Month: April 2017

Starr’s Mill – Fayetteville, Georgia

Starr's Mill

Starr’s Mill is such a scenic Fayetteville, Georgia (about 40 minutes south of Atlanta). If you’re ever in the area and want the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and stretch your legs, it’s a must visit. Here’s the history of the site, courtesy of Georgia Info:

The property that became Starr’s Mill was owned by Hananiah Gilcoat who built the first mill here before his death in 1825. This site, on Whitewater Creek, was less than a mile from the boundary between Creek Indian lands and the State of Georgia. Hilliard Starr, who owned the mill from 1866 until 1879, gave the site its current name. After the first two log structures burned, William T. Glower built the current building in 1907. This mill operated until 1959, using a water-powered turbine, instead of a wheel, to grind corn and operate a sawmill. The Starr’s Mill site also included a cotton gin and a dynamo that produced electricity for nearby Senoia.

Kymulga Covered Bridge – Childersburg, Alabama

Kymulga Covered Bridge

There’s something special about covered bridges. Even the oldest of covered bridges have a picturesque quality to them. Alabama appreciates the beauty of them and even has a Covered Bridge Trail you can drive along to see the 11 remaining historic covered bridges across the state.

One of the bridges on the trail is the Kymulga Covered Bridge in Childersburg, Alabama. The 105 foot covered bridge, built in the 1860s, spans Talladega Creek. Nearby you’ll find the Kymulga Grist Mill, which is still operational. The Kymulga Covered Bridge leads park visitors to a series of nature trails, perfect for romantic walks and exploration of the land that was once populated by Native Americans, farmers and craftsmen. You can learn more about the bridge, mill and events held here throughout the year here.

Audubon Historic Site – Saint Francisville, Louisiana

Audobon Historic Site

Today is Audubon Day, celebrating the life of ornithologist, naturalist, and painter, John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851). He’s known for his detailed illustrations of birds in their natural habitats. 32 of his Birds of America series of paintings were completed here at Oakley House in Saint Francisville, Louisiana, where he served a short term tutoring the owner’s daughter.

The house is within a 100 acre-forest that now serves as the Audubon Historic Site. If you need a peaceful escape, you’ll love hearing a wide variety of birds singing throughout the site forest. It’s easy to understand why Audubon was so inspired while he lived and worked here. Visiting may just inspire you too!

Natchez City Cemetery (Florence Irene Ford) – Natchez, MS

Natchez City Cemetery (Florence Irene Ford)

A mother will do anything to protect her child, even beyond this life. This is the grave of Florence Irene Ford in Natchez City Cemetery. Florence died when she was 10. Yellow fever took her from her family. During her life she was extremely frightened of storms. Whenever one occurred she would rush to her mother to find comfort. Upon her death her mother was so struck with grief that she had Florence’s casket constructed with a glass window at the child’s head. The grave was dug to provide an area, the same depth of the coffin, at the child’s head, but this area had steps that would allow the mother to descend to her daughter’s level so she could comfort Florence during storms. To shelter the mother during storms, hinged metal trap doors were installed over the area the mother would occupy while at her child’s grave. In the mid 1950s a concrete wall was erected at the bottom of the stairway covering the glass window of Florence’s coffin to prevent vandalism. This photo shows the grave and you can see the trap doors, which cover the stairway her mother used.

Notice the pennies on the headstone? There are many reasons people leave coins on graves but it is generally meant to be a sign that the life lost had value and meaning and will never be forgotten.

Bamboo Forest – Prattville, Alabama

Wilderness Park Bamboo Forest

Take a walk through Wilderness Park in Prattville, Alabama. Wilderness Park is a bamboo forest that was used by the U.S. military for Vietnam-era combat training. The forest provided a humid environment with vegetation more similar to that found in Southeast Asia than most training sites on this continent. Thankfully, the park was preserved as a place of beauty and peace. Areas of the forest have 60-ft.-tall bamboo with trunks 6 inches in diameter. Hundreds of varieties of plants are found here, including one of Alabama’s largest beech trees.

Old Rodney Presbyterian Church – Rodney, Mississippi

Old Rodney Presbyterian Church

Visiting Rodney, Mississippi takes some patience and intention. If you get there, you were headed there. The drive involves back roads and some dirt roads and once you arrive you have no cell service. But once you see this old place and the architectural treasures and historic sites here, it’s worth the bumpy roads! There are two old churches here including Old Rodney Presbyterian Church that holds a unique connection to the Civil War.

When I was standing in front of the church taking photos I heard a fellow visitor ask a friend “Why on earth would someone attack a church?” He was responding to someone’s mention of Confederate troops shooting in Old Rodney Presbyterian Church. It really happened. The reverend of this church invited crew members of the Union’s USS Rattler to join the church service on Sunday, September 13, 1863. After all, there was a Sunday truce in place and the reverend believed he was doing the right thing. Confederate scouts heard there were Union troops in the church and showed up at the door to demand they leave. When the troops refused to leave, the Confederates starting shooting into the church. Retaliation from the Union followed soon after when they fired a cannonball at the church and damaged the front. And that cannon ball is still in the church. You can see it above the window in the photo below.

