There are two ghost towns in Georgia named Pennington. One is in Morgan County, near Madison, and the other is here in Sumter County, just a mile or two from Andersonville. A large plantation was once located here but it has long since vanished.
Category Archives: –SUMTER COUNTY GA–
The picturesque tourist village of Andersonville is essentially a living museum, with over 75,000 visitors annually making the short drive from the park entrance across Georgia Highway 49 to further explore the story of the area. The locals are very friendly and welcoming, with antique shops, a cafe, and one of the best Civil War museums (despite its size; middle building pictured below) to be found in Georgia. Gerald Lamby’s Drummer Boy Civil War Museum has been praised by students and scholars of the war from far and wide. The village post office (pictured above) is still open, and one of just a handful in Georgia not located in modern facilities. It’s a throwback to a time when most post offices were located in general stores or similar frame structures.
Prior to the establishment of Camp Sumter, the surrounding area was focused on agriculture. Originally known as Anderson (for John Anderson, a director of the South Western Railroad), the village name was changed to Andersonville when a post office was established in 1855.
It became a supply center and grew during the war, but at the end of hostilities reverted to farming. In 1973 longtime mayor Lewis Easterlin led the effort to create and promote the tiny town as a Civil War village. Most of the prominent structures seen today were relocated here, saving them for posterity when they would have otherwise been lost.
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the village is the Henry Wirz Monument. Controversial from inception, the simple obelisk has drawn ire, and vandalism, over the years. Even its location at Andersonville was questioned throughout the state before its placement. Captain Heinrich Hartmann “Henry” Wirz was born in Zurich Switzerland in 1822 and served as the commanding officer at Camp Sumter. In 14 months, over 13,000 Union soldiers perished at the prison camp, which was particularly despised by the Union. Wirz was tried as a war criminal and hanged in Washington, D. C., on 10 November 1865. In response to the 16 Union monuments erected in the nearby National Cemetery between 1899 and 1916, the United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a memorial to Wirz as a countermeasure. During this era, the UDC was at the forefront of promoting what is known today as Lost Cause mythology. Language on the monument’s base confirms this: Discharging his duty with such humanity as the harsh circumstances of the times, and the policy of the foe permitted Capt. Wirz became at last the victim of a misdirected popular clamor. He was arrested in the time of peace, while under the protection of parole, tried by a military commission of a service to which he did not belong, and condemned to ignominious death on charges of excessive cruelty to Federal prisoners. He indignantly spurned a pardon proffered on condition that he would incriminate President Davis and thus exonerate himself from charges of which both were innocent. Also present are these words of General Grant from 18 August 1864: It is hard on our men held in southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners would insure Sherman’s defeat and would compromise our safety here. The monument was dedicated by the Daughters on 12 May 1909. It has been referred to as the only U. S. monument to a war criminal.
The Atlanta Birmingham & Atlantic Railroad depot was relocated from Mauk, a settlement about 38 miles northwest of Andersonville in Taylor County.
This is one of several antique stores in the village which also sell Civil War-related memorabilia and folk art.
A town hall is painted blue and grey, keeping with the Civil War theme. I’m not sure its original use or location, but feel it was moved here like many of the other historical buildings.
There’s also a village hall, which was built in 1843 on nearby Lightwood Creek and moved to Andersonville in 1890. Wings were added at some point and it served for many years as Andersonville Baptist Church.
Beside the village hall is this gazebo, which I think was the bandstand from nearby Miona Springs.
Just beyond the Village Hall is the inspiring St. James Pennington Church, moved from the nearby hamlet of Pennington.
Billy Carter (1937-1988) bought this station from Mill Jennings in 1971 and owned it until 1981. During Jimmy Carter’s campaign for President in 1976, it became famous as the headquarters for the national media while they were in Plains. He reminisced of those days: There were 20,000 tourists a day pouring into Plains right after Jimmy’s election. Cars would be bumper-to-bumper for about 10 miles, from Americus to Plains. Highway 280 looked like a Los Angeles freeway. At the height of the station’s popularity 2,000 cases of beer and between 40,000 to 50,000 gallons of gas were sold every month.
Billy was a character and often got as much press coverage as his brother. He was perhaps best known, though, for his infamous Billy Beer. His endorsement didn’t go far to save the brew, which many said was the worst they’d ever tasted. Cans of Billy Beer can be seen in the service station, which is now a free museum. A pair of Hee-Haw overalls Billy wore are also in the collection, as well as numerous magazine covers and press clippings.
At the western edge of Sumter County stand the remains of the African-American community of Archery. As a boy, President Jimmy Carter lived about a mile up the road and in his books has shared fond memories of Archery. One of his earliest role models was Archery native William Decker Johnson, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
From the historical marker: This rural community of Archery, established in the 1800´s, consisted of a train stop, houses of railroad employees, the St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, a school for black youth, and a store. The community was named for Sublime Order of Archery, a relief organization of the A.M.E. Church which assisted the southern black families.
Two permanent white families, the Watsons and the Carters, lived here. Edward Herman Watson was the Seaboard Railroad section foreman and James Early Carter, Sr., was the father of Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States who spent his youth here. The other 25 families were African-American.
William Decker Johnson, bishop of the A.M.E. Church, became the most prominent person in Archery. He came here with the purpose of establishing a school for black youth lacking the resources for an education. The Johnson Home Industrial College opened its doors in 1912 and offered technical classes aiding students to obtain jobs. This school offered male and female students primary, high school, collegiate, and vocational classes. Bishop Johnson´s efforts for the cause of education had many faithful supporters who helped the school to flourish. Bishop Johnson is buried in the St. Mark A.M.E. Church cemetery.
At just 20 miles in length and a mile wide at its widest, Lake Blackshear is one of Georgia’s smallest man-made reservoirs. It’s essentially a wide spot on the Flint River but it’s among the most popular outdoor recreation areas in South Georgia. To my knowledge, it’s also the oldest major man-made lake in Georgia, created with the damming of the Flint River between 1925-1930.
Pleasure boating and water skiing are extremely popular, as is fishing. There’s a busy put-in at Lakeshore Marine on the Sumter County side. Besides a ski shop, marina, campground, and event space, there’s the Lakeshore Grill which sells food, tackle, coolers, beer, gas and other essentials. Georgia Veterans State Park is a mile or so from here and is the primary location for public access to the lake. If you’re in the area, stop at Stripling’s for some of the best sausage around.
If you’ve ever driven between Cordele and Americus via Lake Blackshear you’ve probably noticed this eclectic structure, built to look like an old river boat. It was a popular restaurant/nightclub known as the Anchored Flint and is still in use today as a banquet facility at Lakeshore Marine on the Sumter County side of the lake. The “flint” in Anchored Flint refers to the Flint River, from which Lake Blackshear was created. Thanks to Lydia Cook for the identification.