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Antebellum Trail in Georgia –
100 miles of musings and connections



Article by Christine Tibbetts
Photos by G. W. Tibbetts

Little Lucy Cobb connected me to the families of antebellum Georgia. I was in her house, in front of her portrait, figuring out new ways to consider the South in the years before the Civil War. 

Seven Georgia communities partner to offer new depth to the old story, framing the journey as an Antebellum Trail. www.atpilgrimage.com

Don’t shy away because you’re steeped enough already in the Civil War. This Trail is much, much more history.

Pretty this route is, 100 miles of well maintained roads in gentle rolling hills of middle Georgia, and plenty of farmland.

Might drive some interstate to launch the journey at either end of the Trail: Macon on the south and Athens, www.visitathensga.com where Lucy had hoped to grow up, on the north.

 Scarlett fever killed Lucy, and this portrait over the fireplace mantle is loaded with symbols of mourning.

 
Lucy Cobb’s portrait looms large in the pink family home after her death Cobb House circa 1852 in Athens 

Black ribbon on her shoulder, black dog at her side, a Scots Irish symbol of her guide to eternity. Window in the house behind her open to prevent trapping her spirit.

The pink house over her shoulder is the one in which I was standing, built in 1852.  It’s where Lucy’s father, T. R. R. Cobb, wrote the bulk of of the Confederate Constitution.

Ashford Manor
It’s also where he lay in state after being killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Abundance of musing possible looking at the framed battle flag that covered his coffin.

Guess he still believed in his Confederate constitutional philosophies.  Antebellum and wartime intersect on this Trail. 

 Athens, Macon and the five towns in between offer multiple thought provoking home visits.

They also offer homes for sleeping. Seriously consider staying in the Ashford Manor in Watkinsville,  www.VisitOconee.com easy jaunt from Athens heading toward Madison.

The 1840s cottage has three suites; the grand two story manor house is post bellum, built in 1893.  Breakfast is artistic, abundant, distinctive.

Sleep with an antebellum focus a little further south in Madison www.madisonga.org  at the James Madison Inn, a boutique hotel of 17 rooms and two suites.

 
Stagecoaches delivered frontier travelers to Eagle Tavern in Watkinsville 
Mr. Madison’s presidential years? 1809 – 1817, but antebellum can go even further back than that.

The Eagle Tavern in Watkinsville, for instance, stands on ground given to a Revolutionary War veteran.

Connect with some influences of that war again when the Antebellum Trail takes you to Milledgeville. www.VisitMilledgeville.org

Marquis de Lafayette figures in the exhibitions at the Old Capitol Museum; he visited in 1825 to meet aging veterans of the Revolution. Six dollars the price of the ticket to the ball.

Connect too to an antebellum tale of architecture in Milledgeville where plantation plain, late Georgian, Federal and early Greek Revival become obvious if you know what you’re seeing.

Milledgeville Federal they call it, circa 1815 – 1835.

Time in the Old Capitol Museum helps with that. So does a visit to the Brown Stetson Sanford house, showing the styles of three major builders attracted here because of the state capitol.

Then let the moments before the war seep in again with a visit to the 1861 scene of the four day secession convention.

Seems the 297 delegates and spectators were so noisy the Methodist Church worshipers next door asked them to pipe down on the Sunday session.

   
 The Old Governor’s Mansion embraced families from 1839 1868  Intimate details of family life share
history of antebellum governing 

 Details distinguish the mansion where Georgia’s governors lived from 1839 1868, and details distinguish many homes and museums along the Antebellum Trail.

Remember the Eagle Tavern in Watkinsville? 1819 ledgers provide the facts for items now seen within the former 16 room stagecoach hotel.

The complete 1851 inventory for the Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville accounts for the authenticity in the furnishings, table settings, decorative items and portraits throughout.

The 1814 case clock is wound every Monday; the free standing 64 foot cantilevered staircase is a marvel, and the keys to lock the doors are original.

The Trail is Antebellum so does it matter that General Sherman claimed the family dining room for his headquarters?

Or that here I could stand close to the desk of Joseph E. Brown, Georgia’s Civil War governor?

Same wondering filled my mind touring the exceptional Heritage Hall in Madison, built in 1811.

What meant more to me: original doctor’s tools for amputations, such a painful Civil War reality, or the 1845 coverlet covering a child’s bed?

   
Sewing box in Heritage Hall built in 1811  1845 stitched in the coverlet in Madison’s Heritage Hall 

Heritage Hall in Madison, and so many places along the Antebellum Trail, abounds with ways to reflect on the daily lives of the people, with their routines, and that seems a worthy journey.

Do so in Eatonton www.eatonton.com on either side of visiting the iconic B’rer Rabbit Museum with the classic tales of Joel Chandler Harris.

The Old School Museum’s antebellum classroom overlooks a pre Civil War cemetery and “windows in time” exhibitions change periodically connecting visitors to the barber shop and five and dime store, the dry goods and the grocery in this town incorporated in 1807.

Shoes for Confederate troops were manufactured in Eatonton until Denham Tannery was raided by 62,204 Union troops. 

 
The 1840 weathervane in Eaton’s Old School Museum 
 How’s that for historians shaping museums with specific facts?  

The tannery’s original weathervane, crafted in 1840, rests on a brick pillar, miracle to behold when you learn the descendants of the freedman of color who made it have been to visit too.

Eatonton antebellum homes abound because invading troops concentrated on the industry, not the residences. Take a homes tour, or do a drive by.

Macon www.VisitMacon.org anchors the southern end of Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, a solid story and holiday all by itself, as is Athens.

Focus on the Hay House, Sidney Lanier Cottage and Cannonball House for starters with an antebellum mindset.  

   
Cannonball House built in 1853 in Macon          Sidney Lanier Cottage circa 1840 in Macon

          

 

The Antebellum Trail roads are always open. Map credit Antebellum Trail
 

 



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