Surprising Suburbs: LaGrange, Georgia

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Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia.

Choose lunch on a jaunt to LaGrange, a surprising suburb of Columbus. The great-great grandson of the legendary town philanthropist most likely is cooking at the stylish downtown eatery called C’sons, pronounced “seasons,” and the exquisite menu is seasonal, changing daily with what’s fresh.

Here’s why I found that significant: LaGrange has much more going on than most towns of 30,000 — art and history museums, fine culinary experiences, handsome downtown facades and urban forest treescapes. It’s a natural setting for storytelling and art festivals, symphony, ballet and theater, with audiences to fill them. It’s also home to gardens and historic homes, plus significant artifacts in an antiquity center.

Fuller E. and Ida Cason Callaway set the tone in the community as early as 1895, and their notion of sharing abounds to this day. Their two sons carried on the home and businesses, each forming a foundation touching LaGrange in major ways today.

Statue of the Marquis de Lafayette in downtown LaGrange.

Statue of the Marquis de Lafayette in downtown LaGrange.

I recommend spending the day in their home and gardens, Hills and Dales Estate. The home is protected, preserved and filled with original family furnishings. That means something since the Italian villa has 30 rooms. Enormous but not pretentious. Docents guide the tours, but no velvet ropes stop visitors from walking throughout the rooms. How special is that? Trusted in a historic home.

Allow plenty of time to stroll the boxwoods, trees and flowers, continuously cultivated for 180 years. With 23 garden highlights noted on the tour brochure, you might want time to breathe the fragrances and to muse. I recommend sitting on the curved stone bench where Ida and Fuller fell in love. Hear their story in the “Living Legacy” documentary in the visitor center.

The allure of storytelling at Hills and Dales and throughout LaGrange feeds an 18-year-old annual storytelling festival. “Listening to stories brings back our own memories and reflections,” says Joyce Morgan Young, one of the Azalea Storytelling Festival founders.

Legacy on Main Museum in LaGrange, Georgia.

Legacy on Main Museum in LaGrange, Georgia.

Quilts in Legacy on Main stitched me back to the textile industry. Wealthy women were the quilters, the exhibit suggests, in an era when fabric only came your way with spinning and weaving. When textile mills like the Callaway’s created cloth, quilting became more available to other women, too.

These LaGrange fabrics continue to influence the arts, so I learned from Karen Anne Briggs, executive director of the LaGrange Art Museum. “Textiles require design,” she said, “and the mills sent people to Europe to study fine design.

“This community has a disproportionately large population of people interested in art, in design, in creative expression,” Briggs said.

Visit Bellevue, too, an 1850 Greek revival home with a story of its own about the Nancy Harts.

This all-female militia formed in LaGrange, credited with preventing Federal soldiers from destroying grand homes when they marched through on April 16, 1865. Forty women drilling twice weekly with Capt. Nancy Morgan halted the forces of Col. Oscar H. LaGrange. (How ironic that was his name?) Businesses burned, homes were saved and the militia women served dinner.

Perhaps all these connections also fuel the reason Israel chooses to share ancient artifacts for display in the LaGrange Explorations in Antiquities Center. This interactive history museum describes itself as daily life in Biblical times: shepherds, farmers, villages, Roman market streets and dining experiences. The new Biblical Life artifacts gallery, officials say, is one of only seven worldwide and only four in America with a long-term collection from Israel.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.

Georgia Roots Music Festival

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The Georgia Roots Music Festival, celebrating Georgia’s rich musical heritage, hits Atlanta on January 18 and, best of all, it’s FREE. “Roots music” refers to the music rooted in our culture and the traditions that reflect the past and present residents of our state — Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, and our growing immigrant communities. This year’s festival, which will take place at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown, will deliver a diverse and dynamic collection of music from a variety of genres, and here are five performances that are just too good to miss:

1. McIntosh County Shouters: The “ring shout” is a tradition that has endured generations, and no one has done more to preserve and promote the practice than the McIntosh County Shouters. The Shouters tell a story through centuries-old Gullah Geechee slave shouts that have a deep meaning and an equally compelling appeal to the ear. With driving beats derived from nothing more than a stick pounding a board and the clapping of hands, this call and response style of song evokes a sense of how faith, music, and community can lift our spirits. Performance: 12:00 p.m.

