Tag Archives: North Georgia People

Mayflower Restaurant, 1948, Athens

These days, it’s’ hard to find any Athens landmark in its original location. Even the Varsity, in its second incarnation since the 1960s at the corner of Milledge and Broad, is about to pack up and move. And while purists and locals bemoan the proliferation of chains, especially downtown, the Mayflower is a standout. As its menus proudly proclaim, it’s been “Putting the South in Your Mouth” “Across from the Arch” since 1948. If you’re looking for healthy or trendy, forget about it, but if you crave a good old fashioned diner breakfast or lunch, stop by the Mayflower. The staff are friendly, even if you’re not a regular, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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Filed under --CLARKE COUNTY GA--, Athens GA

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker, Amicalola Falls

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When I was visiting Amicalola Falls I met several Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers just setting out on their journeys. This gentleman had just made the drive up from southern Louisiana and was surprised by the warm weather. The approach to the AT begins at Amicalola and winds its way up 8.5 miles to Springer Mountain, the trail’s southern terminus. Thousands of hikers pass through here every year with high hopes of making it all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine. Most don’t quite make the grade, but all are drawn by the solitude and natural beauty of the trail. Whether seasoned hikers or first-timers, all come away from the experience with stories to tell.

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Filed under --DAWSON COUNTY GA--, Amicalola Falls GA

Ganache Bakery & Bistro, Maysville

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As I was walking around Maysville, Debbie Akins invited me into Ganache, the bakery and bistro she created out of an historic commercial space that would otherwise have been lost. She noted that the interior had to be completely rebuilt. It was a nice break and the place smelled wonderful. Her chef was preparing lunch and putting the finishing touches on the day’s fresh pastries. Debbie talked about the challenges of running business in a small town. She’s had several here in the past few years. She’s also restored historic houses and is presently working on the old Methodist church. Every small town should be so lucky as to have someone like Debbie working to revitalize their business districts.

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Maysville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --JACKSON COUNTY GA--, Maysville GA

Potter Allen Gee, Junction City

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Bulloch County native Allen Gee now lives and works in Meriwether County at the former home/studio of the late D. X. Gordy, one of several Gordy family members well-known for their pottery skills.  Gee’s traditional high-fired stoneware has earned him quite a following of his own and he works with a motorized washtub and electric wheel at festivals throughout the South to share the process with others. He says, “I mix the stoneware clay from a traditional recipe. After the clay is properly prepared, bowls, pitchers and mugs are turned on a pottery wheel. The glazes are made from local minerals including ground glass, hardwood ashes, and a gneiss-hornblende stone. These minerals are pulverized and milled to produce a fine powder that is mixed with clay ad water then applied to a bisque-fired pot.”

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He also notes, “The stoneware is fired in a wood-burning kiln or gas kiln where it reaches temperatures hot enough to melt the homemade mix into a permanent glaze. Hot embers and flames enhance the clay and glazes causing glaze runs, pooling, and fire flashing marks on the clay.”

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I have one of Allen Gee’s pieces and the quality is great. He creates a variety of one-of-a-kind pitchers, bowls, plates, pots and even face jugs.  If you’re interested in purchasing something, you can contact him at 23825 Roosevelt Highway, Greenville, Georgia 30222. (770) 927-0394. He can also be reached via email at geepottery@gmail.com

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Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

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Filed under --TALBOT COUNTY GA--, Junction City GA

Fielder’s Mill, Junction City

Making Grits at Fielder's Mill Junction City GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

The historic Fielder’s Mill, one of the oldest continuous businesses in Talbot County, takes center stage at the annual Plantation Days in Talbot. It was built in 1930 on the site of the John Downs grist mill. There’s been a mill at this same location since the 1840s. The original mill was located on the far end of the present dam over the run of Patsiliga Creek. The timbers and foundation of the old site remain today.

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After a fire, the new mill was moved to the west end of the dam in 1930. The mill is powered by a Leffel-type turbine producing about 25 horsepower. Mike Buckner produces great cornmeal, grits, and flour at this water-powered mill.

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I believe my father began buying corn meal from Mike in the 1980s, when he was running to Manchester on the railroad. My family has used it ever since; it’s just not an option to run out as nothing comparable can be found in any grocery store.

Grinding Grits Junction City GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Here’s something from the Fielder’s Mill Cookbook, compiled by Mike & Debbie Buckner in 1994.

