A wreath sent from overseas to mark the death of poet Paul Hamilton Hayne 120 years ago has made its way back to a museum in Grovetown, the Southern poet's home of more than 20 years.
"It is really a great asset to our museum," said Charles Lord, a resident city historian and member of the board of the Grovetown Museum. The wreath of dried English flowers is still encased in the original wood and glass frame in which it was sent overseas.
It was delivered to the museum on June 8, and was originally sent to Hayne's widow in 1886 by an English poet, Philip Bourke Marston, with whom Hayne regularly corresponded.
The authors "wrote 30 and 40-page letters to each other," Lord said. "... In one of his (Marston's) books, he wrote a sonnet to Paul Hamilton Hayne, which you will find in the book Wind Voices in 1883."
Dr. Ray Atchison, a retired English professor of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., donated the wreath to the museum. Atchison, now in his 80s, wanted it placed somewhere it would be safe and appreciated. When one of his favorite students, Joseph C. Wingard, mentioned he had been through the Grovetown Museum and suggested the wreath be housed there, Atchison, of Birmingham, said he jumped at the opportunity.
"I've had it at my house protected all these years, hanging up in the basement hoping to find the right place for it," Atchison said. "... It seems to me that (the museum) would be the best place ... I want people to enjoy it."
Hayne, an acclaimed poet, editor and lecturer of the post-Civil War era, moved to Grovetown in 1865 after the war-time destruction of his Charleston, S.C., home. While in Charleston, Hayne edited Russell's Magazine and the Charleston Gazette and wrote for the Southern Literary Messenger. After his move to Grovetown, Hayne tried to make a living writing for literary magazines such as Harper's Monthly and The Atlantic Monthly. He also authored three volumes of poetry and is known as one of the most significant voices of the Confederate cause, according to the Georgia Historical Society, which placed a historical marker at the museum in Hayne's honor in September 2005.
"Hayne was one of the most prolific contributors," Atchison said. "He was one of the most prolific (writers) to the post-war magazines."
Atchison said he discovered the wreath while on a trip collecting post-Civil War literary magazines for his doctoral dissertation at Duke University in the 1950s. The trip included stops at literary sites, including Hayne's modest Grovetown home at Copse Hill, roughly a mile west of the museum.
A man who Atchison believed to be Foster Goodale answered the door at Hayne's former home and gave Atchison the wreath from the attic as a memento, Atchison said.
"We looked at it and were amazed that he would just give it to us," Atchison said, adding that he insisted on paying the man for the wreath.
"... Just as you see it now is just the way it was given to me. It was probably the way it was when it was sent from England," Atchison said.
Lord said the wreath and frame will soon be added to the museum's collection of Hayne memorabilia that includes a photo of the Copse Hill home before it was demolished in 1959.
"He gave it to us free of charge, which we are greatly appreciative of ... This is really something to us," Lord said.
"We're not going to hang it because if it comes down off the wall, that's 120 years down the drain," he said.
Lord said the frame will sit on a custom-built wedge among an ever-growing Hayne display.
"We get little bits and pieces and it adds on," Lord said. "(The display) is growing by leaps and bounds."
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