Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Okefenokee Heritage Center

This small museum covers the local history of Waycross, Georgia with exhibits on Native Americans, early settlers, and the black community. One exhibit that is completed unrelated to the area is a donated collection of terracotta sculptures made by people who lived Western Africa from around 500 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.

There's more to explore outside. The Waycross depot has been relocated and has a few exhibits.  Visitors may walk through the mail car, passenger car, and caboose of a 1800s train. Old printing presses are housed in the Journal Herald Building. An 1815 dog trot house has looms and spinning wheels on display.

The main museum is accessible. A paved path and ramp provide access to the train depot. The mail car is accessible with assistance to get over the gap and high threshold between the depot and the car. The aisles in the other cars are too narrow for wheelchair access. A hard packed dirt path goes to the Journal Herald Building and the dog trot house. The dog trot house is not accessible as it does not have a ramp.  Center  31.2352, -82.38242



Monday, November 27, 2023

Vidalia Onion Museum

 Farmers started growing onions in Vidalia, Georgia in the 1930s and discovered that their onions were sweeter than onions grown elsewhere due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil, the mild climate, and the perfect amount of rain. The onions became so popular that growers in other parts of the country became labeling their sweet onions as Vidalias but in the 1980s state and federal laws were passed so that only onions grown in 20 counties in Georgia may be labeled as Vidalias.  They don't store well and can only be bought from April to September. 

 The museum is very small but has nicely done exhibits.

 Everything is accessible.

RVs will fit in the lot if backed up over the grass or parked lengthwise across the spaces. Museum  32.20427, -82.3705


Friday, November 24, 2023

Aiken County Historical Museum

In the late 1800s, when Florida was mostly agricultural land or wetlands, winter retreats in the other southern states were booming. Wealthy New Yorkers built hotels and cottages in Georgia and South Carolina, often forming colonies and socializing with the same people that they knew in the north. Aiken, South Carolina became a wintering spot in the 1890s with large tourist hotels, dozens of cottages, horse racing tracks. and polo fields. Many of the cottages, which in reality are large estates, still exist as do the horse racing tracks and polo fields but only one grand hotel escaped fire or demolition. 

The museum building started out as a small house built in 1861. It grew to 3,500'square feet as new owners remodeled. In 1931 the entire house was moved and received a large addition bringing the square footage to 14,000 which included 32 rooms and 13 bathrooms. Over the years the building was used for various purposes including a boarding house and a college. Today almost of the rooms have exhibits covering the history of the county. A large  quilt show filled many of the rooms during our visit - amazing works of artistry! One exhibit of particular interest is an printing kit that was supplied to teachers in rural areas so that they could print worksheets for their students because books were scarce especially in black schools. 

The museum has three floors. There isn't an elevator so the first floor is the only accessible floor. The main entry is not accessible but there's button to push at the side doors where there's short ramp and doors that open in. 

The parking area is very small.  The closest parking where RVs will fit is on New Lane. There are more spaces on the streets that circle the property but the trek to the museum is uphill. Museum  33.5545, -81.72505

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Historic Brattonsville

Members of the Bratton family lived on this very rural plantation from 1766 to the 1950s and were  involved locally in many of the larger events that determined the course of our country. William Bratton, who was born in Ireland in 1741, was just a child when he arrived in  Pennsylvania with his family. By the time his extended family made their way to South Carolina he was old enough to buy land, build a two story log house, and began farming and raising a family with his wife, Martha. 

William was a militia captain in the Revolutionary War and fought against the British when they invaded  a neighboring plantation.

The family became very wealthy after the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 and the plantation grew to over 5,000 acres with 139 enslaved people working the fields. William's son John inherited the plantation but died shortly afterwards and  the plantation was run by his wife, Harriet, for the next 30 years.  

John's and Harriet's son James Rufus served as surgeon in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. When he returned home he refused to accept the rights of the now emancipated black residents and formed a local KKK. This branch of the KKK was notoriously brutal and lynched James Rainey, a prominent black leader, former slave, and Union soldier.They terrorized local blacks and murdered a number of them. Most members of the KKK were never charged or got off with little penalty. James fled to Canada but was allowed to move back to Brattonville after a few years. 

The Brattonville site includes four family houses - the original 1776 log house now covered with clapboard, the Homestead House built in 1826 by John Bratton, and the Brick House built in 1855 and used for various purposes including a general store. An additional family house, Hightower Hall, is only opened for special functions. A couple of original brick slave cabins and a bunch of relocated outbuildings are also on the property along with a farm house and a cotton gin. 

The visitor center has a short video about the Revolutionary War battle and exhibits on the history of the family and the plantation. A walking tour brochure of the grounds and buildings is provided. The 1776 house and the Homestead House are under renovation and are currently not open to the public. The ground floor of the Brick House features a reconstruction of the store plus exhibits about the KKK activity. A few interpreters in period costumes are on hand to explain life on the plantation. The farm has sheep, poultry, cattle and pigs.

The site is not very accessible. There's one parking space near the visitor center where RVs might fit. We parked in the gravel lot which is down the hill and then a rough trek back up to the visitor center. The visitor center has a ramp and is accessible. The farm house and the slave cabins are not accessible.The rest of the site can only be accessed by going over rough, bumpy grass. The Brick House has a ramp to span the step at the entrance but a grassy slope must be navigated first.

The gravel parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Brattonville  34.86504, -81.17404



Saturday, November 18, 2023

Mint Museum of Art Randolph

Before the Charlotte Mint was built in 1835, North Carolina gold miners had to send their gold to Philadelphia to be minted into coins because there was only one US mint. The Charlotte Mint was in operation until the Civil War. After the war it was used for various purposes until it was bought from the government by private citizens to establish a public art museum. An additional location featuring arts and craft and fine arts opened in downtown Charlotte in 1999. 

The Randolph location has a large collection of ancient art from Mesoamerica and Central America, donated by a local couple, and another large collection of British, American, Asian ceramics and decorative art. Other smaller exhibits include African art, contemporary paintings, and European art.

The museum is accessible. 

The parking lot is large enough for RVs if backed into the spaces or parked lengthwise across them. A small park and short trail can also be accessed from the lot so it may be busy on the weekends. We did not go to the downtown location because parking seems limited.   Museum   35.19783, -80.81378