Google+ Georgia On My Mind: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Gift

Back during another lifetime in the 1970s you would have found me on Friday night sitting in front of our family television….the one where the knob had fallen off and we had to resort to using needle-nosed pliers to change it…patiently waiting for my favorite television show to air.

There I was – gazing up at the screen – watching a parade of commercials and happily munching on taco-flavored Doritos – then I would hear the theme song I can sing to this day and even if you won’t admit it, you can as well.

Here’s the story…of a lovely lady…who was bringing up three very lovely girls…All of them had hair of gold like their mother’s…the youngest one in curls.

Here’s the story…of a man named Brady…who was busy with three boys of his own…They were four men…living all together…yes, they were all alone.

I loved the Brady Bunch. They were different. They were not a cookie-cutter version of my very average family. Not everyone was related by blood, not everyone got along all the time, but there was a lot of love and acceptance. Take two families with former tragedy and throw in a dash of Alice and presto! An Instant American family I would have loved to be a part of.

Look around in any American classroom or neighborhood. We have more families with steps and halves and live-ins than ever before, and if you are like me you have often side-stepped an important facet of American History….our family history.

It’s easy to ignore these days , isn’t it?

I have had students who have their fair share of tragedy….parents on drugs, in jail, molestations, mental illness, a different uncle in the house every week or so, physical violence…a plethora of mixed families that make the Brady Bunch-type family impossible to achieve, so I can understand why educators might be leery of asking children to examine their families, to answer the question why their families are important, and to decide how their family fits into the American quilt even with all the baggage that sometimes accompanies family life these days.
But, how can we ask students to connect to a bunch of folks discussed in the study of history that they’ve never heard of and will never meet unless they can connect to how they fit in….how their family fits into our society no matter the baggage and no matter the circumstances?

A brand new book has dropped into my lap that I think would serve as a great reminder that families come in all shapes and forms. A family doesn’t necessary have to be a group of people all related by biology….they have to have things in common and those things bind us together in love.

The book I’m talking about is called The Gift. Its author and illustrator, Karen Craft, just happens to be my dear sister.

In The Gift, Karen tells the true story of Baby Boy who came to live with a family who wanted a little boy very much. The book covers numerous themes from family love, overcoming tragedy, and even an honest look at what makes the concept of family what it is and to be more precise what makes the concept of a mother….a mother.

As the first page of the book states, “A Mama isn’t just someone that gives birth to you. She’s someone that sits with you when you’re sick, and doesn’t mind. She’s the one who bakes you cookies late into the night, when you forgot to tell her earlier. She will clap louder than anyone at your piano recital. She reads your favorite book to you over and over. And over. She really listens to you when you need to talk and when you’re scared she makes you feel safe. She teaches you to be polite and chew with your mouth closed. She’s the last person you see when she kisses you good night, and the first person you want to see in the morning. You know in your heart that she’s your Mother, you Mom, your Mama. She’s your gift and you are hers. Sometimes biology just isn’t so important after all.”

The Gift is a great book to open the door to discuss adoption with students of all ages, to discuss blended families, to discuss losing a family member, and to discuss how non-family members….our friends and neighbors….are important parts of our families as well.

Children will love the story details regarding Da, Mama, Sister Dear, and Baby Girl. The story even has its own version of Alice in the guise of Nanni-K who in reality happens to be my dear niece.

It is a great resource for your classroom library, a media center, or a home library. Students, young and old, will love The Gift as a read aloud as they make Mother’s Day cards and presents, and the book lends itself well to small group reading activities for older students.

Karen Craft’s illustrations are brought to life even in more exact detail by artist Meghan Branscomb from Mornin’ Glory Studios. As you can see from the story illustrations I’ve scattered through this post they are exceptional and make the story even more entertaining. I’m already thinking about making a few slides of the illustrations in enlarged detail to show to students as the book is read.

It’s a great book to purchase for your child or another child you know. With Mother’s Day around the corner it is also a perfect gift for your mother, mothers you know young and old, and even those motherly-types you have in your life. I have a few of those….and I know you do too.

Visit Karen Craft's website, Just Sharing a Story, to purchase your copy of The Gift.

