Early County, located along Georgia’s southwestern border with Alabama, is by far the state’s best kept secret with fascinating attractions that preserve the history of Native Americans, the Civil War and the state’s agricultural heritage. Kolomoki Mounds Historical Park is one of Early County’s major tourist destinations that draws in thousands of visitors each year. Along with the mounds and on-site museum, the park boasts walking trails, campgrounds and lakes. Occupied by the Swift Creek and Weeden Island Indian cultures (Woodland Indians) from 250-950 A.D, the park is “the oldest and largest Woodland Indian site in the southeastern United States,” according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
While Kolomoki Mounds is known throughout the Southeast for its rich cultural history, it is also known as the site of Georgia’s greatest historical artifact theft. During one night in March 1974, 129 artifacts were stolen from the museum. Over the years, part of the collection has been recovered from sources in Florida and Pennsylvania, but much of the collection still remains missing.
Another unique site in Early County is the last remaining Confederate flag staff still standing in the United States. Just one month into the Civil War, on May 16, 1861, a wooden flag staff was erected on the northwest corner of Court Square in Blakely adjacent to the courthouse. The stalwart pole, hewn from a long leaf pine that grew one mile southwest of Blakely, serves as a light into the past and a reminder of how far our society has progressed over the past 150 years.
Another glimpse into history in Early County is the Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge located in the unincorporated town of Hilton. Built in 1891 for $490.41, the Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge is the southernmost covered bridge in the United States. The bridge was renovated in the 1980s, and a series of small waterfalls set the stage for exciting and breathtaking photo opportunities.
Early County’s economy is driven by agriculture, specifically the peanut industry, which developed in the days of plantations and elegant Victorian homes, many of which still stand. Shops and restaurants line Court Square in Blakely, all shadowed by the courthouse known locally as the “Grand Ole Lady.” Whether you are passing through for the day or staying for the weekend, there is much to experience in Early County; Georgia’s best kept secret.
Marshall Hooks graduated from Georgia Southern University in May 2012 with a Master of Public Administration degree and has been the Director of the Blakely-Early County Chamber of Commerce since November 2012. Marshall says the best part about his job is “meeting new people, exploring Early County, and working hard to help businesses succeed.” In his spare time, Marshall enjoys fishing, traveling, and spending time with his family.