Rodney is one of those places where you feel like time stood still. And you can clearly hear and see history here because there are few distractions and little noise to cover up the story of what happened here. If you plan a trip to Rodney, do not rely on your GPS. Look up directions and screen shot them like I did. Or follow the basic direction below. You may need a back up because at some point your phone will not have service.

From US 61 go west on 552 towards Alcorn. Turn left on Fellowship Rd (it’s a big hill) and then take Firetower Rd to Rodney Rd on right. Go 10 mi., Rodney Rd is paved until near Rodney.

Have fun and enjoy stepping back in time in Rodney!

Old Rodney Presbyterian Church

Butler Island Plantation Ruins – Darien, Georgia

Butler Island Plantation

The Butler Island Plantation are located just south of Darien, on what is now US Highway 17. The site is owned by The Nature Conservancy, and the land is open for picnicking, fishing and birding.

This was once one of the largest plantations in the South. The story of the plantation and former owners is an interesting one that began in the 1790s with Major Pierce Butler, an officer of the American Revolution who helped to draft the U.S. Constitution. Butler planted rice on his land on the Altamaha Delta. The marshlands and surrounding area provided perfect conditions for growing rice which led to a wealthy Southern enterprise.

When Major Butler died in 1822, the Butler Island Plantation passed to his grandson, Captain Pierce Butler. He was married to the noted English actress and writer Fanny Kemble who became a major advocate for the slaves on the plantation. She deplored the living conditions of the slaves on the farm and complained to her husband about the horrible treatment of the slaves by his manager, Roswell King, Jr. Kemble became an advocate for the abolition of slavery which created ongoing tensions with her plantation-owner husband. He threatened to take her daughters away from her if she published her views about slavery. Following their divorce, and after her daughters were grown, Kemble published her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation.

At the time her book was published, Great Britain was considering the possibility of intervening in the Civil War, on behalf of the South. Kemble’s book is credited with persuading the British to oppose slavery and ending any possibility of the British joining the Confederacy’s fight during the Civil War.

(Source: Explore Southern History)

Thomas Wolfe Memorial – Asheville, North Carolina

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Thomas Wolfe, an Asheville native, reached international fame after his first full length novel, Look Homeward, Angel, was published in 1929.  There are many incidents in the book that reference his mother’s boardinghouse that was known around town as “Old Kentucky Home”.  In the book, he referred to it as “Dixieland”.  The Victorian home was constructed in 1883.

Wolfe’s vivid references to Asheville and his “Old Kentucky Home” led to Look Homeward, Angel being banned from public libraries in Asheville for seven years. Time heals all wounds and Wolfe is now honored as one of the city’s most famous sons and the “Old Kentucky Home” is a well preserved memorial and museum that honors one of the giants of 20th century literature.  Asheville is a lovely city with such a diverse history. If you’re ever passing through I highly encourage you to make the time to visit the “Old Kentucky Home” and take a tour.

Anytime I visit Asheville I stop by my favorite local coffee shop, Izzy’s Coffee Den, and I grab a coffee to go. Then, I head over to Tom’s place at 48 Spruce Street to pay my respects and sit in a rocking chair on the front porch and have a cup of coffee. If you ever come here, I recommend you do this after the tourist center closes and it’s quiet and peaceful. And if you’re looking for some great books to add to your reading list, add one of Wolfe’s four novels to your list:

Fort Smith National Historic Site – Arkansas 

The Historic Fort Smith Historic Site in Arkansas is an intersection of the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Trail of Tears and the Wild West. The Historic Barracks/Courthouse/Jail Buildings (pictured here) now serves as a visitors center and museum where you start your visit. Afterwards you can view a replica of the Fort Smith Gallows which includes an exhibit where you can learn about a large number of Wild West outlaws who met their fate here. And then, head to the Trail of Tears overlook. Walk along the Arkansas River and view exhibits that tell the story of the tribes that were forcibly removed to Indian Territory. So much history here and it’s a beautiful part of Arkansas!

Christ Episcopal – Church Hill, Mississippi

Church Episcopal Church

If you’re up for a road trip that truly takes you down some beautiful back roads in Mississippi, have I got the road trip for you!

About 18 miles north of Natchez, on Hwy 553 at Church Hill Fork, you’ll find the rural community of Church Hill. The area is named after Christ Episcopal Church which sits atop a hill. This stunning Gothic Revival church made of stone is the oldest Episcopal Church in Mississippi.
As for the rest of the town, only a few buildings remain including a historic grocery store that closed in the ’90s. It’s worth the drive to see this church and explore the grounds.