You can become a fan of Karen’s on Facebook and get updates on future publications HERE

This post originally ran at my other site History Is Elementary. If you are wondering why I’m recycling posts see my explanation HERE.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Updates for the Blogroll!!!!!!!

Here are a few new Georgia Blogs I’ve added to the blogroll:

1. Gena Knox...has one of the best cooking blogs on the Internet today. Gena states on her “about” page, “Like everyone who grew up in the south, my story is full of food, family, and tradition. Some of my earliest memories are of the smells and tastes from my grandmother’s kitchen. I remember the flavor of corn creamed as soon as it came off the cob, the smell of warm peaches, and the incredible sweetness of her caramel cake. All of them are still my favorites, although the caramel cake is a tough recipe that might take me a lifetime to master.”

2. Pink Roses and Other Passions…. Scrolling through this blog for the first time I quickly decided I would become a regular reader…..fantastic posts and the pictures are so inspiring…..I immediately came away with five or six ideas I could use for my home.

3. Plugged a business blog for RedBPower located in Statesboro, Georgia….a business offering powerful solutions for personal and commercial electrical needs.

4. Southern Georgia Living ….a blog that portrays family living in south Georgia…..Cairo, Georgia to be exact.

5.Vanishing South Georgia… by Brian Brown....check out his blog index by county and by city to see all of the photographs. WONDERFUL!

6.View From a Hearse a blog by Bruce Goddard…..a humorist, motivational speaker, undertaker, and author. Lots of good reading here….

7. ….and finally, Rural Pen…..a blog that has been on the Georgia Blogroll for quite some time has been changed to Farmer South. In the “about” section the blog author states, "Trying to keep family farms alive in the face of corporate consolidation and sprawling land development.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Changing Pockets....Again

It seems appropriate that I would re-run this post day... since it begins with a discussion regarding how money seems to go from pocket to pocket, but actually this post is about a pocket that can exist in geography....

Money…it does make the world go round. It also seems to move around at a fast pace. Money hops from pocket to pocket to pocket. A famous quotation states, “Money is always there, but the pockets change.”

I agree. Pockets do change, but what you might not realize is the word pocket can mean more than a place to keep your money before it flies out into another’s pocket.

Sometime ago over at History Is Elementary I posted Historians Observe Their Surroundings. The post centers around an activity I use at the beginning of the year to help students understand our geography is constantly changing. Twenty years ago would you recognize the place where your home or office sits? Fifty years ago? One hundred years ago? Two hundred years ago? Mother Earth is constantly changing due to natural and human circumstances.

Do we give the past a second thought as we drive through our state? Do we wonder what might have once been in a pine thicket we zoom by along the interstate? Look at the picture I’ve posted above. It seems like a very rural, natural setting. Notice the ridge line. It’s important to my point.

Geographically speaking a “pocket” is a plain surrounded entirely by mountains and amazingly Georgia has one of these rare geographical features. advises a pocket is a geologic formation that was formed when most of Northwest Georgia was covered by a vast sea.

Imagine that!

Weaker limestone was eroded and left the surrounding iron ore ridges. Out west this type of formation is known as a “hole”, and two of the most famous are Jackson Hole and Hole in the Wall.

An article entitled Remembering the Pocket by Daniel M. Roper from the Winter, 1994 issue of North Georgia Journal explores the history of Georgia’s pocket enclave that is now virtually abandoned except for hikers and fishermen who make the trek inside.

Hardy settlers first reached the pocket following the land lottery that was a result of the Treaty of New Echota which provided for the sale of the remaining Cherokee lands in Georgia. Many who received the right to own land in the area were elderly and they simply sold their right to settle to younger and hardier pioneer stock.

Between the 1840s and 1860s settlers carved out a settlement in The Pocket which had several farms as well as a gristmill and sawmill located on Johns Creek in the narrow gap between Johns and Horn mountains. A blast furnace also existed which utilized the iron ore from Horn Mountain and formed wash pots and skillets.

Researchers have been able to learn many things about the life of The Pocket settlers from journals and letters. James Elijah White and his son L.P. White maintained a journal from 1835 until 1935. The article refers to several entries that are just simply observations of daily life in The Pocket. Here is a sampling:

“Their was the greatest yield of hickory nuts in 1895”
“The night of May the 24 (1908) it rained a frog down the chimney.”

