New Exhibit: The Civil War in Morgan County, AL

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 23, 2014

SONY DSCPlease welcome guest author John Allison. Allison has been Director of the Morgan County Archives in Decatur, AL since 2006. A native of Morgan County, Allison has heard stories of the Civil War since he was a boy. He can be contacted at


October 24, 2014 will see the grand opening of a new permanent exhibit at the Morgan County Archives, The Civil War in Morgan County, Alabama. This event is the culmination of three years of work by the Archives staff in cooperation with McComm Group (formerly McWhorter Communications). The exhibit tells the story of our county’s citizens from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

Morgan County Archives Civil War Exhibit

Morgan County’s geographic location and socioeconomic background produced a complex wartime experience unlike any other in the state. Many citizens disagreed about the necessity of going to war, and indeed the county voted against secession before hostilities began. Some farmers in the hilly south of the county even joined Union forces as the core of the Union’s First Alabama Cavalry.

This Union element was one reason Union Col. Abel Streight launched his raid through the area in 1863, where he met Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in furious combat. Others rushed to join the Confederate forces in other states, since Alabama was initially unable to properly equip volunteer forces. Many more embittered residents joined the fight after experiencing the Federal occupation of 1862.

Morgan County’s enslaved people met the conflict with both uncertainty and excitement. At the war’s beginning, some young men went off to war with their masters, as servants. When the Union occupied Decatur, many of the enslaved rushed to Union lines to claim their freedom, with varying degrees of success. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the young men were able to join the 106th United States Colored Infantry (U.S.C.I.), the only such unit raised in Alabama.

Decatur, with its vital railroad links and its position above the impassable Muscle Shoals, was a strategic location, and as such changed hands several times during the War. The exhibit explains the crucial role Decatur played in the 1862 North Alabama campaign of Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel and in the grand strategy of Gen. W.T. Sherman in his 1864 “March to the Sea.”

Robert Murphy, Sr., who left the Morgan County plantation where he was enslaved to fight with the United States Colored Infantry.

Robert Murphy, Sr., who left the Morgan County plantation where he was enslaved to fight with the United States Colored Infantry.

While fortifying Decatur to protect Sherman’s railroad supply line, Gen. R.S. Granger evicted most residents and leveled the town. It was this Union fortress at Decatur that Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood ineffectively assaulted with the 30,000 men of the Army of Tennessee while just a few thousand Federal troops grimly held on. Hood’s delay at Decatur may well have cost him the disastrous Battle of Franklin.

In addition to panels with narrative, photographs and graphics, the exhibit also contains three cases containing artifacts on loan from various Morgan County citizens, most of which have a local provenance. A fourth case contains a carefully researched reproduction uniform representing a soldier in the 1864 Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Designing the Exhibit

From the outset, we have tried to keep in mind our audience for this exhibit. We assume that our visitors will have some basic knowledge of the War, but will be unaware of the special circumstances that prevailed in areas like Morgan County. Here, large plantation cotton culture existed but was not the dominant antebellum lifestyle. We wanted visitors to think about the many types of relationships that existed among members of the planter, yeoman farmer, merchant and slave classes of society that could be far different from established conventions of thinking about the period.

Another very important concern was restoring African Americans to their crucial role in the narrative of the War, as active participants who shaped their own experiences on the way to freedom. The exhibit tells of the “contraband camps,” the raising of the 106th U.S.C.I. and the brave charge of the 14th U.S.C.I. on Confederate artillery positions at Decatur on October 28, 1864. Slaves’ individual decisions to leave captivity began a practical end to slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment marked the institution’s legal demise.

A 42-inch monitor plays war and local history-related video material in a loop. A new short film about Morgan County’s role in the war is currently in production. For little hands that simply must touch, the exhibit contains a large cotton picker’s basket and a huge cannonball found near Decatur.


Planned Additions

We did not have room to tell all the fascinating individual stories and photographs of civilians and soldiers that we gathered during the researching of the project. Pending funding, a future phase of the project will create a touchscreen media table with these stories, interactive maps, and rosters of known soldiers. We hope that this element will add a more personal element that will help visitors to identify with the struggles of our ancestors.

“Thunder in the Valley,” Oct. 24-28

The date of the exhibit’s opening coincides with the 150th anniversary of Hood’s assault on Decatur, and is a part of a variety of activities that weekend in remembrance of that event. On October 25th, the Old State Bank, the Archives, the Blue and Gray Museum, the Dancy-Polk House, and the grounds of the Burleson-McEntire house will be open to visitors, and guided walking tours will tell visitors more of Decatur’s fascinating Civil War History.

