2. April 2013 23:01
Visitor Center Archaeological Museum
Surely countless coaches originating from points throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley make the trip south annually on I-75, en route to Florida’s renowned theme parks and cruise ports. Although some may make stops along the way, I would guess that few groups are aware of three interesting and free National Park Service units that are just a few miles off of the highway in Georgia. Ocmulgee National Monument lies just three miles east of I-75 Exit 165.
Ocmulgee shelters some of America’s most impressive Indian mounds, which were home to people of the early Mississippian culture from roughly 900 to 1100. A film and significant archaeological museum in the visitor center describe the human habitation of the Southeast from 10,000 BCE to the early 1700s, with special emphasis on the Mississippian village site.
A walking tour leads guests to the Earthlodge, dating from around 1000. The interior reconstruction approximates the original appearance of this, the oldest native ceremonial chamber in the country. Nearby are the Cornfield Mound, prehistoric trenches, the Greater and Lesser Temple Mounds, which were apparently topped originally by wooden structures likely used for religious ceremonials, and the Funeral Mound, where more than 100 burials have been uncovered.
Staircases lead to the tops of both Temple Mounds, from which visitors experience panoramic views of the village site and the surrounding countryside. Near the Temple Mounds is also the location of an English trading post that was established about 1690 to trade with the numerous Creeks who had settled nearby.
Restored interior of Ocmulgee's Earth Lodge, America's oldest ceremonial chamber
Great Temple Mound
Walnut Creek Wetlands
2. April 2013 22:58
National Prisoner of War Museum
One of the most moving of NPS sites commemorates the infamous Confederate Civil War prison camp at Andersonville, officially known as Camp Sumter, which is located 26 miles west of I-75 Exit 127. During the scant 14 months that the camp existed more than 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned here, 13,000 of which died from disease, malnutrition or exposure.
Although camp was originally designed to house 10,000 prisoners, the pen was enlarged from 16.5 to 26.5 acres in June 1864. During the following month, a sergeant of the 9th Ohio Cavalry wrote in his diary “to describe this hell on Earth where it takes seven of its occupants to make a Shadow.”
In late 1890, the site was purchased by the Georgia Department of a Union veterans’ organization, the Grand Army of the Republic. The prison site was donated to the people of the U.S. in 1910, until it became a unit of the National Park Service in 1971.
Today, the prison site includes walking and driving tours, a historic cemetery, many state monuments and the extensive National Prisoner of War Museum. Both an orientation film and the museum detail the ordeals facing American POWs throughout the history of the nation.
"Shebangs" (prisoner shelters) and stockade
Andersonville National Cemetery
2. April 2013 22:55
Visitor Center exhibits in former Plains High School
Since so many motorcoaches will travel the I-75 route through Georgia, it is important to know a few stops along the way that will add to your group’s experience. The charming community of Plains, birthplace of our 39th President, is about 36 miles west off I-75 Exits 112 or 109.
This small town where Jimmy Carter grew up still preserves many of the landmarks of Carter’s childhood and early political career at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. The former Plains High School, attended by both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, serves today as the park’s museum and visitor center.
Only two blocks away is the Plains Business District where one can find the Golden Peanut Company (formerly the Carter Warehouse), the Plains 1888 Railroad Depot, which has been restored to its appearance as Carter’s 1976 campaign headquarters, and brother Billy’s Phillips 66 Service Station. Nearby in town are the Plains Baptist Church, which the Carters attended, as well as Public Housing Unit 9-A, where they lived for a year when Jimmy returned from the Navy in 1953.
Groups can also visit the Lebanon Cemetery, site of the Carter family burial plot and the Maranatha Baptist Church, where Jimmy Carter (now at the age of 89) still teaches Sunday School whenever he is in town. Schedules of when the former president will be teaching the class are posted prominently around town, and all are welcome to attend.
No trip to Plains will be complete without touring the lovingly maintained Carter Boyhood Farm and Home as it provides a fascinating look into the president’s formative years.
Even though I am not a religion person myself, I find it impossible not to have the deepest respect for the Carters, who have truly lived their faith, represented the best our country can offer, and transcended politics through tireless commitments to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. I found a visit to their little town to be not only a trip back to an America that seemingly has all but disappeared, but also an uplifting and joyous experience.
I’ll wager that you and your group members will have similar reactions.
Plains business district
Plains Depot, restored to the appearance of 1976 Carter campaign headquarters
Jimmy Carter Boyhood Home and Farm