“On September 1913 John Blasengaines left for Oklahoma for the charge of fornication”

“1919 January the 12, Sunday morning a aroplane flew over this valley today about ½ after 9”

“Me and Sarah Elizabeth went to Villanow to hear holy rollers.”

The article advises by the 1890s there were several hundred people living in the valley. Farming and logging were the primary industries with tan bark being the most lucrative. Chestnut oaks were in abundance. The bark was hauled to the rails at Hill City to be taken to a tannery in Chattanooga. The tannin was then used on animal hides.

The Pocket was touched by the Civil War when the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Sherman’s lieutenant, Major General James B. McPherson, marched through Snake Creek Gap—the strategic route between Horn and Rocky Face Mountains—and flanked the Confederate army at Dalton. The Confederates retreated to Resaca where they engaged the Federal army in a major battle on May 14 and 15, 1864. advises when advancing through the area during the Civil War, men under the command of General James McPherson “discovered” the road, which was not on their maps. A great deal of concern was expressed in the Official Records about the accuracy of the maps.

Samuel Pilcher was a Pocket resident who served with the “Wright Infantry”. He was one of the lucky Confederates who made it home and lived along life farming on his land in the valley. He died in 1897 and his grave is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. A nearby pond, Pilcher’s Pond, is named for him and many anglers have sought this secluded spot to wet a hook.

George W. Bailey was a Confederate from The Pocket who experienced being a prisoner of war. He served with the “Calhoun Blues” and was captured by Union troops in August, 1864 during the Battle of Atlanta. He was finally released from Fort McHenry nine months later where he returned to The Pocket and raised a large family.

The Pocket experienced many years of prosperity following the Civil War, however, by the 1940s most residents had left the area creating a virtual ghost valley. The combination of the boll weevil and The Great Depression hit The Pocket’s agrarian economy hard. Many residents were lured away by the offer of jobs in the factories and mills of Rome and Dalton.

The Pocket is a valley south of the community of Villanow, surrounded on three sides by the steep rocky ridges of Horn and Johns Moutains. To reach The Pocket you need to travel north on I-75 to the exit for Resaca (Highway 136). Travel 15 miles to the town of Villanow and take a left on East Armuchee Road. There are signs to follow by the byway that is known by hikers and bikers as the Pocket Trail”. Eventually if you follow the signs you are led back to the famous general store. Some sites mention that the signs at the left turn onto US 27 and the left turn onto Floyd Springs Road might be missing. Additional information regarding the location of the pocket can be found at North Georgia Scenic Drives. advises the area is rich in Native American, Civil War, and Civilian Conservation Corps history. Other attractions include Keown Falls, the Johns Mountain Overlook, Johns Creek, Johns Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and the Pinhoti Trail.

This post first ran in June, 2006.
Find out why I’m re-running old postings

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another View of the Red Oak Train Depot

I grew up in Red Oak, Georgia…..a little strip of real estate between College Park and Fairburn. I attended elementary and high school while living there…..I made life-long friends there…..I did the Girl Scout thing there…I was baptized there…..I learned to drive there……I LIVED there , and it was a fantastic place to grow up back in the early 70s.

I loved that place…..I still do even though most everyone I knew is long gone including me, my home, and even the train depot.

Of course….the train depot seen with this post was long gone before I ever moved to Red Oak, but I rode by its location at least twice a day for many years.

I originally wrote about the train depot in December , 2007 when I was lucky enough to locate the original building plans for the depot which you can see HERE along with some of recollections of my daily visits to downtown Red Oak.

Go on….click through….you KNOW you want to read that post as well. :)

At that time someone by the time of C.E. Waltz commented and advised his grandfather had been the postmaster until the mid 60s and his grandmother had run a store out of the depot as well. He also advised that instead of the building being demolished it had been torn down and moved….and it had become a restaurant.

So , now the plot thickens. I wonder if any of my Red Oak friends I’ve hooked up with on Facebook or new friends that find me through Google searches know where the old depot building wound up and if it is still a restaurant…….
I’m waiting, and I'd love to know the rest of the story…:)

I snagged the depot picture from the Atlanta History Center site……HERE. I hope they don’t sue me for posting it……I’m giving full credit though.