On Sunday, October 26, a Community Period Church Service will be held at the Daikin Amphitheater. The service will be conducted by members of First United Methodist and King’s Memorial United Methodist. These congregations were once one congregation until the black membership of First U.M.C. created their own congregation in1854. That congregation was first named St. Paul, but changed their name to King’s Memorial in 1908.

Living history re-enactors will be encamped at the Dancy-Polk house and doing demonstrations in other areas. There will be a special showing of The Red Badge of Courage at the new amphitheater at Founder’s Park. On Monday, October 27 at the Amphitheater, the Madison Community Band will give a concert of period music and afterwards will be a performance of Chuck Puckett’s two-man play Lee and Grant at Appomattox, sponsored by the Bank Street Players.

On Tuesday, October 28th, at Rhodes Ferry Park in Decatur, there will be a ceremony to honor the charge of the 14th United States Colored Infantry on a Confederate artillery emplacement near that site 150 years before. Asa Gordon, Secretary General of the Sons and Daughters of the U.S.C.T., will speak, and in the evening the Princess Theatre will have a special screening of Glory. CLICK HERE for a complete schedule of events.

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Ashland, KY’s Highlands Museum & Discovery Center Celebrates 30 Years

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 22, 2014

Please welcome guest authors Carolyn Warnock and Emily C. Roush. Warnock has been the Curator of Vintage Clothing and Quilts at the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center in Ashland, KY for the past 16 years. She is also a member of the museum’s Board of Directors and has served as its president in the past. Roush is the museum’s Education and Marketing Director. She has a bachelor’s in history and a master’s degree in public history from Wright State University.


September is always a busy month at the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center in Ashland, KY. Back-to-School is in full force, filling the museum with children on fall field trips. Staff members and volunteers work endlessly at planning and preparing for fall and winter holiday events. Yet this September is special because it is the Highlands Museum’s 30th birthday.

“A New Beginning” exhibit includes a football helmet from the 1920s, a 1960 varsity letter sweater from Paul Blazer High School, a portrait of three Seaton children drawn in 1890, and the dress worn by Isabella Seaton in the portrait.

“A New Beginning” exhibit includes a football helmet from the 1920s, a 1960 varsity letter sweater from Ashland High School, an 1890 portrait of three Seaton children, and the dress worn by Isabella Seaton in the portrait.

In the early 1980s the Tourism Committee of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce decided the city needed a museum to represent the local history of Ashland and its surrounding area. The Kentucky Highlands Museum Society, Inc. was incorporated in the early 1980s and found its first location in the landmark Mayo Manor, a house in Ashland’s historic residential district. A team of volunteers assembled the first exhibits, which included Native American artifacts, aviation history, the 1937 flood, and local industry. The Kentucky Highlands Museum officially opened its doors on September 16, 1984.

The museum moved to its current home in the former Parsons Department Store building, opening on September 19, 1992. It broadened the scope of its original mission and focus on historical exhibits to also include interactive educational activities for children. In 1999, the museum formally adopted its current name, “Highlands Museum & Discovery Center, Inc.,” to reflect this expanded vision. The addition of the Discovery Center and inclusion of educational activities attracts school groups from throughout the tri-state region of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

The museum completed a successful capital campaign in 2005, raising money for a major redesign of the 20,000 square feet of the space that the Museum occupies on the lower level, first floor, and mezzanine of the building. This support from the community funded major renovations, including new floors, expansion of the Museum’s chronological and thematic exhibits, refurbishment of the Discovery Center on the lower level, and development of the mezzanine area into additional space for the exhibition of the museum’s burgeoning collections.

Poage bible

On November 15, 2013, the Museum purchased the Parsons building from its landlord. The purchase, termed “A New Beginning,” represents a milestone in the Museum’s history because it opens opportunities for additional improvements and expansion onto other floors of the building. This theme of new beginnings is highlighted in the museum’s latest exhibit.

“A New Beginning: the Highlands Museum is 30!” chronicles the museum’s journey over the past three decades. Carolyn Warnock, Curator of Vintage clothing, created the exhibit with the mission of highlighting the best of the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center’s collections.

Vintage clothing is Warnock’s specialty — she had to resist the urge to make “A New Beginning” a clothing exhibit. She made an effort to really examine the artifacts to find special treasures that represent all areas of the collections. For example, the museum has an extensive collection of sports memorabilia from local schools.

