Friday, May 14, 2010

14 Flags Museum - Sallisaw, Oklahoma

Some of the most fascinating historic places in the South are the small locally-operated museums that dot the landscape. Among these is the 14 Flags Museum in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.

Located at the intersection of U.S. Highways 59 and 65 in downtown Sallisaw, the outdoor museum features a fascinating collection of historic structures. Among these are log cabins that date to the earliest days of Cherokee settlement in eastern Oklahoma before and immediately following the Trail of Tears.

The Lattimore cabin, shown here, is an outstanding example. Thought to have been built in around 1835 by Samuel Lattimore, an early Cherokee settler. The logs were felled and squared by hand and still bear the marks of the axes and adzes used by builder. A loophole in the east wall is a reminder of the turbulent days that the Cherokee settlers experienced after arriving in their new homes. Not only did they sometimes battle with Indian tribes already living in the area, but they also lived through the brutal days of the Civil War in the Indian Nations and the outlaw years that followed.

Other structures at the museum include the Judge Faulkner cabin which was built in the 1840s and occupied at various times by both Union and Confederate troops during the War Between the States; the old Sallisaw Train Depot; a log cabin containing a Trail of Tears exhibit and more.

To learn more about the 14 Flags Museum, which receives its name from the 14 identifiable tribes and nations that occupied this part of Oklahoma, please visit

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sea Turtles play a large role in Southern History

The huge oil spill off the coast of Louisiana could impact the entire Gulf Coast of the United States by the time its done, doing extensive environmental and economic damage. Among the creatures already being impacted are the huge sea turtles that have lived along the coast of the South for thousands of years.

Some of these unique reptiles grow to be more than 6 feet long and they have long played a role in Southern history. Ancient Indians, for example, not only dined from time to time on the meat of the giant turtles, but also used them as inspiration for prehistoric art. This seems to indicate that sea turtles were of both dietary and ceremonial significance to early Native Americans all along the Southern coast.

Early European and African settlers weren't particularly interested in the ceremonial aspects of the sea turtles, but they did consider them a tasty treat from time to time. Diaries, letters and other accounts of life in the South during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries routinely mention turtle soup and even eating the eggs of the sea turtles.

Somehow, though, despite their popularity on the table, the sea turtles survived. In Georgia, for example, five different species still lay their eggs and swim in the waters around the coastal islands. All are now protected by both state and federal law. Their numbers diminished rapidly over the course of the 20th century, due to loss of habitat, increased pollution and accidental collisions with boats and fishing nets. They are today carefully watched all along the Southern coast.

If the oil spill continues to spread as some fear, the impact to the marshes and beaches of the Gulf Coast could be severe. Time will tell. Regardless of what happens, one of the best places to learn about and see the huge turtles is actually on the Atlantic Coast at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. The facility operates a very nice interpretive center that features interactive exhibits to help visitors learn more about the lives of these threatened creatures.

The center also serves as a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility that helps sick or injured sea turtles until they can be returned to the wild. Visitors are allowed to visit the large pools and see the turtles in their various stages of recover. To learn more, please visit

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Raymond, Mississippi - Historic Sites & Points of Interest

Located just 17 minutes from downtown Jackson and 30 minutes from Vicksburg, the historic city of Raymond is one of the most charming communities in Mississippi.

Built around a town square that dates back to 1828, Raymond is rich in historic sites and structures. Noted for its many antebellum structures which include homes, churches and the beautiful old Hinds County Courthouse, Raymond is located along the Natchez Trace Parkway and is emerging as a major heritage destination for travelers in Mississippi.

Although the area had been settled for many years before by Choctaw Indians, the modern community of Raymond was born in 1828 when a three person commission selected the site to serve as the county seat of Hinds Couunty. General Raymond Robinson held earlier title to the town site, but gave it up for the public good and the city of Raymond was named in his honor. The Mississippi Legislature officially designated Raymond as county seat in 1829.

The community was an important economic and social center during the years leading up to the Civil War and was the scene of the bloody Battle of Raymond during that conflict.

The battle took place on May 12, 1863, as the army of General Ulysses S. Grant was closing in on the state capital of Jackson during the opening phases of his Vicksburg Campaign. His plan was to take Jackson, drive off Confederate forces in the area and then close in on Vicksburg from the rear. Waiting at Raymond, however, were 4,000 Confederate soldiers led by Brigadier General John Gregg.

As Union Major General James B. McPherson's column approached Raymond, 12,000 men strong, Gregg attacked so ferociously that a significant battle erupted. By the time the smoke cleared, more than 1,000 men had fallen and homes, churches and even the courthouse in Raymond were converted to hospitals. Gregg was unable to hold back the Federals and Grant eventually went on to take Vicksburg in one of the most significant victories of the Civil War.

Raymond today is a beautiful and charming community. To learn more, please visit

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Poverty Point State Historic Site - Epps, Louisiana

Home to the largest known prehistoric earthworks in the Western Hemisphere, the Poverty Point State Historic Site is located on a bluff overlooking Bayou Macon between the towns of Epps and Lake Providence in the northeastern corner of Louisiana.

The site is one of the most remarkable Indian mound groups in the United States. Not only does its primary mound (Mound A) still rise more than 72 feet above the surrounding area, it takes the form of a giant flying bird. Such effigy mounds would become common in the Midwest and were built at other locations in the South over the centuries that followed, but at the time Poverty Point was active, Mound A was the only known such effigy in the country.

The Poverty Point Culture reached its height more than 3,000 years ago, long before any of the other mound-building groups of the Southeast. They were a pre-ceramic culture, meaning that they did not make pottery vessels to use for cooking or storing food. Instead, they were a stone age people who raised the manufacture of stone tools to a new level. Trade networks developed connecting the Poverty Point people to other prehistoric Native Americans across much of the eastern United States. Excavations at the site have revealed  shells from Florida, copper from the Great Lakes region and quartz and other crystals from the Ouachita and Ozark mountains of Arkansas and Missouri.

The site today is extremely interesting. In addition to the towering Mound A, which may have been more than 100 feet high when it was in use, the site includes other mounds, a central plaza site that appears to have been the location of a prehistoric observatory, and unique concentric manmade ridges upon which the people of the town lived.

In addition to walking paths and a nice museum, the site also provides guided tram tours of the extensive mounds. To learn more, please visit