And……it’s the season of the mulligan here at Georgia on My Mind while I’m busy telling myself I can write a book I'm revisting some of my older postings…..for an explanation see the link HERE.

Friday, April 9, 2010

History of a Long Dirt Road

The following post details my love of meandering down Georgia’s dirt roads and a little bit of history regarding on in particular. This post first appeared here at Georgia on My Mind in December, 2007.
I love dirt roads, and Georgia is simply full of them.

Unfortunately you have to travel further and further from the environs of Atlanta to find them anymore.

When I was 18 and a newbie on the college campus of my parent’s choosing I was a member of the Dirt Road Club. The requirements were simple… had to have enough money to invest in either gas or an appropriate beverage or two for you and your fellow club members, you had to be willing to devote an occasional Saturday or Sunday to what could be an all day, all night road trip, and if you were the official driver for that trip you had turn off the main highway every time you came upon a dirt road and follow it until you couldn’t follow it any longer.

Needless to say I’m quite the expert when it comes to private drives and logging roads all over North Georgia.

Just like the explorers of the 1500s and just like those folks who brave the elements to climb Mt. Everest members of The Dirt Road Club ventured forth because they were compelled to.

Our club motto was “Because it’s there!”

Yes, there were some dirt roads that were a bit scary, some that had a Deliverance feel to them, and some were just plain dangerous. Others were pure gems. Once when riding along through a forest the trees suddenly cleared and we found ourselves on a ridge where you could see mountain rise after mountain rise in the distance. Another time we found a mountain stream complete with waterfall and on the hills rising up all around us were hundreds of mountain laurel in full bloom. Those were the moments that kept us going down all those dirt roads.

The road seen in my image at the beginning of this post has the distinction of being the longest and oldest dirt road still in use in America. It is located on Ossabaw Island, a barrier island along Georgia’s coast. The island contains over 26,000 acres and archeologists have determined humans have lived on or used the island for the past 4,000 years.

Thought it had two other prior owners Ossabaw Island was owned by John Morel during Georgia’s colonial years and through the Revolution. He purchased half of the island in 1760 and the other half in 1763. Morel was a Savannah merchant and Council of Safety member who with the help of slave labor used the island for timber cutting and agriculture. Indigo, cotton, and rice were main cash crops cultivated on Ossabaw.

During Morel’s ownership the avenue of oaks that remain today were planted along the long dirt road that traverses the island. To make it easier to manage agricultural operations on the island Morel divided the land into tracts. Following John Morel’s death in 1777 the island was divided among Morel’s three sons with each receiving a particular tract. Bryan Morel received North End Place, Peter Henry Morel received Middle Place, and John Morel II took control of South End. I would venture that they shared the fourth tract known as Buckhead. After the War of 1812 the highly sought Sea Island cotton was raised on Ossabaw because it has stronger filaments than cotton grown on the mainland and it was very desirable by textile manufacturers.

During the Civil War when the Union blockaded the South the Morel family abandoned Ossabaw Island. At one point during Reconstruction a Freedmen’s Bureau location was there. In fact, the Ossabaw Foundation site states that many of the former slaves from Ossabaw eventually relocated to Pin Point, Georgia which is the home of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The remains of three slave cabins can be found at the northern end of the island. One is thought to date from 1820 and the other two date from the 1840s. Archeologists have found alligator teeth and racoon bones in the area surrounding the cabins along with the makings of a mojo bag along with blue beads. It was thought that the color blue would ward off any spirits. It was believed that spirits didn’t like the color blue because it reminded them of heaven.

During the Gilded Age in the late 1800s the island was controlled by the Wannamaker family of Philadelphia. They used Ossabaw as a hunting club.

During the 1920s Dr. H.N. Torrey built a vacation home on the island that in reality is a mansion. The Torrey family had moved to Savannah from Grosse Pointe, Michigan in 1923 and when their Savannah home burned they moved to Ossabaw where they entertained many people. It has been reported that Henry Ford, who had his own Georgia plantation, was the first to sign the Torrey’s guestbook.