“A New Beginning” features a football helmet from the 1920s and a 1960 varsity letter sweater from Ashland High School, located in Ashland. She also included popular items from past exhibits, such as a collection of political campaign buttons that spans over 100 years, a Victorian era travel chest, and a 1920s raccoon fur coat.

“A New Beginning” also features items from the Seatons and Poages, two of Ashland’s most prominent historical families. Artifacts donated by a descendent of the Seaton family make up over half the museum’s vintage clothing collection. The exhibit includes three pieces from the Seaton family: a purple velvet dress from 1870, an 1890 portrait of three Seaton children, and the dress worn by Isabella Seaton in the portrait.

The Poages are the founding family of Ashland, with the first members settling the area that would eventually become Ashland in 1796. Warnock chose the Poage family bible and a portrait of Anna Quinn Poage to represent the founding family of Ashland.

The Seaton children: Hilda, Isabella, and John. Artifacts donated by a descendent of the Seaton family make up over half the museum’s vintage clothing collection.

The Seaton children: Hilda, Isabella, and John. Artifacts donated by a descendent of the Seaton family make up over half the museum’s vintage clothing collection.

Military history is a major part of the Highlands Museum’s collections, as well as a highlight of many special events. A large portion of the museum’s mezzanine is devoted solely to military exhibits. Warnock chose a 1904 United States Army Uniform to represent this portion of the museum’s collections.

Country music is one of the cornerstones of the Highlands Museum’s heritage. One of its most well-known permanent attractions, the Country Music Heritage Hall, contains exhibits of famous musicians from towns located on the portion of US Highway 23 in eastern Kentucky designated as the “Country Music Highway.” One of the most famous country music artists on display is Ashland native Naomi Judd. Besides the myriad items she has donated to the museum, Judd loaned the red dress and shoes she wore for the 1988 American Country Music Awards for the museum’s birthday exhibit.

In addition to pieces representing different themes in the collections and permanent exhibits, Warnock also included some of museum’s most unique artifacts. One such item is a trophy presented by the National Cleanup and Paint Campaign to the City of Ashland in 1929 for being the “cleanest town in Kentucky.” A hat and its box purchased in the 1960s from Parsons Department Store, the building that would later become the museum’s permanent home, are on display as well. The exhibit also includes the museum’s oldest artifact, a pre-Revolutionary War box, and its most recent acquisition, a 1910 mourning hat.

Serving as the backdrop for the exhibit is a detailed timeline comprised of panels that share important milestones and developments in the Highlands Museum’s history, from its inception to the present.

School tours and educational workshops have started again. This September begins more than just the busy back-to-school and holiday seasons. The museum just held its annual Attic Sale fundraiser during Ashland’s Poage Landing Days festival. Now staff members are busy preparing for its highly anticipated “Dining with the Past” event, a walking tour of the historical Ashland Cemetery held on October 18.

Over the past three decades the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center has grown into a thriving institution housing over 9,000 artifacts and welcoming upwards of 25,000 visitors each year, and the its staff and volunteers look forward to seeing where the next 30 years lead.

birthday exhibit sign

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Listen Here: Appalachian History Weekly podcast posts today

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 21, 2014

We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:

We open today’s show with guest author Janice Cole Hopkins. “Out of the mountains of North Carolina and the plains of Texas,” she tells us, “comes an intriguing tale of a black sheep, oil fortunes, and poor mountain families.”

We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a calendar of events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.

Next, authors Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr discuss the evolution of their newly published book Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. “Our book is primarily about the nameless families—across many generations—who held onto the one thing that cost nothing, took up no space in their travel trunks, and was perhaps their most valuable symbol of identity: the songs and tunes they carried over centuries and the miles.”

We’ll wrap things up with a Kentucky ghost tale titled ‘The Hainted House.’ Dr. Leonard Roberts, a mid-20th century Kentucky folklorist, calls this the story “the most often told one that I have collected in Appalachia.”

And thanks to the good folks at Decca Record’s Brunswick Records Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from the Crockett Family Mountaineers in a 1928 recording of Medley of Old Time Dance Tunes.

So call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian history.

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Anderson County Museum [SC] Inducts Two to Hall of Fame

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 19, 2014

Joshua Erni-SalmansPlease welcome guest author Joshua Salmans. Salmans has lived in the Upstate of South Carolina for 17 years in a city not too far away from Anderson. He’s a quirky, librarian type who feels comfortable in the foothills of Appalachia, but has found adventure traveling and being a cultural exchange agent in this little blueberry of a planet. Currently, he has returned to Greenville to teach Adult Basic Education courses and contribute to and The Dictionary of Literary Biography.


