Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Thousands of new visitors, however, are learning the Columbus is realizing its potential as a major heritage tourism destination. Noted for its multiple historic districts, Riverwalk, museums and more, the city has placed major emphasis on its historic resources and the results are stunning.
From its revitalized downtown area with the River Center for the Performing Arts and allegedly haunted Springer Opera House, the city spreads out along the Chattahoochee River from Lake Oliver on the north to Fort Benning on the South. Founded in 1828, Columbus was a major riverboat port and manufacturing center during the antebellum era.
Columbus rebounded from the destruction dealt it by Union troops following that battle and today is a progressive and modern city. Its past, however, remains very much alive. The main Columbus Historic District preserves a stunning area of historic and restored homes, including two that once housed the family of Dr. John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola. The Columbus Riverwalk links a variety of historic sites and points of interest, among them the National Civil War Naval Museum, which houses two original Confederate warships as well as reconstructions of the U.S.S. Hartford, U.S.S. Water Witch and C.S.S. Albemarle. Near the entrance to Fort Benning is the National Infantry Museum, which relocated last month into a stunning new facility.
To learn more about historic Columbus, Georgia, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/gacolumbus1.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
He spent many months roaming through the South, studying its wildlife up close, and produced the only known artistic representations of such rare species as the Ivory Billed Woodpecker from life. It is a little known fact, however, that the Haitian born Audubon survived during many of his explorations by painting portraits and teaching drawing. Among the places he worked was a landmark college for women along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi.
The Elizabeth Female Academy, founded in 1818, was the first college in the United States to award degrees to women (a distinction also claimed by Wesleyan in Georgia). The ladies who attended Elizabeth studied advanced topics including Latin, history, mathematic, natural science, philosophy and art. For six weeks in the summer of 1822, their drawing instructor was John James Audubon.
The famed naturalist walked 7 miles each way in the blazing Mississippi sun to teach at the academy, which was located up the trace from Natchez in Washington. The heat and exposure to mosquitoes and other insects soon left him bed-ridden with fever. When he recovered, he accepted a position in Natchez and did not return to the job at the academy.
The ruins of Elizabeth Female Academy can be seen today along the Natchez Trace Parkway. The unique institution held a landmark place in American education and it is well worth taking your time to visit the historic site during a trip up or down the Trace. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/natchezelizabeth.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Home to over 100 antebellum homes and structures, Washington was the economic, social and political center of a large plantation district during the years leading up to the Civil War. It was the home of U.S. Senator Robert Toombs, who went on to become the first Secretary of State of the Confederacy and a Confederate general, as well as Porter Alexander, who gained fame as the commander of artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee.
President Jefferson Davis held his final conference with other key Southern leaders in Washington before beginning a final attempt at flight that ended with his capture at Irwinville, Georgia, a few days later.
The city also figures prominently in the mystery of the missing Confederate treasury. Vast quantities of gold and silver spirited away from Richmond at the end of the war were last seen in Washington and there are many legends of buried treasure in the area.
The city today is a remarkable place with a charming downtown and oak-shaded streets lined by historic homes and churches. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/washingtonga.
Friday, July 16, 2010
There are few Southern families, regardless of race, culture or origin, that do not have stories tied in some way to the land. From the mountains of the Blue Ridge and Ozarks to the bayous of Louisiana and deep swamps of Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida, Southerners are a people closely associated with the land around them.
And today, with the economy experiencing such severe difficulties and unemployment and taxes at such highs, many Southern families are looking back to the land as a place of relaxation, comfort and escape. The great outdoors offer affordable escapes for families from all walks of life and, while economical to visit and explore, offer untold rewards in terms of memories and marvels.
To help you explore some of the more unique outdoor locations in the South, I've launched a new section at ExploreSouthernHistory.com that focuses on ecotourism and the natural wonders of our very special region of the country. You will find information on springs, rivers, scenic spots, caves, geological wonders, mountains, waterfalls and more. This section will expand rapidly as I continue to add new spots, so be sure to bookmark it and check back regularly.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/naturalwonders.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Built in 1780, while the American Revolution was still in full fury, the historic home originally served as an inn or "stand" along the famed Natchez Trace. This roadway led from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, and provided a short cut for "Kaintuck" boatmen who floated cargoes of furs and farm products down the Mississippi River to Natchez and New Orleans. Steamboat travel had not yet been developed, so getting back home to upriver settlements in the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee valleys wasn't quite as easy as getting downstream. The solution was the Natchez Trace. Sometimes called America's first "superhighway," it was an overland path by which the boatmen could make their way back home.
In those days fifteen miles was about the distance that a person could be expected to walk in a day, so resting places naturally developed in intervals of about that length. Mount Locust was just over fifteen miles north of Natchez and offered food and sleeping space to weary travelers for 25 cents a day.
In later years, when travel on the Trace was replaced by steamboats on the Mississippi, the house became the center of a large Mississippi cotton plantation. When the Natchez Trace Parkway was developed, however, the park service acquired the house and grounds for development as a historic site.
The unique old home, which far pre-dates the state of Mississippi, has been restored to its 1820 appearance and is in a remarkable state of preservation. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/natchezlocust.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
The famous Face in the Window (also called the Ghost in the Window) is a strange face that can be seen in the glass of the window when viewed from the street below. From inside the courthouse, nothing can be seen. Science (and some historical researchers) say it can't be what it is purported to be, but the fact remains that the face is there.
Local legend holds that former slave named Henry Wells burned down the second Pickens County Courthouse not long after it was rebuilt following a torching by Union troops during the Civil War. It took two years to arrest Wells for the crime, but by 1868 he was in custody and had confessed to his role in the arson. Either due to an escape attempt or prior to his capture, he was supposely hiding in the attic of the newly completed third courthouse when lightning struck the window in question as he looked out into a storm. As the story goes, the combination of electricity, water and glass left a perfect photograph of the man on the window.
Scientists argue that this is not physically possible, but who can really say what the power of a massive bolt of lightning might be. In fact, there are several other instances of alleged lightning portrats, including one from another Alabama location during the same location.
Over time the Face in the Window has faded, but a close look still reveals a shape in the glass that has a distinct human-like appearance. Many have been prompted to remark that Henry Wells may still be staring from the window all these years later. The tale has become one of Alabama's most famous ghost stories and was featured in Kathryn Tucker Windham's popular book, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.
To read the story and learn more about the Face in the Window, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/faceinthewindow.