Students leaders from Columbia County high schools heard the lore and history of their home Tuesday as the final session of a leadership training program.
The 25 sophomores and juniors participating in the Columbia County Youth Leadership program began their day hearing about some of the earliest inhabitants of this area, the people who lived on Stallings Island 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
Bill Morris, Columbia County assistant superintendent for technology and a former history teacher, told the students about the hunter-gatherers whose implements can still be found on the island.
Morris showed the students several artifacts he discovered on the island, including pieces of pottery, an ax head and arrowheads. He said he always pauses before he picks up any of the artifacts to reflect.
"I'm reaching back several thousand years and shaking hands with the man who made them," he said.
He said he hoped the students would grow in appreciation of those people. "I hope you can make a little connection and respect them," he said.
He noted that the island is now managed by the Nature Conservancy, and the public is not allowed to visit.
During a tour of the lock and dam, Barbara Seaborn, a local historian, told the students that the Savannah River was what drew those people to this area thousands of years ago. "The river is what brought everybody here," she said. "The river is our most important resource even today."
After leaving the pavilion, the students toured downtown Augusta, then returned to Columbia County and had lunch at Brandon Wilde, where they volunteered to work at community organizations, and then toured Appling.
Phil Blanchard, who grew up in the county seat of Appling, pointed out the house which once housed county prisoners on the second floor and served as the sheriff's residence downstairs.
He also showed the students the old Stage Coach Inn, which was used for overnight stays by travelers beginning about 1828 and today is neglected and run down.
He also pointed out Appling Spring, which served as the small town's first water source piped into homes and businesses. The spring was used from about 1930 to the 1970s, when the county began providing water to Appling.
Blanchard also pointed out the monument to Daniel Marshall, the first Baptist preacher in Georgia. Marshall, who was born in 1706 and died in 1784, is believed by some to be buried under the monument, although others dispute the claim, Blanchard said.
There was enough credibility to the burial claim that, in the 1930s, the state built the first paved road to Appling around the monument rather than move a grave, he said.
After the 15-minute walk around the small town, Blanchard, a member of the Columbia County Historical Society, said, "That's Appling."
He said he is not often asked to give tours of the town. But, he added, "I enjoy history."
After the tour of the town, Jake Pollard, Blanchard's uncle, took the students on a tour of the courthouse.
Pollard, who was clerk of court from 1961 to 1988, told the students several humorous stories about working in the courthouse.
Prior to air-conditioning, the windows were opened to cool off the courtroom in warm weather, he said. But that presented another problem. "You couldn't hear because of all the noise when a truck would go through," Pollard said. During those moments, he said, the judges would halt the proceedings until the noise died down.
During one of those warm sessions, he said, an insect stung a bald judge on the top of the head. An elderly bailiff offered to put some of his chewing tobacco on the judge's head as a home remedy. "The judge said, 'You're not putting that stuff on my head.' So we had to take a recess to get the judge calmed down."
Amy Price, a junior at Lakeside High School, said she has found the Youth Leadership program helpful to her future. "We've been able to explore different careers," she said.
In addition to Tuesday's history day, the students also have taken the Ropes confidence course, and spent two days examining business and medical careers.
"I tell my mom every day that I want to do something different," Amy said.
Anna Harris, an 11th grader at Evans High School, said they have talked with many community leaders. "You meet a lot of leaders, so it's kind of like learning by example," she said.
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