.By Sam Burnham
We got to see so many places on our 30A road trip. Many towns along the way, in south Alabama and inland on the Florida panhandle, were the same kind of towns we have discussed in our small town revitalization brainstorming. But I want to draw a spotlight on one place in particular.
On my very first venture into town I was a bit surprised at what I found. It was a piece of old Florida, fresh from a history book. The small cottages, the scrub oaks, and the short spiky palms had me wanting to search for some local resident frying up fish and cooking cheese grits. The small homes are placed along the roads between 30A and the white sands of the beach.
Hotz Avenue has just enough business to make Grayton more than just a housing development but not quite enough to qualify the street as "downtown". Hotz runs roughly 2 1/2 blocks from the south end of Defuniak St at the Wash-A-Way Hotel until dead ends into the boat ramp on the lake at the eastern end of town. This stretch of nominal pavement is home to a few places where a local or a tourist might locate a cold beverage and a bite to eat. There was some foot traffic in the area the evening we rode though. There was activity but no one acting stupid. It was a right pleasant environment.
I mentioned the Wash-A-Way Hotel. This is not the Peachtree Plaza nor is it the Hyatt Regency Savannah. This hotel was built in the 1890s. It may or may not have earned its name when the 1926 hurricane washed it off its foundation. It may or may not have earned that name from any one of numerous other possible explanations. My sources suggest that the locals were, neither then nor now, concerned with exactitude or the accuracy of small details. Truth and folklore tend to blend somewhere in the middle and at some point disentangling the two is just more work than it is worth. Just pick one you like and go with it. I'm going with the 1926 hurricane. The building was there long ago, is there now, and is called the Wash-A-Way. There are photos of it on stilts and on the ground. It's on stilts now - this I can confirm. You can see the water from the building and it would make for a great retreat to get some reading and writing done...so long as you don't spend too long listening to jazzy tunes and sipping drinks at the Red Bar.
The Red Bar is the site of the old Butler General Store. The old place was run by Van Ness Butler, a high school principal from up the street about 30 miles who ran the school when it was in and, along with his school teacher wife, ran the store in the summer. The store served as the local jook joint in the evenings. Music, drinking and dancing were the regular activities, one of the only places such things were available in this remote area. It doesn't seem to have been a particularly rowdy place then, nor does it seem so now.
Mostly, I look at this area and see a lot of what I'd like to see in the small towns I have talked about in written dreams of revitalization. It is a town where the locals have managed to keep developers active building small homes that fit into their surroundings while keeping condo developers out altogether. Nothing is huge or overgrown there. The development seems to be in harmony with nature. It is a very bike friendly village that connects to the fantastic bike trail along 30A. I biked to Grayton Beach almost every morning just for the scenery and the laid back atmosphere.
Each 4th of July folks from Grayton team up to challenge folks from Seagrove (easily my second pick for a true Southern beach experience on 30A) in the Rags to Riches Regatta, where crews race 16' Hobie Cats from Grayton to Seagrove and back (or Seagrove to Grayton and back for the Riches to Rags in alternating years). It's getting hard to discern which town is riches and which is rags. as both places have reasonable architecture, some unpaved roads, laid back atmospheres, and seem to be less bourgeois than Seaside, WaterColor, or Alys. They also seem to be more content sitting on the porch watching the breeze than trying to keep up with the "fancier" locales.
Any way you look at it, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Grayton. It gave me some hope to know that such places are still out there. I would like to see more places with viable populations without being overrun with modern development and commercialization. If you are looking to spend some of your summer in such a place, I'd recommend Grayton Beach.
I'd like to thank Dr. Harvey Jackson for much of the information in this article. His book The Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera (2012 University of Georgia Press) was my main source for historical information. Dr. Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and one of my former history professors there.
By Sam Burnham
We are once again seeing a spat surrounding the display of Confederate flags in Georgia. This time the flags, which supporters are often told only belong in a museum, are reportedly being forced from a museum.
