History buffs who live in the area or who are in town visiting don't have to look far to see Columbia County's heritage.
Ten markers posted by the Georgia Historical Society throughout the county chronicle its life during the past two centuries.
Most of the markers are in rural areas. One of the more prominent historical markers is named for the county itself. The Columbia County marker is at the Appling Courthouse on Appling-Harlem Highway. This marker notes the county was created by a December 1790 act from Richmond County, was named after Christopher Columbus, was settled by the Quakers before the American Revolution and initially contained parts of McDuffie and Warren counties.
The Famous Indian Trail spans about 20 miles along U.S. Highway 278 near Harlem. The Upper Trading Path reached various American Indian tribes in north Georgia, eastern Alabama and north Mississippi. The route's main branch, The Oakfuskee Path, was used by traders in the early 1700s.
Another marker can be found at the William Few house on Cobbham Road in the Winfield community. William Few, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, built his house in 1781. The original home burned in 1930 and was rebuilt. The Maryland native practiced law when he moved to the area in 1776. During his stay, Few served as a lieutenant colonel of the Richmond County Militia during the American Revolution and was a U.S. senator, Georgia Superior Court judge and a trustee when the University of Georgia was established in 1801. He moved to New York City in 1799.
William Few Parkway in Evans is named after Few, who is buried at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Augusta.
The historical marker signaling the home and burial spot of Basil Neal, a Revolutionary soldier, is located one mile east of the Few marker on Cobbham Road. Neal, a Maryland native, settled in the county in 1780 and built his home, a plantation called Happy Valley. He fought against American Indians and British troops before, during and after the American Revolution. Neal's son, Confederate soldier, Basil Llewellyn Neal, is buried near his father.
Kiokee Church was the first Baptist church to be founded in Georgia. The church's marker is located at the Scotts Ferry and Tubman roads' intersection. The church was started in 1772 by the Rev. Daniel Marshall. An organizational meeting for the Georgia Baptist Association was held there in 1784. While Old Kiokee Church and its outdoor baptismal pool are still used, the congregation now holds its services a few miles away in Appling.
In 1799, Sharon Baptist Church was founded on Cobbham Road in Winfield, where the marker stands. Abraham Marshall served as the church's first pastor until he died in 1819. The church's cemetery contains the graves of many prominent Georgia residents.
Damascus Baptist Church was started in 1820 on Ridge Road one mile northeast of Washington Road in Leah. The church's first pastor, Samuel Cartledge, also a police officer, arrested Kiokee Baptist pastor Marshall for not holding religious services in line with those of the Church of England. Cartledge later had a change of heart and was baptized by Marshall. He was ordained in 1789 and spent the remainder of his life as a preacher. The church's doors remained closed for several years, but members started meeting again in 1875. Another building was constructed in 1901.
Services for Shiloh Methodist Church were started by a local hermit. In 1825, a church building was constructed on Cobbham Road about one mile west of Winfield. Another building was erected in 1859.
A marker on North Louisville Street in Harlem honors comedian Oliver Norvell Hardy. Hardy was born in Harlem on Jan. 18, 1892. After his father died, Hardy's family moved from Harlem to Milledgeville, Ga., where his mother became manager of Baldwin Hotel. Hardy left Georgia in 1913 to pursue his dreams of film in Jacksonville, Fla., and later moved to Hollywood in 1918. Hardy and Stan Laurel became show-biz partners and remained friends until Hardy died in 1957.
The county's newest historical marker was dedicated in 2005 to Paul Hamilton Hayne , the "poet laureate of the South." Hayne moved to Grovetown in 1866 after his Charleston home was burned by Union troops.
Hayne spent the final 26 years of his life in Grovetown, producing three volumes of poetry. The Hayne marker is located on Robinson Avenue in front of the Grovetown Museum, whose collection includes numerous Hayne artifacts.
Efforts to create a historical trail, dubbed the 13th Colony Heritage Tourism Trail, that would highlight some of these historical markers are in the works, said Beda Johnson, the executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The path would include at least 18 counties on the eastern side of Georgia and their history during the American Revolution era.
"It's going to go with the markers that are appropriate for that time in our history," she said. "Columbia County has lots of them."
Johnson said she has attended meetings with tourism and chamber partners and representatives of historical societies. The idea for the trail was brought up about a year ago and is still in the beginning phases, she said.
"That's really where we are right now, is finding money to facilitate a better storytelling of our rich heritage," she said.
For information or to view a map of the historical markers, visit www.georgiaplanning.com/hm.
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