You’ve felt it before. You’re getting your haircut at the local barbershop or having dinner at the diner that has been in town since before you were born. On the walls, you see newspaper clippings, pictures and other memorabilia from the past. Feelings of vague nostalgia strike you in an almost telepathic way: as if the images momentarily break free of their two-dimensional surfaces to speak to you, “Don’t you remember me?”

A tinge of guilt now permeates your thoughts as you realize you’re not as familiar with these legends of your own town’s history as you would like to be and should have paid more attention to your grandmother’s endless stories she told about growing up in Appalachia while gently swaying on the rocking chair. You comment to those around you, “These old pictures belong in a museum, or even a hall of fame.”

Halls of fame can be found in many iconic cities in and around Appalachia and are profound reminders that we must not forget those who gave their passion to creating something meaningful in our communities. You do not always have to travel far to find one of these halls of fame: you may have one in your own county.

Beverly Childs, executive director of the Anderson County Museum, reads a short biography of Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. during a previous induction ceremony at the museum. Photo courtesy Anderson Independent Mail.

Beverly Childs, executive director of the Anderson County Museum, reads a short biography of Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. during a previous induction ceremony at the museum. Photo courtesy Anderson Independent Mail.

Many localities, such as Anderson County in South Carolina, are discovering just how much they can successfully showcase their members’ contributions to the broader scene in Appalachian history and culture.

On October 14th of this year, Reverend Moses Holland and Manley McClure will join twenty-eight other inductees in the Anderson County Museum’s Hall of Fame. Among the other twenty-eight new companions are a sports announcer and writer, a brigadier general, a South Carolina governor, textile industry leaders, agricultural leaders and many others. With such a diverse gathering of influential individuals, ACM has established Anderson’s relevancy in the dynamic development of Appalachian culture.

Reverend Moses Holland (1758-1829) was not born in Anderson, but in Culpepper County in Virginia. According to some genealogy sites[1], he was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War “and was present at Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown in 1781[2].”

Around the year 1787, he moved to South Carolina and went on to become the founding pastor of Big Creek Baptist Church in Williamston, SC, and was also one of the founders of the Saluda Baptist Association—which is still in existence today. His tombstone claims that he founded over twenty-five other churches, including Hopewell, Neal’s Creek, Friendship, Barker’s Creek, Washington, and Standing Spring.

Holland had two marriages that produced twelve children, who continued in their father’s strong Baptist persuasion. Arlette Copeland, Special Collections Assistant for Jack Tarver Library at Mercer University, even suggests that “it isn’t too far a stretch to expect the Hollands passed along that spiritual persuasion for the next century-plus[3].” Still serving as the senior pastor at Big Creek Baptist, he died on September 8, 1829, leaving behind a strong Baptist tradition in Anderson as well as being a participant in a pivotal moment our nation’s early history.

Moses Holland tombstone.

Moses Holland tombstone.

Manley “Doc” McClure (1900-1977) improved farming practices in Anderson County and the surrounding areas through innovative and progressive agricultural techniques. At the age of 21, he started his career in the farming business and within a few years he had revitalized a severely eroded piece of land that he his father-in-law asked him to manage into a flourishing and profitable business. What made his farming unique and successful was his practice of soil conservation and diversification well before either technique was the norm in farming.

The farm, now called the Double M Farm, grew to over 500 acres of mostly pastureland adjacent to Lake Hartwell and is still owned and operated today by his daughter, Katherine McClure Hanley, her son, Mac McGee, and her daughter, Kathy McGee Long. McClure revolutionized the cattle industry in Anderson County by bringing in the first purebred Hereford beef cattle in the area and implementing an innovative year-round grazing system, which led to the county becoming the state’s leading producer of quality beef cattle. In recognition of these things, the Progressive Farmer magazine in 1953 awarded him the title of Master Farmer. He married a farmer’s daughter by the name of Sally Williford and died July 18, 1977, having literally changed the face of the earth in Anderson County.

Rev. Holland’s contribution to a strong family legacy in the Baptist tradition—as well as being an eyewitness to a crucial historical event in the nation’s early beginnings—taken together with McClure’s advancements in progressive farming techniques leading to his commendation by a well-recognized farming magazine, have made ACM’s Hall of Fame a good home for them.

Beverly Childs, the Museum’s Executive Director, said that it has been inducting “deserving individuals into the ACM’s Hall of Fame in recognition of their accomplishments and contributions to Anderson County and South Carolina” since 2003. Donna DeHoll, a volunteer at the Museum and life-long resident of Anderson, exclaimed, “We’re proud of it!” Indeed, their confidence is not misplaced as ACM’s venue boasts “13 permanent exhibits, a temporary exhibit gallery, and multiple changing exhibits.”

