Old Clinton Historical Society
April 20, 2015
Dear OCHS Members & Friends,
2014 has come and gone – and was a year of remembrances.
The 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, which took his Right Wing straight through Clinton, leaving the then prosperous town in flames, as the army moved on toward Griswoldville and that now historic doomed battle that pitted mostly the town’s old men and young boys against a battle hardened and far better armed & positioned Union Army.
The 75th anniversary of Gone with the Wind, the movie made from Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel that tells the heartbreaking story of the South’s fall, the burning of Atlanta before the Union Army headed south through Georgia, and then the aftermath of survival in war torn Georgia.
The 40th anniversary of the formation of the Old Clinton Historical Society, which has as its primary mission the preservation of the Old Clinton Historic District and to that end has purchased property in the District and restored several buildings, the oldest of which is the antebellum McCarthy Pope House, built in 1809.
So, in this past year of anniversaries, when the decision to rescue the McCarthy – Pope House was the rallying point 40 years ago, it seems fitting that OCHS made the decision to rescue yet another Clinton structure, this time one of the original antebellum law offices currently located adjacent to the courthouse square. Its owners have agreed that OCHS can have the structure – so long as it is relocated. While we would prefer that it remain in the original location and be restored there, the choice we have currently been given is move it or lose it – so we have chosen to move it.
A site visit in late November by Mr. Hugh Braswell of Braswell House Movers, the company that moved in Pine Ridge School, gave us hope that the structure can actually be moved intact – with some finagling. The antebellum portion of the structure, which is all that we plan to restore, is currently hidden by “newer” front and rear additions, which will have to be removed, and it has been turned 90 degrees from its original position. Its planned new location will be on OCHS property, appropriately reoriented, and facing the same original street bed that Pine Ridge School now faces.
Also in November, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March, OCHS hosted an open house and guided walking tour of the historic district, the highlight of which was a presentation on the famous – or infamous – Jesse Bunkley Trial by local historian and author, William Harris Bragg.
Another exciting event, also in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, was the placement and dedication of the first of the county’s three Civil War Heritage Trail markers, this one in Clinton, at the western end of the District, in the small historical park just off Pulaski Street and adjacent to the War Days battlefield location. Its placement and dedication represent the culmination of almost 20 years of effort on the part of the Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails organization.
In case you don’t know, Civil War Heritage Trails is a 501c3 tax-exempt non-profit organization, which is guided by a talented volunteer Board of Trustees but committed to the principle of local citizen involvement and decision-making. Because each community has its own unique history, Civil War Heritage Trails coordinates the many participants, lending expertise to assist and manage the overall program.
The Civil War, or War Between the States, changed America forever. Civil War Heritage Trails interprets this era along its historic routes, while leading visitors on an experience back in time. The drives themselves, along many of the same roads once traveled by soldiers wearing blue or gray, are as significant to understanding what happened as are the “interpretive markers.” Civil War Heritage Trails also highlights various preservation opportunities, with numerous scenic and cultural benefits.
Many additional topics are also interpreted along the route of each trail, including the roles of women, African-Americans, hospitals, churches, and railroads. Interpretive markers are “linked” along each route to national & state parks, museums and other heritage attractions. I hope that you will take advantage of this great resource to “tour in your own backyard.” Visitors may obtain (as they become available) a full-color brochure of each trail, either by “downloading” its map at the web site: http://www.civilwarheritagetrails.org/about-us.html
In older news, last year’s War Days enjoyed WONDERFUL weather and brought in many new faces. As part of increased outreach and in addition to billboards, which we began using two years ago, this past year we utilized paid radio advertising and a WDEN “rolling radio show” with long time morning show DJ/hostess and Jones County resident, Laura Starling. Our “Behind the Scenes” War Days school program was overflowing, and we owe a huge “thank you’ to the re-enactor family who came early and worked long to make it a huge success. We have the enviable problem of outgrowing our ability to accommodate all who want to come.
Lake Oconee Living magazine embedded a reporter with the 16th Georgia, for the entire War Days weekend, and from that experience there was an excellent and sometimes hilarious article published in the Fall 2014 issue. I encourage you to go online at http://lakeoconeelivingmag.com/from-the-frontlines.html and check it out.
Moving into 2015, I am pleased to report that the Jones County Commissioners just approved award of the contract for development of a master plan for the tan yard site. This is a long awaited and much anticipated step forward in the preservation and restoration of that area. The site is considered one of the finest, if not the finest, of its kind and its ultimate restoration and interpretation will be a great addition in the District.
The 34th annual Old Clinton War days are upon us. Please come out and support the event – it is truly a living history program showcased in an authentic 19th century setting. It is the major fundraiser for OCHS, and the profit from it goes toward on-going maintenance of our property and buildings. Plus, as noted earlier, we are about to undertake a new project – restoration of an original law office. If you have funds, or skills, and/or equipment that you can donate time and use of, I am sure this restoration project can use them! You will be taking part in bringing another piece of history back to life and use.
On a day to day note, there is always work to be done in the historic district, and we welcome volunteers to help with it – mowing, cutting underbrush, spraying, and burning. If you can help now and again, please let me know so that I can get your contact information on our work day list for notification. If you have been through Clinton recently, you may have noticed that we have cleared a large area in the authentic Confederate camp area bounded by Randolph Street and the old and now unused portion of Madison Street that leads to the tan yard site. In fact the tanyard owner’s house site is in this tract and will be opened up with this work.
And last, but certainly not least, we welcome new memberships and renewals of existing ones, the funds from which are also used to maintain our property and buildings. Please consider becoming a member and put a footprint down in the sands of time. There is an old Indian legend, curse some say, about Jones County – that being if you have the red dirt of Jones between your toes, you will never leave. I would like to think if that red dirt comes from Clinton, then you will be forever “hooked” on a very special place. Please join us in us in its ongoing preservation, restoration, and interpretation. Your involvement and help will be most appreciated.
President – OCHS