Tag Archives: South Georgia Folklife

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

Watermelon Man, Tifton

tifton ga watermelon seller 2006  photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

I’ve been scanning a few of my older prints from film cameras recently and came across these photos, made in the parking lot of the Tifton Mall in 2006. Men who sell watermelons from their trucks are fixtures in every small town and crossroads, even today, but this gentleman had a pile of them.

tifton ga watermelon man 2006 photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

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Filed under --TIFT COUNTY GA--, Tifton GA

Ocmulgee Wild Hog Festival, Abbeville

abbeville ga wild hog festival sign photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Ocmulgee Wild Hog Festival, I’ll be posting a few photos from Abbeville today. Having attended this festival, I can attest to what a fun time it is. This Mother’s Day weekend, the weather promises to be nearly perfect and if you’ve never been, do your best to make your way to the little town of Abbeville to experience one of Georgia’s most popular festivals. From the festival website, here’s the story of how it all got started: The Ocmulgee Wild Hog Festival evolved from Abbeville’s Flight Through the Pines and May Day Festivals. Mr. D. C. Yancey did not wan the yearly festivals to die so he went to Lanier Keene, Masonic Lodge Mason, and asked if he thought the Masons would like to help with a yearly festival. So Mr. Yancey met with a few of the masons and local citizens; Bill Sims, Lanier Keene, Tommy C. McCall, Jake Keene, Pricilla Whitman, and Dean Clements. These people decided that a festival would go on but now it needed a name.  Mr. Bill Sims stated that if they could get a few thousand people to come to the Opossum Festival over in Dexter, why not a Wild Hog Festival. So the Ocmulgee Wild Hog Festival began. The festival started with $750 from the May Day Festival. Each year the Masons have sold BBQ & Stew and the Abbeville Volunteer Fire Department has sponsored a street dance after the closing of the festival. For a few years, the Masons even had a womanless beauty pageant. Our lifelong family friend, Julia Davis, was also an early promoter of the festival.

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Filed under --WILCOX COUNTY GA--, Abbeville GA

Royal Singing Convention Memorial, 1991, Mystic

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Mystic Baptist Church Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

In July 1893 delegates and members of vocal classes established by William Jackson “Uncle Billy” Royal assembled at Irwin Institute to organize the Royal Singing Convention. From 1893 until 1912 the Convention met in Irwin and surrounding counties in churches of different denominations or in school houses. In 1912 a huge tent was purchased to accommodate the large number of people attending. In 1919 the people of Mystic established a fund to build a tabernacle to serve as a permanent home for the convention. The tabernacle was erected on this site in time to house the 1920 session. Changes in society and advancements in technology brought an end to the Royal Convention after meeting continuously each July for 85 years. The final session was held in 1977. The tabernacle was razed in 1982. [The New Georgia Encyclopedia notes that the first documented gospel singing convention in Georgia was founded as the South Georgia Singing Convention by Uncle Billy Royal in 1875, prior to the convention profiled here].

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Entrance Mystic Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

As many of the old timers were passing on, the first commemoration of this special place was the placement of a granite marker by Uncle Billy’s grandchildren in 1953. It’s located at the entrance to the new memorial.

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Tabernacle Footprint Mystic Baptist Church Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This memorial reproduces the plan of the original tabernacle at full size. A low brick perimeter wall supported wooden posts which held up a massive roof. Today granite cubes indicate where those posts were located. The singer’s stages is recreated with the monument to “Uncle Billy”. At its edge, permanent memorials are dedicated to friends and loved ones or recall precious memories, favorite hymns and treasured Bible verses. It was dedicated in 1991 after much work by the Royal Singing Convention Association. The Board of Trustees included: Charles C. Royal, Jr., President; Dorothy Royal Grimsley, Vice President; Helen Day Spacek, Secretary; Ralph W. Sims, Treasurer; and board members Eloise Royal Luke, Michael F. Royal, and Jacqueline E. Turner. Stanford Anderson, a nationally-known architect and professor at MIT was responsible for the design.

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Mystic Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The memorial is located next to the historic Mystic Baptist Churh on Highway 32 in Mystic. It’s an open air memorial and therefore always open to the public. There is no admission charge.

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Mystic Irwin County GA Bust of Uncle Billy Royal by Marshall Daugherty 1953 Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Famed sculptor Marshall Daugherty, who created the John Wesley Monument in Savannah’s Reynolds Square, completed this bust of Uncle Billy Royal in 1953. Following are archival photos from the memorial.

Royal Singing Convention Tent in 1916 Mystic Irwin County GA

This is a view of the tabernacle tent in 1916. It was used from 1912 until 1919.

Royal Singing Convention Tabernacle Mystic Irwin County GA 1953

This photo from 1953 shows the tabernacle which was first used in 1920.

William Jackson Uncle Billy Royal Founder of Royal Singing Convention Mystic GA

William Jackson “Uncle Billy” Royal (16 April 1850-24 May 1931) – Founder and 1st President of the Convention.

James A Uncle Jimmie Royal President of Royal Singing Convention Mystic Irwin County GA

James A. “Uncle Jimmie” Royal – 2nd President of the Convention, 1931-1950. Son of William Jackson Royal.

Erston B Royal President of Royal Singing Convention Mystic Irwin Count GA

Erston B. Royal – 3rd and last President of the Convention, 1950-1977. Grandson of William Jackson Royal.

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Filed under --IRWIN COUNTY GA--, Mystic GA