Sam Burnham, Curator
It’s not a rare thing to find a border town with some quirks. While it doesn’t sit right on the state line, Ringgold is the first town heading south into Georgia via I-75 from Chattanooga. The town has a storied history. The Great Locomotive Chase ended with the capture of the Andrews Raiders on the tracks just north of town. Patrick Cleburne forced to Union Army to balk on an invasion attempt at the Battle of a Ringgold Gap just to the south of town.The city was host to thousands of Sounders soldiers in hospitals after the battles for Chattanooga.
But there’s another side to this town’s history. In some cases it’s less tumultuous than the War Between the States but in some cases it probably kind of similar.
You see, a couple with one form of ID (each) and $75 (cash - card transactions add a 3% fee) can obtain a marriage license in a matter of minutes. Couples with 6 hours of premarital counseling can get a license for $31. Once the license is secured, couples can go before a probate or magistrate judge, both of which are standing by for weddings as couples arrive. Couples also have the choice of walking out the front doors of the courthouse and crossing the two lanes of Nashville Street (we recommend the conveniently located crosswalk) to the Ringgold Wedding Chapel where $115 can get you a couple-only weekday wedding. Obviously larger ceremonies are available.
These policies and practices have built a unique institution in Ringgold. This is how a town of 3,500 people issues over 2,000 marriage licenses every year.
There have been some famous folks among the half million or so people who have tied the knot in Ringgold. George Jones and Tammy Wynette began their six year marriage in Ringgold. Don Everly of the Everly Brothers had one of his several weddings in Ringgold. Singer/songwriter and two time Governor of Louisiana Jimmie Davis married his second wife in Ringgold. Best of all, Dolly Parton said that Ringgold reminded her of “rings of gold” when she married her husband (yes, I know his name but he appreciates his relative anonymity) in Catoosa County in 1966.
Ringgold’s booming wedding scene is just one reason to come to town. A well preserved historic downtown is filled with local restaurants and shops. So whether you need to elope or you just need to browse for antiques, Ringgold might be your destination.
We’d like to close out February by looking forward to spring and summer. Spring is certainly not fully here although it has teased us a bit in recent weeks. The forecast is pretty clear that next week will not be springlike, at least not in North Georgia.
March is always tricky and should never be trusted as winter and spring tend to swap out and it is possible to experience both, perhaps even in the same day. However, by the end of March, it will likely be springtime.
Spring and summer mean adventures, small and large. So we are sharing some of our favorites from our YouTube channel.
Ft Pulaski was built to guard the mouth of the Savannah River. For over 100 years the post served as a military installation different eras contributed different renovations and additions, including the demilune.
Below the surface, Ft McAllister was an impervious fortification where troops were well protected from any shipboard weapons of its era. No artillery assault could defeat it. Only a infantry charge by an overwhelming force defeated the McAllister garrison.
Above the surface, Ft McAllister is one of the most beautiful locations in all of Georgia. With living history encampments and re-enactments as well as car shows, musical performances, and other events, McAllister is a great destination for a day trip or even a week at the cottages or campground.
Milledgeville served as the state capital from 1807 to 1868. Now the Old Capitol Museum tells the story of that era, when a city specifically designed and planned to be the state capital served in that capacity.
Milledgeville received the entirety of the state administration, treasury and documents, via a convoy of 15 wagons that travelled from Louisville to Milledgeville in 1807. The seat of a larger government moved to a larger city, the resurrecting Atlanta in 1868.
Any history fanatic has to visit Colonial Williamsburg. Seeing the militia demonstrations on the town green are but one of the amazing experiences that await.
Sam Burnham, Curator
In the Charleston episode of Parts Unknown, Chef Sean Brock led Anthony Bourdain to Rodney Scott's famous joint out in the country. He made the point that there are BBQ joints all over the South but a minority of them are elite. He was actually a bit more harsh in his assessment. His statement was that if you want really good BBQ, you have to be willing to drive. And he is mostly right. But there might be another option.
Enter Matt Morris.
Matt had a successful previous career in the hospitality and entertainment industry. He has more recently followed a passion into a career in aviation. After reading some of my commercial flight complaints on Twitter, he suggested I take a flight with him. Getting in an airplane with a Twitter acquaintance might sound misguided but I figured I knew Matt better than any of the pilots on my previous flights and my previous Twitter meet-and-greet with Crackers and guns was safe enough. So why not?
We chose Huntsville as our flight destination. Matt was going to handle the flight end of it and I was going to find us somewhere to eat. Faced with locating a place to eat BBQ a reasonable distance from the Huntsville airport I knew exactly what to do. I contacted another Twitter friend, Dr. Sean Busick, guru of Southern History and BBQ. He provided me with a few options to choose from. Considering I was going to be in his neighborhood and have the opportunity to enjoy lunch with him, it seemed only appropriate to invite him along with us. He accepted an told us to meet him at his home.
I met Matt at the airport in Rome. After a walk around where he explained the working parts of the plane and their functions, we loaded up and took off. The experience of flying in a small plane is quite different than commercial. at roughly a sixth of the altitude you can identify landmarks much easier. The plane makes a good platform for some photography. And the headset allows you to carry on a conversation over the sound of the engine.
Matt interrupted the conversation to make contact with the tower in Huntsville to request landing instructions. Redstone answered immediately. We were approaching the restricted airspace over the arsenal and were instructed to reroute immediately. Matt's reaction was swift and effective, no fighter jets were scrambled and we were not blown out of the sky. That could have ruined our day. Instead, upon clearing the restricted airspace, we were given instructions to the appropriate runway.
After an uneventful landing, we taxied over to Signature. For those who have never experienced it, Signature is like walking into the lobby of the friendliest, most hospitable hotel around. a smiling face behind the desk, an impeccably clean restroom. A large flat screen TV hung on the wall near comfortable chairs and tables, several current magazines available, and and a well stocked old style popcorn machine over by the coffee pot and water pitchers. It's a hospitality center for pilots and their passengers. We were able to secure a courtesy car from signature to head over to Decatur and meet Sean.
This is more of an account of the day than it is a restaurant review but I would like to give a recommendation to Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur. Sean highly recommended it and I trust his input in many matter, not the least of which is BBQ. Great food, nice atmosphere, I especially enjoyed the unique Alabama white BBQ sauce. The most impressive parts of the decor are the numerous trophies and magazine articles highlighting the restaurant. If you are in the area, stop by Bob's and get a bite.
But the best part of the day was enjoying lunch with Matt and Sean. They are both fine gentlemen and we enjoyed many laughs. Given just a little more time, we could have solved all the world's problems.
Sean gave us a quick tour of downtown and explained some of the history of the area. There is a lot there for people interested in history and small towns. I imagine a return trip to Decatur will be needed.
In answer to Sean Brock's earlier quote, yes, you do have to drive sometimes. That is, unless you can fly. The flight, while not usually practical, cut the trip time by more than half. If fact, the round trip was probably shorter than the drive up there. And for this experience I am grateful for the hospitality of Matt Morris and Sean Busick.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire