Tag Archives: South Georgia Folklife

Swamp Homestead, Ware County

Just around the bend from Suwannee Lake stands this simple house, typical of the utilitarian homesteads of the Okefenokee. It’s likely one of the very last standing. Restored older examples can be found at Okefenokee Swamp Park and Obediah’s Okefenok.

 

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Filed under --WARE COUNTY GA--, Hopkins GA

Hamp Mizell & Suwannee Lake, Ware County

As a boy fascinated by occasional visits to the Okefenokee Swamp, I was in awe of the name Hamp Mizell (1884-1948). Dr. Delma Presley told stories of his legendary two-mile swamp holler in Okefinokee Album [this recording is of another famous swamp family, the Chessers].  Coincidentally, I knew his daughter Montine Mizell Mathhews, whose husband Harold worked with my father on the railroad, but did not know at the time that she was a Mizell. I regret missing the opportunity to talk about her father with her.

It was wonderful to visit Suwannee Lake, on the edge of the great swamp, since it has always been associated with Mr. Mizell. It’s not a big fishing hole, but nonetheless revered by fishermen in the know. Judging from satellite images, I believe it’s an oxbow of Suwannee Creek which runs from the west into the swamp. A. S. McQueen noted in his History of Okefenokee Swamp, 1932: [Mizell] is the owner of the beautiful Suwannee Lake, on the north side of the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the most famous fishing places in Georgia. A record was kept of the fish caught in this lake, and one season, 41,618 fish were caught by the hook and line method. During one day 35 fishermen caught 1,471 fish by actual count.

 

 

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Filed under --WARE COUNTY GA--, Hopkins GA

Seminole Chickee Grave Shelter, Ware County

Chickee is the Seminole word for house, and these iconic shelters are still scattered throughout Florida. To my knowledge, this chickee in the Carter Cemetery is the only such grave shelter in Georgia.

In addition to the construction, the shells marking the graves of George Washington Carter (25 October 1862-4 July 1934) and Millie Louvine Thrift Carter (18 January 1860-30 December 1947) honor a Native American ancestry. Mr. Carter, who was born on Cow House Island, was one of the pioneer settlers of the Okefenokee Swamp. The Thrifts were also early residents of the swamp.

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Filed under --WARE COUNTY GA--

Radium Springs, Albany

70,000 gallons of water issue from the underground caves at Radium Springs every minute, making it the largest springs in the state. It’s considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia and is located just outside Albany. Over a quarter mile of the underground caves encompassing the springs were mapped by Deloach, Young, and Exley, for the National Speleological Society. Features of the caves have names like Fat Man’s Misery, Mermaid’s Tunnel, Hall of Giants, and Neptune’s Trident. Only the most experienced divers have ever seen these wonders and though rare, permits are occasionally still issued to experts wishing to explore the area. Guy Bryant has shared some nice footage on YouTube.

It was a revered ceremonial site first known as Skywater to Native Americans. After encroachment in the 1830s it came to be known as Blue Springs and was a popular swimming hole with pioneer settlers of Albany and surrounding areas. Standing near the cave entrance/springhead today, one is likely to see numerous fish schooling, including Gulf striped bass which wouldn’t be here without the cool temperature of the springs.

By the early 20th century, its prominence as a commercial recreational site was ensured and developers constructed a restaurant and guest cottages to meet the needs of day trippers who enjoyed bathing in its waters, which were a constant 68 degrees. Traces of radium were found in the water in the 1920s and the name was changed to Radium Springs to reflect this discovery. Mineral springs were all the rage in the era as they were thought to have healing powers and this only added to the popularity of the site.

The Radium Springs Casino was completed in 1927. It rose above terraced stone walls and featured a cavernous dance hall and elegant dining room.

A fire in 1982 and devastating floods in 1994 and 1998 damaged the casino beyond repair. The remaining structure was removed in 2003.

A courtyard stands today on the site of the casino and features interpretive signs detailing the history of Radium Springs.

The stonework surrounding the springs and pool is one of the most significant remaining architectural features of the site.

These features are generally not accessible today, though, as they are beginning to crumble and in serious need of restoration.

This is one of two gazebos that were located along the beach.

The spring run which empties into the Flint River is known as Skywater Creek.

The ruins of the main gazebo are being restored.

They’re located just inside the historic gate. Both structures date to the 1920s, when the casino was constructed. At the peak of the site’s popularity, a nearby golf course was equally popular as the springs and attracted notables, including the great golfer Bobby Jones.

The entrance gate is a monumental Colonial Revival landmark.

It features two ticket booths.

Known today as Radium Springs Gardens, it’s operated by the City of Albany and admission is free. It’s a wonderful green space that everyone should see at least once. Though swimming or fishing is no longer allowed, it’s a wonderful place to unwind.

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Filed under --DOUGHERTY COUNTY GA--, Albany GA

Tree of Knowledge, Broxton

This is a popular gathering place in Broxton. A young lady from the neighborhood stopped by while I was photographing and noted that “Mr. Possum”, who lives adjacent to the property, keeps things clean around the tree.

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Filed under --COFFEE COUNTY GA--, Broxton GA

Cherokee of Georgia Tribal Grounds, St. George

The Cherokee of Georgia are descendants of the Cherokee who avoided being rounded up by the government during the forced migration known as the Trail of Tears in the 1830s and are therefore recognized by the state as a tribe but not by the federal government. Their ancestors were able to survive through assimilation.

They host Pow Wows here at least twice a year.

 

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Filed under --CHARLTON COUNTY GA--, St. George GA

Picnic on the St. Marys River, St. George, 1909

Georgia’s southernmost town, St. George, is located within the “Georgia Bend” of the St. Marys River. This historic postcard, mailed from St. George, illustrates a picnic held along the river in February 1909. I have no idea what occasion warranted such a photograph. It must have been a really mild winter, though, as a few of the boys are standing in the river.

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Filed under --CHARLTON COUNTY GA--, St. George GA