. He can also be reached via email at geepottery@gmail.com

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Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

Louise Brown Making White Oak Baskets, Junction City

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Meriwether County artist Louise Brown and her sister, Catherine Johnson, learned the art of basket making from their father, the late John Reeves. He began selling his white oak baskets at the Cotton Pickin’ Fair in nearby Gay, Georgia, over thirty years ago. Mrs. Brown weaves and sells her baskets at Plantation Days each year and I was lucky enough to meet and photograph her at this year’s festival.

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Her patience and skill are evident in her attention to detail.

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The work of making the baskets begins by carefully stripping pieces of white oak from saplings, soaking the oak strips in water, and weaving them into different patterns and forms.

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Again, I’m very glad I got to meet Mrs. Brown (pictured here with her husband John Henry). If you’d like to purchase one of her beautiful creations, she can be reached at (706) 672-4326. Otherwise, find her at the Harvest Days festival or the Cotton Pickin’ Fair.

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Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

Fielder’s Mill, Junction City

Making Grits at Fielder's Mill Junction City GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

The historic Fielder’s Mill, one of the oldest continuous businesses in Talbot County, takes center stage at the annual Plantation Days in Talbot. It was built in 1930 on the site of the John Downs grist mill. There’s been a mill at this same location since the 1840s. The original mill was located on the far end of the present dam over the run of Patsiliga Creek. The timbers and foundation of the old site remain today.

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After a fire, the new mill was moved to the west end of the dam in 1930. The mill is powered by a Leffel-type turbine producing about 25 horsepower. Mike Buckner produces great cornmeal, grits, and flour at this water-powered mill.

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I believe my father began buying corn meal from Mike in the 1980s, when he was running to Manchester on the railroad. My family has used it ever since; it’s just not an option to run out as nothing comparable can be found in any grocery store.

Grinding Grits Junction City GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s something from the Fielder’s Mill Cookbook, compiled by Mike & Debbie Buckner in 1994.

Washing Grits

Measure the amount of grits you wish to cook. Put grits in a deep bowl (I use a deep Cool Whip bowl for as many as 4-6 servings) and add plenty of warm water. Stir grits. Bran and specks will float to the top of the water; tilt the bowl to one side and pour the water and bran off. Do this procedure several times, usually three times or until the grits are “clean”. Place grits in a boiler, adding enough water to cover well. Cook on low heat for about 45 minutes. The water will cook out soon after heating; add more water or for a creamier taste add milk. There is more involved in cooking the course ground grits; however, the taste and added advantage of more dietary fiber make them an excellent substitute for quick grits. It seems the longer grits are cooked, the better they are, but you will have to add more liquid and stir them to prevent sticking. There are a number of variables so you may have to experiment and try cooking these grits a couple of times before you master their creamy goodness.

For busy cooks, try the Crock Pot Grits:

Wash grits as described above and place in the crock pot with appropriate amount of water, salt and butter before retiring for the night. Turn the crock pot on low and allow the grits to cook about 10 hours. Wake up the next morning to creamy grits. (If the grits are too stiff add water or milk-stir).

Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

Syrup Making, Junction City

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The traditional way of grinding ribbon cane into the finished product of cane syrup is to “walk” a mule or horse (tethered to a large pole) around a drum as the syrup master feeds stalks into a rolling mill.

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The juice is pressed into a tub or keg covered with cheesecloth to catch the solid materials.

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The syrup master always keeps a watchful eye on the proceedings.

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After being collected, the juice is transferred to the “cooking pan” in a nearby shed. This “pan” is mounted on a rock or brick base with a fire underneath. Wood is added from holes on the side, and a chimney on one end keeps air flowing over the fire. The skill and discrimination of the syrup master determines when the final product is ready to be “poured up”. The final result is a staple of South Georgia cuisine: pure can syrup ready to dress up biscuits, cornbread, and almost anything else that requires a little sweetness.

Jesse Bookhardt wrote: It is great to see the old cane mill operation again. Back in the mid-1950’s, our neighbor, Mr. Ed Ray, of Denton, Georgia always invited some neighbors over to his farm when his family made syrup. The event was referred to as a “Cane Grinding” and was a favorite social event that enhanced friendships and made some sweet memories. In a sense, it served the same social purpose as a “Peanut Boiling.”
When folk arrived they were kindly greeted and invited to partake of some of the raw juice which was being squeezed from the cane stalks by the mill into a large drum. The juice was green in appearance and the barrel would always be covered with Yellow Jackets and Honey Bees trying to extract their share. We would removed a long necked gourd dipper from the mill’s frame and take a few slugs down. Careful to avoid trips to the outhouse, we only drank a moderate amount. As the juice was cooked over the old furnace kettle, it tuned dark amber and reduced in volume. The syrup maker was the one who determined when it was ready to be pour-up. Syrup making was an art and it took an experienced person to make good quality syrup. The boiling, rolling liquid was a sight to see and left impressions on most that have stayed with them a life time.
I have very fond memories of this operation and was always taken with the unique sweet smell that permeated a hazy mist that surrounded the mill. Brian thanks for sharing this historic scene. Lately I have grown a few stalks on our farm in Northeast Alabama just for the memories and to see if sugar cane will survive that far north. So far it has. Most people of the area are familiar with sorghum syrup.

Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

For more on sugar cane and syrup making, visit Southern Matters.