Eventually, the island passed to the Torrey’s daughter, Eleanor Torrey West. Along with her husband, Clifford West, the Ossabaw Foundation was created which launched many unique programs on the island, such as the Ossabaw Island Project. This interdisciplinary program supported recommended individuals “of creative thought and purpose in the arts, sciences, industry, education, and religion” to come to the islands to share their ideas with other creatives and pursue their work without interruption.
The island was turned over to the State of Georgia in 1978, and was designated as Georgia’s first Heritage Preserve with the written understanding that Ossabaw would “only be used for natural scientific, and cultural study, research and education, and environmentally sound preservation, conservation and management of the Island’s ecosystem.” The acquistition was made possible by the generosity of Mrs. West and her family, a personal gift to the State of Georgia from Robert F. Woodruff (Coca-Cola), the assistance of The Nature Conservancy, and the State’s commitment to preservation of the island.
Gee, just think…..all of that a dirt road to boot. Thanks, Mrs. West!

For further reading:

An AJC article from 2006 provides some interesting detail about life on the island for slaves and those that come later Italic

This Smithsonian article also details slave life on the island.

A Georgia blog, Nature’s Harmony Farm, provides some information regarding Ossabaw pigs.

More history bits can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.

…..and to find out why I’m re-running various posts see my link HERE

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Georgia's Paul Revere...

Listen my children and you shall hear
of the midnight ride of John Wisdom
on the third of May, in sixty-three….

Something isn’t quite right, is it?

I introduce The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Wadsworth, to my fourth graders when we discuss Lexington and Concord, and the visual I provide them with is the painting seen here by Grant Wood. Recently, over at History Is Elementary I detailed how I use other paintings by Mr. Wood in my classroom.

Near the end of the year as we are discussing the Civil War I spiral back to Wadsworth’s poem to remind children where we have already been in our studies. I write the opening words of the poem on the board except I switch the name Paul Revere with the name John Wisdom and the date.

As students begin to correct me I say, “Oh yeah, sure, it was John Wisdom. He warned people the enemy was approaching. He may have saved people and the towns of Lexington and Concord on his midnight ride.”

I love the chorus of no, no, no I receive from adamant students who love to point out when I’m wrong. They tell me that Paul Revere and several others were charged with the duty of calling out the Minutemen, and the date was 1775 not 1863. Our sprial review is successful and completed. Students have remembered information concerning the Revolution though it has been several weeks since it was taught.

I turn to present matters and pose the question…”Well, I wonder then why the name John Wisdom popped into my head? Who could he be? I wonder if he did something important? We are about to study the Civil War. Based on what you know already about the war write two or three sentences in your notebook predicting who you think John Wisdom is and why I’m bringing him up.”

Students begin to write and then share their predictions. Finally, I get my chance to share.

John Wisdom, seen in the picture here, was a real person. He was a mail carrier….you know, through the dark night, through rain, sleet, snow, hail…yeah, that mail system. It can be argued that he is the very man who saved Rome, Georgia from destruction during the Civil War at least for a short period of time. He is often thought of as Georgia’s version of Paul Revere.

In May, 1863, Rome was only about sixty miles south of the Confederate lines at Dalton, Georgia. There were only old men, wounded soldiers, and young boys available to protect the town and the arsenal. I guess you coul say the leaders of the South were asleep at the wheel as far as Rome goes.

Why would Rome have been important to the Union?

First of all, the city is located strategically at the point where the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers meet forming the Coosa. Railroad lines that connected Atlanta and Chattanooga ran through Rome. Many of the farms in the region provided food supplies for the Confederates, and the hospital provided medical supplies and care for the wounded. The city had numerous foundries including the one owned by James Noble, Sr. and his six sons. Their foundry had been instrumental in providing the Rome Railroad with a locomotive by 1857. Cannons and cannonballs as well as other items to assist the Confederacy were manufactured in Rome.

Rumors abounded in the countryside the Union Colonel, A.D. Streight, was on the move. Was he heading for Rome’s arsenal? Was he attempting to cut the Confederate supply line between Atlanta and Chattanooga? Actually it was the latter, but Wisdom felt a burning need to let the countryside know the Union troops were nearby and up to no good. Haven’t you ever heard a rumor and was just dying to tell others?

