There is something elemental about re-encountering the things your ancestors once used. The pace of change in all areas of society during the past century has been more dramatic than anything which went before. Through the artifacts of our ancestors we can still touch the hem of the garment which clothed their daily lives. When you feel the worn smoothness of the ol’ pine petti-coat counter or touch the gloss on the hay rake’s much used grip, you are in a literal sense in contact with the past. You cannot separate these things from those who used them and whose hands made them worn with use. ALL, however, are special and every one of them brings a much needed measure of dignity and respect to our ancestors and their ingenuity to survive and grow.
The store’s petti-coat counters were designed for the era of the hooped skirts, enabling the ladies close proximity to the merchandise for their inspection. The twenty-five (25) foot long petti-coat counter, with its wooden cash register, is believed to be one of the longest, old growth pine counters with uncut counter boards, surviving in the U.S. today.
During the process of recovering the petti-coat candy counter, we inquired of the wood historians as to how the original carpenters had crafted the curve in the two inch thick counter top. They informed us that the curve wasn’t cut in the counter top. “Thousands of kids wore the curve in the wood — pressing to have a closer look at the candy.” The old sign on the counter said - “FUN FOR A PENNY. ”
The frontier country store’s artifacts including counters, tools, shelving, doors with vines still clinging, etc. are all in their original state and authentic. Vignettes of early American life, bringing back sentimental moments of nostalgia... a time forever lost.
When recovering these rural artifacts one learns to enjoy and emphasize the beauty of objects that have gradually been eroded by storm, encrusted by vegetation, buried in earth and mud, and yet have also been given somehow, new shape and substance by these same forces of nature, beauty bestowed by time, by adversity, and by centuries of human feelings… and these same human feelings as interpreted by today’s contemporary viewer reveals Sutton’s Corner as though it were an “Impressionist” painting of yesterday. A study in the startling beauty of humble objects, unlike so much of 20th century modernism, it represents an era largely devoid of the anxiety, alienation, and violent emotion, that is taken for granted in today ’s cultural life.
The ancient store doors and shutters have been acquiring their patina beyond a century, architectural artifacts that provide evidence of the past. Doorways intrigue us, for with their entrance and exits, beginnings and endings, journeys of transition and change, they form a surprisingly complete metaphor for our lives most significant moments — present and past. Whether rough-hewn or finely finished the doors in the museum, replete with intricate hardware, bolts and latches, tools and artifacts, splintery wood, nick-marks, dust and rust, communicate their unique relationship and mystique with our nation’s history.
The Globe Tavern and Inn is in itself an historic landmark. Stagecoaches stopped at the Inn until they were replaced by the railroad in 1858.
The coming of the stagecoach was an important event in the life of many villages. None living now can recall those coaching days in all their glory. The sharp crack of the whip as the driver flourished it above the leaders; the long blast of the horn announcing the coming of the stage; the small boys watching as the lumbering vehicle drew to a stop at the station.
How old is Fort Gaines?
At the front of the museum is the map of the stagecoach route for Georgia, circa - 1825. On the map you will find Fort Gaines, to the north the Hightower Missionary Station, to the south near the Florida border, Fort Scott; to the east, Lewis Calfrey’s stage stand, and further east, Fort Lawrence and the Creek Indian agency. “Sorry folks,” but you won’t find Atlanta … it had yet to be established.
In a philosophical sense the “Ol’ Frontier Store,” takes the viewer back to the past, only as a fleeting memory, the perception — when the spirit of America was radiant and free.
History, with it's flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passions of former days.
This visit to America’s yesterday will encourage and inspire — and lift your heart.
THE old farm-home is Mother’s yet and mine,
Oh from our life’s full measure
James Whitcomb Riley, 1851
How can you know history?
...as you are well aware, the museum has a tremendous one-of-a-kind collection of artifacts. The significance of the collection (in particular, the rarity and value of the artifacts) has caught the attention of museum specialists from numerous universities and the Smithsonian Museum. To those I add my own voice as a former Museum Curator and current director of the Georgia Folklife Project. (Dr. Laurie Sommers, Valdosta State University)
You can only imagine it … a ‘definitive’ history is only one in which someone has succeeded not in recreating the past but in casting it according to their own light, in ‘defining’ it - history, however, renders mixed verdicts. Even the most vivid portrayal must be full of sorrow, for it illuminates the darkness of memory with mere flashes and sparks, and what the past begs for is not a few bright pictures but complete reconstitution. Short of that, you can only follow the golden threads, and they are always magnificently tangled.
The Sutton Corner project consumed over ten years of my life … a great deal of the time is solitary, you, and the ghosts of the past. One has a tendency to develop eccentricities of conduct and character not always easily distinguishable from a gentle madness. In reality it is passion, for you are battling the clock of time … time left for you and time left for the few whose lives touched that moment of frontier life … over half of those interviewed since the inception of the restoration of Sutton’s corner have passed away, and for the remainder – their memories are beginning to fade into the twilight of time. They are the last survivors from a vanished world.
The crossroads merchants known as the Suttons and the hundreds of stories and remembrances of the region was our impetus to excavate the remnants of a dying world. The Suttons Corner stories of our early settlers are of those who built the farms, fenced the land, raised their families and lived and died within the eternal law of survival. The stories and legends their ancestors remember are of droughts and floods, of Indians and gunfights, the enduring hardships to save the farm, of love and death, of the legends that make life's story, and all take place within a matrix of converging histories. The trail of tears, the civil war, overseas conflicts, and finally the national economic policies that eventually rendered family-scale agriculture virtually impossible.
As I have said before, I earnestly believe that our character is formed and our nations – ‘by the stories we learn to live in’ … "IT IS TRUTH," in the old saying that is “The daughter of time,” and the lapse of over a century and a half has left us with but a very few coherent moments of evidence to correct our fading illusions … Suttons Corner is indeed a brief moment of the truth.
The poem for my inspiration to complete the odyssey of pursuit to the museum’s completion was written by Christina Rossetti's in 1875 — "Uphill"
Does the road wind uphill all the way?
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