2. The AJ Ghent Band: The AJ Ghent Band brings an energy and excitement to the stage that electrifies every crowd. AJ describes himself as “overall, a soulful kind of guy,” although he tends to blend other styles into his playing. His music speaks of love, life, relationships, changes, and hardship, and has been described as providing a “melodic high.” AJ has opened for Zac Brown Band and was recently signed to Southern Ground Records. Performance: 3:15 p.m.

3. The Albany Civil Rights Institute Freedom Singers: Rutha Harris lived the Civil Rights Movement and logged over 50,000 miles traveling the country with the original Freedom Singers. Miss Harris reinstituted the group to keep the songs of the movement alive, and they also know how put on a good show. What better time to have them in Atlanta than on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend! Performance: 5:50 p.m.

4. The Skillet Lickers: The Skillet Lickers’ name is synonymous with string band music in Georgia. Phil and Russ Tanner, grandson and great grandson of band founder Gid Tanner, keep the band’s nine-decade tradition alive. The music of the Skillet Lickers helped lay the foundation for today’s country and bluegrass genres. The band performs breakdown songs, comic folksongs, and a variety of country and bluegrass standards. Performance: 1:20 p.m.

5. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra: This is not your typical ASO. Members of the Orchestra will bring immigrant roots into the mix with traditional huapangos arranged by ASO violinist Juan Ramirez. These dances, originating from the Huasteca region of Mexico, never fail to bring the crowd to their feet. You can look forward to sensational violin solos by Assistant Concertmaster Justin Bruns, accompanied by the rhythmic guitar work of Mr. Ramirez, and an energetic string ensemble. Performance: 4:10 p.m.

Additional details are available at GaRoots.org. We hope to see you there!

Georgia Roots Music Festival: January 18, 2014 from Noon-6:30 PM.

Atlanta Symphony logoThe Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO), currently in its 69th season, is one of America’s leading orchestras. The ASO performs more than 200 concerts each year for a combined audience of more than a half million in a full schedule of performances, and reaches more than 87,000 students and underserved members of the community through its education and community outreach programs (www.aso.org). 

Fan Photo Friday

Submit your Georgia photos for the chance to be featured:

Lake Burton from Glassy Mountain, Rabun County, Georgia. Photo by Laurie Ausley. Submitted via Facebook.

Lake Burton from Glassy Mountain, Rabun County, Georgia. Photo by Laurie Ausley. Submitted via Facebook.

Ice in Rome, Georgia. Photo by @markwhilliard. Submitted via Instagram.

Ice in Rome, Georgia. Photo by @markwhilliard. Submitted via Instagram.

Christmas Eve on the Appalachian Trail in northeast Georgia. Photo by Tom Stone. Submitted via Flickr.

Christmas Eve on the Appalachian Trail in northeast Georgia. Photo by Tom Stone. Submitted via Flickr.

Civil War Wednesday: Alexander Stephens

A younger Stephens.

A younger Stephens.

Alexander H. Stephens, a Georgia native, graduate of Franklin College (later UGA), and a former member of the Georgia legislature and the U.S. Senate, served as vice-president for the Confederate States of America. Stephens, along with the other delegates from the Empire State, joined representatives from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana as they met in Montgomery, Alabama, in February 1861 to consider the next steps toward achieving some form of independence among the recently seceded states. Texas had also left the Union, but due to the great travel distance required, their delegates did not arrive in Montgomery until activities Parajumpers Sverige had set in-motion the establishment of the Confederate States of America.

During the deliberations, and subsequent drafting of the Confederate Constitution, “Little Aleck” took a very active role. When the time arrived for naming the provisional president and his cabinet, Stephens received the position of vice-president. Early in the war, Stephens spent time in the Confederate capital, which relocated to Richmond, Virginia, after the Old Dominion seceded. Stephens and President Jefferson Davis initially enjoyed a relatively positive working relationship. Soon, however, Davis relegated Stephens to a figure head with minimal responsibilities; yet another cabinet member Davis did not take full advantage of in navigating through the struggles of maintaining a fledgling nation at war. Stephens made frequent trips back to his beloved Georgia, and as 1863 unfolded, he spent the majority of his time at his home, Liberty Hall, in Crawfordville. Despite many naysayers of the period who criticized Stephens for failing to offer more active support of the Davis administration, the Georgian primarily took issue with two decisions emanating from Richmond. Stephens did not agree with conscription (the draft), and Davis’s ability to institute marital law.