Wisdom, apparently was unaware that General N.B. Forrest was already in pursuit of Streight and it was a good thing he didn’t know or didn’t care. Had someone have said, “Awww….Forrest is already after him,” Wisdom might have just gone about his duties as a stage driver delivering mail and other parcels. Nope, Forrest opted to get involved.

Forrest was able to capture Streight’s calvary after three to five full days (depends on the source you use) of marching and fighting. The Confederate officer managed to do this with a force less than half the size of Streight’s. Forest had several advantages over Streight, however. The Confederates were riding horses while the Union solders were using mules. In fact some sources refer to Streight’s group and others that utilized mules as “Jackass Forces”. It was hard for these forces to get around unnoticed as the mules often took to braying and could be heard for miles. At some point during the chase Streight (pictured at left) dispatched approximately 200 men to serve as an advance party to head for Rome to scout the area. It was this scouting party that Wisdom heard about and set out to warn his surrounding neightbors.

It is at this point I will defer to the website as it explains the arduous journey of Wisdom better than I can:

He left Gadsden at 3:30 in the afternoon by buggy and after 22 miles at Gnatville his horse was completely exhausted. A widow Hanks at that place owned the only horse- a lame pony- which she loaned to Wisdom. The pony only lasted five miles until he came to Goshen. Here he was able to get a fresh and stronger horse which carried him to Spring Garden where he was able to get two horses. At a point about one mile south of Cave Spring, Georgia, his mount was exhausted and darkness had come.
Farmers were relunctant to loan their animals nevertheless he walked on and even used a mule for several miles until he was able to get two good mounts in Vann's Valley in succession and raced into Rome after midnight.
Rome’s citizens were quick to act once they were alerted:

The covered wooden bridge over which the Union troops would be forced to move was barricaded with bales of cotton and the bridge floor covered waist deep with hay soaked in oil which was to be set afire in the event the invaders could not be stopped by other measures.
The engineers of the Rome Railroad made trips into the countryside warning the people and bringing the planters who responded to the call to arms. They brought their squirrel rifles, muskets, and muzzle loading shotguns.
The Union advance troop got a good look at Rome from the hill at Shorter College where they could see the fortifications the town had hastily put together. They knew even with their small number they could have taken the city with the element of surprise, but since the citizens had prior warning and had prepared it was fruitless. They returned to rejoin Streight’s command and eventually wound up as prisoners of war with their comrades.

Wisdom receieved $400 and a silver service for his basically unkown ride. General Forrest is honored with a statue at the corner of Broad and Mrytle Streets where Myrtle Hill Cemetary is located. One of the inscriptions state: “On Sunday, May 3, 1863, General Nathan B. Forrest by, his indomitable will, after a running fight of three days and nights, with 410 men, captured Col. A.D. Streight’s Raiders, numbering 1600, thereby saving Rome from destruction.”

Students always end the discussion asking about the fate of Streight. He ended up at Libby Prison outside of Richmond, Virginia. He escaped with 108 other prisoners in right under the noses of Southern guards through a tunnel on February 9, 1864.

Following the thwarted raid earthen fortifications were built to serve as some protection for Rome, however the city was eventually taken and held by Union forces. Union Gen. Jefferson C. Davis took Rome without specific orders in May, 1864 during his search for a bridge that didn’t exist across the Oostenaula River around the time of the Battle of Resaca. Gen. Davis communicated to Sherman that, “[Rome was] the strongest fortified place I have seen in Dixie.” More Union forces were sent to the city after General John Bell Hood began to strike at Sherman’s supply lines in North Georgia. It was from Rome that Sherman telegraphed Grant concerning his plan to “March to the Sea”. Once it was approved he set out from Rome around November 10th and 11th heading South. On their way out of the city many of the downtown buildings and Noble’s Foundry was destroyed by fire.

the Rome History Museum has a CD for sale that would be great to use in the classroom. The content of the CD gets children to think about more modern technology such as the radio. If the radio had been around on May 3, 1863, in what way would it have made a difference ? This would be a great question for students to ponder.

This post first ran in July, 2007 here at Georgia on My Mind. If you are wondering why I’m repeating certain postings see the post HERE for an explanation.
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