The audience sat enthralled as the angelic voices of Kiokee Baptist Church's choir rose through Columbia County's Appling courtroom Tuesday in celebration of two important birthdays, the birth of Jesus Christ and the county's 212th.
The Columbia County Historical Society played host to Christmas at the Courthouse, featuring the choir from the nation's oldest southern Baptist Church and guest speaker Dr. Gerald Smith, the author of Columbia County's history entitled, To Seek A Newer World.
Bill Blackard, a historical society member, illustrated the book and displayed drawings of many other historic county buildings at the ceremony including Winfield High School, Walnut Grove School, Harlem High School and Mistletoe School.
Columbia County was established Dec. 10, 1790. The historical society, founded in 1975, is dedicated to promoting and preserving the historical heritage the county has established for itself since its beginning.
"Columbia County has come a long way in 200 years and we should not forget where we come from," said historical society president and Probate Judge Pat Hardaway in her welcoming speech.
Smith, a retired professor from Paine College and part-time teacher at Fort Gordon, spoke about Appling residents and , great men the county should be proud of" William Few Jr. and Abraham Baldwin.
"Columbia County boasted two of the very greatest men who affected the national scene in a very, very big way," Smith said.
Among other important roles, both men served in the National Constitutional Convention, where delegates from the colonies came together and wrote the Constitution. Smith said he believes Few is the father of Columbia County, while Baldwin is the father of education in Georgia.
According to Smith, Baldwin, a Georgia delegate at the convention, voted against his beliefs to save the union from eminent dissolution.
Before the ceremony, Smith's son, Judd Smith, a colonial impressionist, presented many authentic and reproductions of American Revolution era items that would have been familiar to a soldier including a waistcoat, military cockhat, knee breeches, a Regimental coat, Indian trade musket and a powder horn.
Kyle Edwards, 5, and his sister, Shelby, 8, both of Thomson, watched the display with wide eyes.
"It was cool," Shelby said.
Kyle planned to take the story of what he saw back to his teacher the next day.
The choir, directed by Wesley Gardner, lifted spirits through holiday hymns and carols including Silent Night, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger and Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
"We just might have to get a lawyer after this with y'all preaching the gospels in the courtroom," Blackard said jokingly. "If that does not get you in the Christmas spirit, I do not know what will."
After the ceremony, the historical society provided guests with refreshments including two large cakes with a photo of the courthouse on the icing.
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