The Nash Farm Battlefield Museum has announced, in a statement on its Facebook page, that it will be closing permanently as of June 1st. The reason cited is that Henry County District 2 commissioner, Dee Clemmons, has ordered the removal of all Confederate flags from the property, including the museum and gift shop. According to members of the Friends of Nash Farm Battlefield, the group had already removed a Second National flag from the the flag pole in front of the museum as well as an entrenchment demonstration that had been installed as an educational tool.
According to an additional statements on the Nash Farm Battlefield Facebook page, Clemmons was invited as a guest at an awards ceremony the Georgia Civil War Commission was hosting inside the museum. While visiting the site for this event, Commissioner Clemmons made a demand to Cassie Barrow, past president of the group, that all Confederate flags be removed from the museum to avoid offending anyone.
What is even more troubling is that Clemmons is also reportedly demanding that the word "battlefield" be removed from the park's name citing that no battle took place there and that the land itself has no historic connection to the war. According to the website of the Civil War Trust, the Nash Farm was the site of the August 20, 1864 battle known as Kilpatrick's Raid, the largest cavalry breakthrough saber charge in Georgia's history.
Multiple attempts to contact Commissioner Dee Clemmons were unsuccessful and she did not respond to any of my messages. Commissioner Clemmons' District 2 is home to the Nash Farm Battlefield Park.
This represents the bulk of the information that is available to me as I write this. I will clarify that the remainder of this post is my opinion. It is what I have come to believe in light of the available information. What follows is commentary, not news.
I'd like to start out by saying that in nearly 40 years of visiting Civil War sites, museums, battlefields, cemeteries, etc, I have yet to encounter a Civil War museum that does not display Confederate flags. The purpose of such a museum is to tell the story of the battle or event that is being commemorated there. This involves telling the stories of both sides involved. It is unrealistic to expect such a museum to not display flags and emblems of both sides. I have never seen a museum censor the history they portray like Commissioner Clemmons is reportedly demanding the Nash Farm to do. Once you begin to censor history, you can effectively rewrite it to say what you want it to say. That is a very dangerous precedent for an educational and cultural center such as the Nash Farm Battlefield Museum.
Next we need to discuss the reported statements Commissioner Clemmons made about the historic significance of the battlefield. Insisting that this property is not a battlefield and that the word battlefield be removed from the park's name and signage suggests that the commissioner may be trying to keep certain areas of the park from being redeveloped as she sees fit, rather than strictly adhering to the recommendations of historians and preserving historically significant areas. It suggests that someone may not want to be bound by the need for preservation at the Nash Farm Battlefield. If this were the case, it could raise serious ethical questions about such changes.
And I don't want to ignore the economic impart of tourism in Georgia. Much of those tourism dollars come from historic sites, especially pertaining to the Atlanta Campaign and The March to the Sea. Events at and near Nash Farm Battlefield played a pivotal role in the Atlanta Campaign and helped lead to the fall of Atlanta. Censoring this history robs students and adults alike of a powerful educational resource that interprets the history of our state and teaches us about ourselves and the land we call home.
I can't think of any excuse that would justify censoring the history in the exhibits in the museum of The Nash Farm Battlefield. There is no other historic site in our state, or neighboring states, that is held to this dangerous standard. It makes me worry about what might be next. What will Commissioner Clemmons find offensive next? What will have to be censored next? And in seven years of operation, the only documented case of a museum visitor being offended that I've found was Commissioner Clemmons on the night of the Georgia Civil War Commission's awards ceremony.
The flags need to stay, the historians, not agenda-driven politicians, need to determine what is in the museum, and the battlefield must be preserved. This should be the only acceptable outcome of this spat.
By Laura Short
Society is cyclical. By the time your 3rd great grandchildren read this (assuming it is accessible and they are able), the motives and intents that spur this very brief essay will be old history, probably lost, and virtually forgotten. But the basic themes and outcomes will still be true, just as the themes and outcomes to which I will be referencing are still true, even today.
So. What do we think of when we read the following:
1. A vote for every [person] twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
2. The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3. No property qualification for Members of [insert governing body here] in order to allow the constituencies to return the [person] of their choice.
4. Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, work[ers] or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.
5. Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.
6. Annual…elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal …suffrage in each twelve-month period. (retrieved from Wikipedia, 3-28-2017)
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire