Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brunswick GA - Hofwyl Plantation


     We leave Darien behind us and head toward Brunswick GA.  This is the last leg of Georgia - Florida and its coast that goes on forever looms intimidatingly ahead.  But we have some beautiful country ahead - a mix of high dollar resorts, historic plantations, coastal industry and nature preserves.  And although we missed four of the barrier islands since Savannah, we will pick up a couple of them in January when I am returning to Charleston for a few days to handle some business matters.


     This next stop is an old plantation that has been remarkably preserved.  In fact, after passing through five generations of the same family, it was deeded by the family to be a perpetual museum, honoring the men and women whose centuries of labor created and preserved this place.  This is a must visit if you like to see things exactly as they were back a few hundred years.  Everything here is original to the place - from the silverware to the books and furniture to the tractors and farm equipment.

     The name Hofwyl came from one of the owners - he had attended a school by the same name in Switzerland, and was so grateful for the education he was given that he re-named this plantation after the school.  

     The preserve now stands at 1200 acres, but a few generations ago the plantation was much larger.


     First impressions can be deceiving.  When you first arrive, there is a parking area and a welcome area with a museum.  I poked around the museum for a while, taking photos, and then inquired if there were a ruins around that could be photographed.  I was informed there was an entire plantation and five generations worth of possessions here that had been preserved.  I was pointed on a ten minute walk to the main house.  


     Of all the things I have photographed, the large live oaks with the Spanish moss are among the hardest to shoot.  There seems to be no angle or perspective that translates to the two-dimensional medium of a photograph properly.  You just cannot capture the grandeur of these trees in a photo. The photo above is about as close as I have ever come to giving them some perspective.

     They grow in all manner of oddly twisted patterns.  Here is one that looks like it fell over about two centuries ago, but decided to keep on growing.


     And here is a palm tree that is really neat.  Photos from 100 years ago show this tree - and back then it was only slightly smaller.  It is almost bushy in shape - and I didn't catch the name for the specie.  Supposedly some of these palms live a thousand years, 

    

     One of the unique things about these palms is that the individual cells don't regularly die and get replaced as they do in most plant and animal species.  Individual cells live for many centuries.

     The view of the main house is out over miles of marsh land that used to be productive rice fields.  The quality of the rice grown on this plantation was so high that it became a standard of rice quality in the early America's.    


     The main house and numerous out-buildings still stand.  This area was secluded enough by several rivers that it escaped burning during the war.


     Back in the 1970's, the last owner of this plantation, Ophelia Dent decided that the whole house, along with all of the possessions needed to be preserved intact.  So there are no "period pieces" here - everything is the possessions of the successive generations of the family.



     I am impressed with Georgia's park system.  One of their secrets is the use of volunteers to maintain the properties.  They install a few campsites on the grounds, and offer longer term residence for those with motor homes that have skills and are willing to help maintain the properties.

     Meet Sissy and Terry of Virginia.


     They spend three months of the year home in Virginia, and the rest of the year they spend volunteering at three different parks, two in Georgia and one in Texas.  They are just finishing up a three month stint of painting and Christmas decorating here and are pulling out for Texas Saturday.

     But the backs and hands that these plantations were originally built with were folks unwillingly brought here from West Africa as slaves.  The West Africans knew how to cultivate and grow rice, and without their knowledge and work this culture would not have emerged.


     The isolation of the rice plantations allowed for the preservation of much of the blacks heritage.  Their spiritual beliefs merged with the Christianity they were introduced to here, and what emerged was a unique culture and language.  This is dying out fast today - only a few isolated pockets of it remain.


     The implements of five generations of farming remain.  After the civil war, the plantation stayed afloat with milk production.  Here is the old milk tank, more resembling an old submarine than a farm implement.


     Much of the equipment and the implements have been preserved and are on display.


    Here are a couple of old tap and die sets, used for threading nuts and bolts.


     But the real gems are in the main house.  Meet Ranger Andy, the resident expert on this dwelling.  He seemingly knows the background of every nook and cranny of the place.

     Here is a large chest containing sabers and guns used by various residents of this place during the different wars they served in.  Also contained here is a camera box that is over 100 years old.


     There are hundreds of pieces of silver dating back to the 1600's and 1700's/


     What always strikes me in these places is the size of the beds and chairs.  I couldn't curl up on this bed without something hanging over the edges.




     Much of the furniture is from the late 1700's, and a few pieces are among the only ones in existence. Some even have a twin in the Smithsonian Institute.


     Here is something neat - it is the oath that was signed by one of the owners after the Civil War.  In it he declares that he will not take up arms against the USA.


     Today's parting shot was in the back yard.  Now, I typically don't have a problem asking questions that stump the curators at these museums.  But Ranger Andy was on point with every question.  I finally got him on this one.  I asked him how they adjusted the sun-dial for daylight savings time.



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Have a Great Weekend !!
David

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