— Yankee me following the Antebellum Trail in middle Georgia got goose bumps.
Something powerful about visiting homes where families grappled with big passions; equally daunting to visit places where secession was drafted.
Remarkable thing about this 100-mile Trail of seven Georgia communities is the abundant look into 19th century life, and earlier. Not glimpses but in-depth, backed with scholarly research.
Enter the back edge of the Civil War, not battlefield center. This Trail connected me to Revolutionary War veterans and families too.
The years leading to 1860 are the focus and the Antebellum Trail adds special events for the Pilgrimage.
Choose April 18 – 21 for 19th century home visits and behind-the-scenes museum tours. $25 covers entrance to everything, every town these four days with the pass available at each community’s welcome center.
Find those addresses at www.atpilgrimage.com. Take a group of 10 or more and pay only $20.
Macon and Athens are the larger towns book-ending the Antebellum Trail. Here’s a look into the smaller middle cities.
Eatonton is the 1848 birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris so go to the 50-year-old Uncle Remus Museum. Go to the source. You know these tales.
Change your mind if you lack enthusiasm for visiting the Old School History Museum in Eatonton.
This is classy. And fascinating. The National Endowment for the Humanities thinks so too.
Head for the corner with the 1840 weathervane and look up. Used to show the wind direction on top of the Denham Tannery until 62,204 Union troops burned the tannery where shoes for Confederate troops were made.
Descendants of the freedman who fashioned this weathervane have come to see it. Honored I could too.
Sleep in Watkinsville because the Ashford Manor wraps visitors in history and hospitality. Choose the 1840s cottage with three suites for an antebellum night or the main house, an 1893 Queen Anne.
Ten acres, four terraces, sumptuous breakfast in your room, on the porch or lawns, in the dining room, whatever time you say.
Artland Watkinsville is called and one antebellum way to enter that reality is the 1827 Haygood House, home and gallery for Jerry and Kathy Chappelle.
As if their pottery weren’t reason enough, 125 artists have works here.
1801 is the antebellum frontier year the Eagle Tavern was built in Watkinsville, a business on land given to a Revolutionary War veteran.
The 1811 Heritage Hall in Madison provides family stories, exquisite furnishings and lifestyle insight in a two-story Greek Revival home. Allow time for detailed docent-led tours.
The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center stretches antebellum a bit since it was built in 1895 but enjoy the architecture, performing arts theater, Arts and Crafts furniture gallery and history museum anyway.
Balance the years perhaps staying in the James Madison boutique hotel. His presidential years were antebellum: 1809-1817.
Milledgeville was home to Georgia’s governors from 1839 – 1868 and their house is grandly interpreted as the Old Governor’s Mansion. Antebellum, Civil War and early reconstruction history abounds.
Those governors received salaries but not entertainment budgets so don’t look for a grand dining room.
Do look for details because Curator Matthew Davis has the complete inventory of household goods from 1851.
Note the difference as you follow the Antebellum Trail because Macon’s Hay House of the same era was private, and it’s lavish.
Another Milledgeville option is the Old Capital Museum, an 1807 Gothic building.
Peer into specific lives in tableaux of eight antebellum women, researched from diaries and written records, most with a book you and I could read too.
Then go upstairs to muse about the mood where Georgia’s four-day secession convention was held in 1861 with 297 delegates.
Seems the good folks in the Methodist Church next door complained about the disturbance. Wonder if they influenced the vote?
That’s the kind of musing possible on this Pilgrimage.
Christine Tibbetts is a travel writer for The Tifton (Ga.) Gazette. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com
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