Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to stroll through the past for a day or so? To step back in time to the early 1800s and view the way it was is a wonderful learning experience. The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center is a living history museum in Mountain City, Georgia, where you can actually experience the past.
Visiting the museum will give one a rare glimpse of early Southern Appalachian life. It was a time that we now call the "simple life". This "simple life" was born from hope, struggle, hard work, creative minds, and courage. Every day, from the quiet and dark early mornings to nightly preparations for supper then bed time, was filled with physical labor to ensure the basic needs of life. Food, clothing, and shelter came from serious dedication to hard work.
When the folks did find time to relax they were still not idle. As the women gathered to chat they would mend clothes, piece quilts for the coming cold months, or make baby clothes, all by hand. The men would whittle wooden toys or statues, or sharpen and mend tools as they sat around with each other near the women folk, all keeping an eye on the children.
With concern for the slowly fading way of life of the Appalachian mountain folk, Rabun County students took on a major project. In 1966 Eliot Wigginton and his students in an English class at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School began a project. It was part of Wigginton's teachings to encourage his students to write. That semester, the students chose to work on a magazine and publish it. The articles were to be on their own heritage. These young people began interviewing family members, friends, and neighbors. They called the magazine "Foxfire". With some of the people they interviewed giving the students old tools, documents, and hand-crafted items, an artifact collection began growing.
They published their first Foxfire Book, a collection of the magazine articles, which became nationally popular and a huge success. With funds from the book and magazine, they began working in 1974 on land of the Black Rock Mountain which they had purchased. Their goal was to have a place where the past was recreated.
The possibilities for the students was astounding and larger artifacts, along with actual log cabins were restored to their original conditions. Some of the cabins are very near to where they originally stood when built by the early settlers. The authentic cabins were relocated and put back together by the students. Other cabins they made in traditional design, using wood from old barns or other cabins that were deteriorated beyond restoration.
From the first Foxfire Book, a series of twelve volumes has been published. Sales from the books go into keeping the museum and artifacts in good condition and available for public viewing. Tickets for self-guided and guided tours are available in the gift shop. With the guided tours, visitors receive some old lore and stories from the past and get to see even more artifacts. This is a wonderful place to take the family when on vacations.
From high school students whose aim was to honor and pay tribute to their heritage and ancestors, the living history museum stands as an endearing memory to those who first settled in the Appalachian mountains. Their way of life may be fading away over time, but will always be remembered and will always be in the pages of history.
Young people connecting and interfacing with their elders has made possible for their community and visitors to learn more about the past and the people who lived the "simple life".
More information on the museum can be obtained from:
The Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center
200 Foxfire Lane/PO Box 541
Mountain City, Georgia 30562-0541
706 - 746-5828