Washing Grits

Measure the amount of grits you wish to cook. Put grits in a deep bowl (I use a deep Cool Whip bowl for as many as 4-6 servings) and add plenty of warm water. Stir grits. Bran and specks will float to the top of the water; tilt the bowl to one side and pour the water and bran off. Do this procedure several times, usually three times or until the grits are “clean”. Place grits in a boiler, adding enough water to cover well. Cook on low heat for about 45 minutes. The water will cook out soon after heating; add more water or for a creamier taste add milk. There is more involved in cooking the course ground grits; however, the taste and added advantage of more dietary fiber make them an excellent substitute for quick grits. It seems the longer grits are cooked, the better they are, but you will have to add more liquid and stir them to prevent sticking. There are a number of variables so you may have to experiment and try cooking these grits a couple of times before you master their creamy goodness.

For busy cooks, try the Crock Pot Grits:

Wash grits as described above and place in the crock pot with appropriate amount of water, salt and butter before retiring for the night. Turn the crock pot on low and allow the grits to cook about 10 hours. Wake up the next morning to creamy grits. (If the grits are too stiff add water or milk-stir).

Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

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Filed under --TALBOT COUNTY GA--, Junction City GA

Syrup Making, Junction City

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The traditional way of grinding ribbon cane into the finished product of cane syrup is to “walk” a mule or horse (tethered to a large pole) around a drum as the syrup master feeds stalks into a rolling mill.

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The juice is pressed into a tub or keg covered with cheesecloth to catch the solid materials.

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The syrup master always keeps a watchful eye on the proceedings.

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After being collected, the juice is transferred to the “cooking pan” in a nearby shed. This “pan” is mounted on a rock or brick base with a fire underneath. Wood is added from holes on the side, and a chimney on one end keeps air flowing over the fire. The skill and discrimination of the syrup master determines when the final product is ready to be “poured up”. The final result is a staple of South Georgia cuisine: pure can syrup ready to dress up biscuits, cornbread, and almost anything else that requires a little sweetness.

Jesse Bookhardt wrote: It is great to see the old cane mill operation again. Back in the mid-1950’s, our neighbor, Mr. Ed Ray, of Denton, Georgia always invited some neighbors over to his farm when his family made syrup. The event was referred to as a “Cane Grinding” and was a favorite social event that enhanced friendships and made some sweet memories. In a sense, it served the same social purpose as a “Peanut Boiling.”
When folk arrived they were kindly greeted and invited to partake of some of the raw juice which was being squeezed from the cane stalks by the mill into a large drum. The juice was green in appearance and the barrel would always be covered with Yellow Jackets and Honey Bees trying to extract their share. We would removed a long necked gourd dipper from the mill’s frame and take a few slugs down. Careful to avoid trips to the outhouse, we only drank a moderate amount. As the juice was cooked over the old furnace kettle, it tuned dark amber and reduced in volume. The syrup maker was the one who determined when it was ready to be pour-up. Syrup making was an art and it took an experienced person to make good quality syrup. The boiling, rolling liquid was a sight to see and left impressions on most that have stayed with them a life time.
I have very fond memories of this operation and was always taken with the unique sweet smell that permeated a hazy mist that surrounded the mill. Brian thanks for sharing this historic scene. Lately I have grown a few stalks on our farm in Northeast Alabama just for the memories and to see if sugar cane will survive that far north. So far it has. Most people of the area are familiar with sorghum syrup.

Photographed at Harvest Days in Old Talbot, Patsiliga Plantation, 2013

For more on sugar cane and syrup making, visit Southern Matters.

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Filed under --TALBOT COUNTY GA--, Junction City GA

Visionary Artist Johnny Culver, Sparta

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When I was in Sparta to photograph the rededication of the Hancock County Courthouse, I met this gentleman. John “Johnny” Culver is a visionary artist who came back to his hometown of Sparta in 2000 after living in the Atlanta for a time. While there, he suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 20, after a failed relationship. He told me that creating the art gave him the ability to come back from that and he was very clear that God gets all the credit.

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He works in paint and ink and on every imaginable surface. I also feel lucky, since he told me he does not usually allow photographs. I found a few images of him online from an article by Tom Patterson and a piece by Fred Scruton and one or two from his London-based gallerist, but that was it. I’m so glad we made a connection and that he placed the trust in me to share.

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All Art Objects Pictured are © John Culver, Sparta, Georgia

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Filed under --HANCOCK COUNTY GA--, Sparta GA