Mac McGee, an FFA alumnus and graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in animal science, has the primary responsibility for day-to-day operation of the farm and continues to follow in his grandfather McClure’s footsteps when it comes to diversification. Photo Anderson Independent Mail.

Mac McGee has the primary responsibility for day-to-day operation of the Double M Farm once operated by Manley McClure, and continues to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps when it comes to diversification. Photo Anderson Independent Mail.

Displayed in a 26,000 square-foot facility, these stylishly modern and interactive exhibits feature 20,000 artifacts and the county’s history of transportation, textile industry, religious and educational institutions, and military contributions. Best thing of all is that ACM has free admission for both residents and tourists.

If you want to avoid that tinge of guilt for not recognizing local legends in your community and how they contributed to Appalachian history, ask around and find a museum in your area. Or if you are in Anderson County or traveling through Upstate South Carolina, be sure to visit Anderson County Museum.

If you want one of your relatives inducted into ACM’s 2015 Hall of Fame, your relative must have been born in Anderson County and have gained recognition there or somewhere else. Also, they can have been born elsewhere and gained esteem and notoriety in Anderson County. You can fill out an application at


Sources: August 28, 2014.




[2] August 28, 2014.


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Heritage Farm Museum Adds New Doll Exhibit

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 18, 2014

On September 11, the Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Harveytown, WV, held a grand opening for the Bowes Doll & Carriage Collection.

“This collection reminds us that not everyone lived in log cabins,” says Heritage Farm founder Mike Perry, “and that we had entrepreneurs who risked everything they had to open country stores, grist mills, sawmills, ferries, lumber and coal businesses, and railroads. Their homes and clothes and toys reflected that enterprise.”

Grounds of the Heritage Farm Museum and Village.

Grounds of the Heritage Farm Museum and Village.

The Bowes Doll & Carriage Collection has been three years in the making and is located above the compound’s children’s museum. It houses dozens of dolls, handmade or collected by Connie Bowes of Charleston, presented in a range of period costumes and displays. The exhibits, with themes that range from family life to outdoor activities, also feature many antique baby and doll carriages that have been restored by Connie and her husband Don Bowes.

“We initially started to collect dolls,” says Don Bowes.

“I think of the clothes that mother made, and dresses that maybe I had as a little girl that my grandparents made—grandmother made a crochet dress for me, or mother embroidered a dress—I frequently think of that and try to recreate that,” says Connie.

“I have run into people in this day and age, many ladies, who’ve never owned a doll. The family didn’t have the income to support the luxury of dolls and carriages way back. That’s another reason why people today love the dolls so much. The older women love the dolls. They did not have them and they cherish them for what they were.

“Most of the dolls initially going in the carriages were dolls that I made. Then I got into a few antique dolls and occasionally an artist doll. So what we will now have is a collection of a variety of types of dolls.

“It’s the expression on the little faces! There are so many kinds of dolls: there are little play dolls, and there are beautiful porcelain ladies; whatever appeals to you if you’re interested in collecting.

doll setting final

“It became more fascinating as I went on. When I entered my first doll for international competition and won a ribbon for Best of Category, I thought ‘I want a carriage for that doll!’ So on the way home from New York I said to Don, ‘Could we please stop at antique stores and find a carriage?’

“Carriages fascinate me,” says Don, “because they are so unique, there is so much ingenious work in them. And then the artistry that goes into weaving the baskets and things. I guess my engineering background makes me say ‘Gee, this is really kind of a clever thing to have. These things change over time, and there are eras in our history — politically, socially — and the carriages changed with that.

“They didn’t start making doll carriages until about 1890. They did it with leftover materials, and the people who sold wicker rattan started to make a few for their kids. By about 1900 that really took off.

“Mike and Henriella Perry came up to visit us about 4 years ago. He approached us and said, ‘Look: what are you going to do with all those dolls and carriages?’ Anyway, he said, ‘I’d like to expand.’ So we said, ‘Ok, we can do that, we can put in a few dolls and carriages.’ We sat down at a table and drew out in the dust a design of what we might do, and decided to locate in the building that we’re now using. We started in with a basic design, and started building.”

“We hope people in the future will truly look forward to seeing them, viewing them, and enjoying the handwork, the restoration of the carriages and the collection of the dolls at the Heritage Farm Museum,” says Connie.

A Legacy of Dolls and Carriages from Trifecta Productions, LLC on Vimeo.

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