1. Geechee Kunda Cultural Center – Riceboro
A visit to the Geechee Kunda Cultural Center in Riceboro is a must when visiting Georgia. I spent hours with Jim Bacote and his sister Bethany and it still wasn’t enough. It was my favorite stop on my journey through Liberty County. Their genuine hospitality and desire to share the history of the Gullah/Geechee people was inspiring.
The kunda (which means compound or home of hope) is located on lands where the rice, cotton, and indigo once grew as part of the “Retreat Plantation.” It is now sacred land and a spiritual center for Africans in America.
“The Gullah/Geechee Nation exists from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL. It encompasses all of the Sea Islands and thirty to thirty-five miles inland to the St. John’s River. On these islands, people from numerous African ethnic groups linked with indigenous Americans and created the unique Gullah language and traditions from which later came “Geechee.” The Gullah/Geechee people have been considered “a nation within a nation” from the time of chattel enslavement in the United States until they officially became an internationally recognized nation on July 2, 2000. At the time of their declaration as a nation, they confirmed the election of their first “head pun de boddee”-head of state and official spokesperson and queen mother. They elected Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation ).”
Exhibit galleries, local crafts, a gift shop, a family research center, and ongoing documentation are all part of the center’s efforts to keep the Gullah/Geechee culture alive and growing.
If you are fortunate enough to have Jim make you lunch, you are in for a treat. Fried lobster, whiting, sweet Georgia white shrimp, corn on the cob, pasta salad, and spinach salad with fresh strawberries were prepared just for us. You won’t find a better meal in town. I promise!
A historic building has been moved onto the property and will soon be restored for use again as a Praise Hall. Call and response praise events, complete with live music, are something I would like to see.
I look forward to returning to see Jim with my own family. They are constantly adding to the center so each trip will be a delight.
Come explore this wonderful historic location for yourself. You will be glad you did.
Geechee Kunda, 622 Ways Temple Rd., Riceboro, GA (Located off I-95 Exit 67 on Hwy 17 South between (Mile Marker 3 and Mile Marker 4). Follow the Historic Liberty Trail signs once you are in Riceboro.
2. Midway Historic District – Midway
A favorite stop during my stay in Liberty County Georgia, the Midway Historic District was educational as well as enchanting. The museum’s Executive Director Diane Kroell, dressed in period costume, provides visitors with an in-depth tour of the Midway Museum, the Midway Congregational Church, and Cemetery.
I was particularly smitten with the interior of the church. The construction, millwork details, high ceilings, sweeping balcony, and swinging pew doors are exquisite. The balcony was a later addition to allow blacks and whites to worship together. The blacks sat in the free seats in the balcony and the whites in the family owned pews below. As I sat in the balcony, I kept thinking of the pastor in the movie Pollyanna. I could just picture a sermon being delivered from the lofty pulpit as children squirmed and ladies in proper church attire cooled themselves with fans.
Across the street from church is the Midway Congregational Church Cemetery. It is a treasure trove of history. One could spend an entire day wandering through the headstones and wondering about the story each person would tell of life in this colonial period. The graves of James Screven and Daniel Stewart, two American generals of the Revolutionary War, are located in this cemetery. A large granite monument in the center was dedicated in 1915 to them.
Due to the fragile nature and historical value of the items within the museum and separate kitchen building, photography is not allowed inside. I encourage you to visit for yourself. In the museum, you will learn more about Lyman Hall, Button Gwinnett and George Walton, three Georgia men that signed the Declaration of Independence. To help with planning your trip, you can also visit The Midway Museum website.
A bit more information from the National Park Service:
“Once an influential center for political, economic, and religious life, the colonial town of Midway was founded by New England Puritans in 1752. These colonists were strongly in favor of independence from Great Britain, and during the Revolution the church and most of the buildings in the town were burned by the British. The church was rebuilt in 1792. Also remaining to represent the colonial era of Midway are the historic 1756 cemetery and a segment of the historic “Old Sunbury Road” now a portion of Georgia highway 38. A museum modeled after the houses that once stood in Midway is also located in the district.”
The Midway Historic District is at the junction of US Highway 17 and Georgia Highway 38. The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00am – 4:00pm with the last tour beginning at 3pm. Closed Sundays, Mondays and all holidays.
Admission: Adults: $10, Seniors & Military: $8, Students 5-19: $5.
Note: All group tours will need to make an advanced reservation. Please call 912-884-5837.
Special Upcoming Events:
December 10, 2016 – Christmas Tea, 11 – 4 pm* Reservations Required
3. Dorchester Academy and Museum – Midway
The Dorchester Academy and Museum in Midway Georgia. This historic site is located at the corner of East Oglethorpe Highway (US Route 84) and Lewis Fraser Road.
The starting point for each tour is the museum located in a small building in front of the dormitory. Inside you will be greeted by a friendly volunteer staff and be given a brief tour. You learn about the history of the buildings, the young men that attended the school, and those that were activists for African-American education and civil rights. My tour guide, Mr. Bacon, commented on how my eyes lit up and how history “just gets in your blood.” It does indeed. Have I mentioned lately how much I love historic coastal Georgia?
Currently undergoing extensive restoration, the main building, a beautiful two-story Georgian Revival dormitory, was built to educate freed slaves after the Civil War. By 1917, the fully-accredited high school consisted of multiple buildings and almost 300 students. Unfortunately many of the buildings were destroyed by fire in the 1930’s or torn down after the school closed in 1940.
As you walk through the halls and the auditorium, you can get a feel of the building’s past and imagine the lives that were changed by the availability of such a high level of learning. Our tour guide mentioned that the education provided surpassed what was standard at the time and allowed many of the boys to proceed into high level positions without the need of college.
In 1961, the remaining building was converted for use as a civil rights center and Dr. Martin Luther King stayed on site before his march on Birmingham in 1963. A room which bears his name can still be seen as you tour the facility.
The Dorchester Academy, while having one foot in the past and rich in African-American history, has a very bright future. The nearly complete restoration process will enable the building to be used once again by the community. I look forward to a return visit. The history book for this site has many more chapters.
Note: In front of the museum there are paver stones with names of people that have donated to this wonderful Liberty County site. I encourage you to purchase one. You never know who’s life it will change
4. Brewer Christmas Tree Farm – Midway
Brewer’s Christmas Tree and Blueberry Farm – a family owned choose and cut, pick your own farm located at 1067 Robert Hill Road in Midway, Georgia.
Resplendent with blueberries, oriental persimmons, Muscadine grapes, figs, fresh vegetables, Christmas trees, and southern charm, the Brewer Farm is a wonderful way to spend the day. I enjoyed wandering among the fruit trees and picking fresh blueberries. Mr. Brewer, the farm’s owner, even gave me his wife’s blueberry pie recipe to take home with me.
While quieter during the summer months, this is a busy location come holiday time. Visitors come from all over the area to get their Christmas trees and fresh pine wreaths.
I look forward to visiting again this winter. Next time I want to take a hayride, visit their Christmas Shop, with the goats at their seasonal petting zoo, and capture the joy of the families that come year after year to partake in this 30 year old tradition.
5. Liberty’s Waterfront – Sunbury
Greetings from the sweet coast town of Sunbury, the original county seat of Liberty County Georgia. A short drive from the new county seat of Hinesville, Savannah to the north, and Saint Simons Island to the south, Sunbury is well worth seeking out.
You will find wonderful views of Sunbury Harbor at the Sunbury Crab Co. This laid back dining establishment has sweet fried shrimp, calamari, and the best coleslaw I have ever had. And lots and lots of lemonade! I was parched after a day of exploring. They just kept them coming.
At the local pier and boat ramp, you can also drop a line. It is fully accessible to the handicapped and a good spot for river fishing or just enjoying the views.
Fort Morris, an 18th century earthwork fort and nature site, is also nearby for a bit of local history. When I return in December, I would like to join them for A Colonial Christmas being held on Saturday, Dec 3, 2016 from 5 PM to 8 PM. The park staff will be offering colonial refreshments, a yule log, bonfire, 18th century music, caroling, dance and firing of the Christmas guns.
The area also offers one family-owned bed and breakfast, Dunham Farms located on a 30 acre estate. The gorgeous tree lined road shown below is on the way to their location. While I did not stay here during this trip, this coastal hideaway has a solid 5 star rating on TripAdvisor and offers many activities to truly enjoy the area.
http://www.visitthesouth.com – images by Tammy Lee Bradley