Monument in front of Liberty Hall, Stephens’s home in Crawfordville, Georgia.

Monument in front of Liberty Hall, Stephens’s home in Crawfordville, Georgia.

Of conscription, Stephens suggested the act proved “…radically wrong in my judgment, both in principle and policy. Under this general system it will with us be a simple question of how much political quackery we have strength of constitution to bear and yet survive.” [1] As for suspending the writ of habeas corpus and imposing martial law, Stephens turned, as he always did, to Constitutional law. His brilliant legal mind interpreted the matter as the “… [Confederate] Constitution was made for war as well as peace…laws for the civil authorities and laws for the military…the constitutional guarantees are above and beyond the reach or power of Congress, and much more…beyond the power of any officer of the government.” [2] For his position on each of these issues, but especially his speaking out against martial law, Stephens received much criticism in newspapers throughout the Southland. “Little Aleck” remained in Crawfordville, until early 1865, when hopes for a potential end of hostilities drew him back to Richmond.

Davis appointed Stephens, and fellow Georgian John A. Campbell, along with Virginian R.M.T. Hunter to meet with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward. After four hours of discussion onboard the River Queen, with Lincoln holding steadfast to his demand for the seceded states to peacefully resume their place within the Union, the failed Hampton Roads Peace Conference ended. The fighting would continue

Notebook and reading glasses on Stephens’s desk.

Notebook and reading glasses on Stephens’s desk.

without Stephens, who returned to Crawfordville. On May 11, 1865, Federal officers took him into custody, and he spent five months incarcerated in Boston’s Fort Warren prison. After receiving parole, Stephens once again returned to Crawfordville, where he spent the next few years penning his two-volume discourse A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, which appeared in print, volume one in 1868, and the second in 1870. He served several terms as a U.S. Representative from Georgia before his election as governor in the fall of 1882; he would hold this position but four months.

Stephens died on March 4, 1883, and after an initial interment in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, he came home to Crawfordville one final time where he rests today, amid the scenic grounds of the Alexander H. Stephens Historic Park. Tourists can visit his home, as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources currently manages the site.


[1] Stephens to Unknown Recipient, August 29, 1863, in Alexander H. Stephens, in Public and Private. With Letters and Speeches, Before, During, and Since the War, ed. Henry Cleveland (1866; repr., n.p.: IGCtesting, 2013), 173.

[2] Stephens to Honorable James Calhoun, Mayor of Atlanta, September 8, 1862, Ibid., 747-48.

All photographs taken at the A. H. Stephens State Historic Park in Crawfordville, Georgia, courtesy of the author.

shafferMichael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center , a Civil War historian, newspaper columnist, and author of ‘Washington County, Virginia in the Civil War.’ He is a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, Georgia Association of Historians, and the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta. Michael also serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and Center Combined Logo-page-001as a Civil War consultant for the Friends of Camp McDonald.

5 Fun Things at the Road to Tara Museum

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The Road to Tara Museum in downtown historic Jonesboro rewards visitors with behind-the-scenes insight into “Gone With The Wind” author Margaret Mitchell’s life, the real setting and historical events depicted in the fictional story, and the making of the classic film. Here is a small sampling of what you’ll find in the museum.

DSC_02201. On Scarlett’s green velvet drapery gown, there are real chicken feet on the hat.

2. Elvis Presley is included in the mural near the back of the museum.

3. On Scarlett’s burgundy dress, the feathers on the shoulders were dyed to match by a company that works on Las Vegas showgirl costumes.

4. Look up high above the premiere wall at the back of the museum to spot a yellow railing that was in the DeGive’s Grand Opera House before it became the Loew’s Grand Theater.

5. In the wooden doll cabinet, look for the Scarlett doll in the mill gown. Its eyes were produced with the wrong color… we all know Scarlett’s were green.

The Road to Tara Museum is open Monday-Friday 8:30 am – 5:30 pm and Saturday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Headshot - DanielleDanielle Conroy is the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Clayton County CVB. Georgia born and raised, she loves exploring her home state, finding new restaurants to try (not hard with so many new ones popping up) and sipping on sweet tea. Follow the Road to Tara Museum on Facebook and test your Gone With the Wind knowledge.