Day 3 of the road trip found us headed south on 75 from Cordele en route to the furthest southern point on the trip. Tifton.
The destination in Tifton was the Georgia Museum of Agriculture on the campus of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. This museum has both indoor and outdoor facilities that tell of Georgia's agricultural past and the cultivation, harvesting and marketing of the major cash crops of the region - cotton, tobacco, timber and turpentine. These stories are told through historic interpreters in various settings including a doctor's office, a blacksmith's forge, a cotton gin, a print shop, the Victorian home of a wealthy man and farms from different eras of Georgia's past.
I was quite impressed with the feisty lady that gave us the tour of the Tift Home, the Victorian mansion of the man for whom Tifton is named. The preserved home is an excellent example of what I call "they don't make things like that any more." The house itself is a work of art. The original furnishings and decor make the home a museum unto itself. I'd have to admit that my favorite part is the lone closet in the house - covered, as it always has been, by a curtain to avoid paying the taxes on the additional door. Sounds like Mr. Tift was a man after my own heart.
And so we learned about forging farm tools, printing newspapers, ginning and baling cotton, raising livestock and crops and making turpentine. That was life in South Georgia around the turn of the last century. It was simpler and yet more complicated leaving me wondering where the tipping point of good thing/bad thing in that scenario is. The work was hard and the comfort level was much lower than we are accustomed to but a lot of the hustle and bustle (i.e. TRAFFIC) was non-existent
The trip back to Cordele carried us through Irwinville to visit one of my disappointments of the trip. In 1865 Jefferson Davis was fleeing to the west to wage a guerrilla war against the occupiers of the South in hopes that Southern Independence could still be a reality. (Incidentally, it was about this same time that Alexander H. Stephens - all 100 pounds of him - was sitting in his parlor at home playing cards when the Union /Army knocked on his door.He asked to see their arrest warrant and then replied, "If y'all had let me know you wanted me I'd have saved you the trip all the way out here. Let's go". But that's another story for another day.)
Davis met for one last time with his cabinet in Washington, GA and then they went their separate ways. Two units of the Union Army pursued him to a campsite just outside the minuscule town of Irwinville. The adept military professionals actually shot at each other for a spell before they realized that they were on the same team. Davis, realizing the Yankees were on his tail, beat a hasty retreat. But it was too late. And there in a pine thicket in the dead of night the 16th President (from Georgia's perspective) became a prisoner of war.
Some years later, the State of Georgia dedicated a monument and state historic site on the location. A few years ago the operation was turned over to Irwin County. The building is headed toward disrepair, the grounds show signs of neglect. It is a testament to the event it commemorates. The economic system established in the absence of the Southern delegates to Congress does not make for wealthy farmers. Money is for bankers, industrialists and railroad tycoons. Farmers can have money when they get real jobs - like working in a bank, factory or maybe on the railroad. So money is not plentiful in Irwin County. And let's face it, a county full of farmers, service industry workers catering to farmers and the handful of rangers that work at the site just do not have the resources to appropriately maintain such a site.
I'm not sure what led Georgia to the decision to jettison this park. It has added several newer, more elaborate parks in various locations since discarding the Jeff Davis site, so it doesn't appear to be budget related. The site is not far from the interstate so it doesn't appear to be logistical. That brings me to the fact that rural South Georgia gets the short end of the stick from the state on a regular basis and the ever growing evil of political correctness that is constantly trying to sweep clean any remnant of the South's past.
Davis would be held in terrible conditions for two years. During that time he received encouraging gifts from Pope Pius IX, his legal representation was the former governor of Maryland. His official charge was treason but he would never stand trial as the Union knew there was no hope of conviction as he had committed no crimes. He was released on bond which was posted in part by Horace Greely, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Gerrit Smith.
Yankees helped post his bond and Georgia hung his park out to dry. What a shame.
I'll say this before leaving the topic of the politically correct assassination of Southern History - "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." - Proverbs 22:28.
This verse may or may not be talking about such landmarks but the tone is explicit. Don't destroy memorials. They point to where we came from and therefore teach us where we are and where we are headed. Only an ignorant man would be offended by such a memorial.
All in all, day 3 was a great educational outing filled with the stories of Georgia's identity. It taught us about the work ethic, the ingenuity, the grit that it took to survive in the Georgia of 100 years ago. We learned a little about where we came from and who we are.
That's two presidents for those who are counting....
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Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire