Thursday, August 3, 2023

Unsung Heroes - Our Local Museums

When was the last time you visited a hometown historical museum? Did you ever wonder where the funding comes from or who keeps them running? If it were not for generous individuals with a love of history, who would preserve the past? To the men and women (and sometimes children) that give of their time, energy, and resources to impart your combined knowledge, I for one am grateful.

One such venue, the Tabor House in Ellijay, Georgia recently 
hosted an Open House. Volunteers dressed in period clothing, and shared information about life in bygone times. From an explanation of the history of Cherokee in Georgia to a demonstration by two enthusiastic young children about toys of the time, it was an eye-opening event. I learned bits and pieces about the area and era that I had never heard of before. I was able to envision what life was like in the mountains of Georgia in the late 19th/early 20th century. 

The Tabor family and its many branches inhabited Gilmer County from near its inception. Early Tabors built a home near the center of Ellijay. They supported the local Oakwood Academy private school. Before government funded public schools, families paid for their children to attend classes. Neat tidbit, the first woman to graduate college in Gilmer County emanated from Oakwood Academy. Miss Emma Tabor attended Wesleyan College and received her degree in 1889. 

One descendant, Herbert, was known as “Tall Tabor.” A graduate of Young Harris College, Herbert began a career in banking and later founded the first insurance company in the mountains. With a reputation of honesty, he served his local community. He was the father of the Mountain Fair that began in 1950. 

A serious liver condition sent Herbert to the hospital. Unable to work or walk, he read about hydroponic gardening. A newspaper article titled, “One Man’s Garden Started in a Bottle… at Hospital,” explains how Herbert inquired of the local dentist to drill holes in glass bottles. He hung these receptacles on his front porch (see photo above) to grow vegetables. A lengthy convalescence helped Herbert expand his knowledge and produce. The article exclaims of his mammoth, juicy tomatoes, and yard squash. Yes, thirty-six inches long! His hobby became a passion, and he eventually took his prized produce to the Mountain Fair.

This son of an Ordinary, Judge Thomas Tabor, was known for his storytelling prowess. While healthy, he made rounds to the local stores and sat at the "Liar's bench" outside the courthouse. He gathered gossip and tall tales to share at future gatherings. He could weave a yarn with the best of them is part of his legacy.

The Gilmer County Library archives feature a book entitled, The Mountains Within Me, by none other than Zell Miller. The inscription inside this copy reads, "To Herbert Tabor, the most eloquent spokesman our mountains have ever had. Thank you for your friendship. - Zell Miller"

We can imagine this gentleman walking to the hardware and general stores, sitting on his porch, and tending his plants. Can we picture what it was like inside his home? Thanks to those preserving the past, we can get an idea of his daily life.

We step onto the porch, go through the door into the parlor. We look to the tin ceiling tiles and hear the wood floors creak before we even notice the wide and weathered planks. The pipe organ with its hidden bellows rests just beyond in the living room. The kitchen in the early days of this home would have been outside as a separate building to prevent fires. 

One volunteer explained the use of carbide in houses. Much like people have propane tanks to fuel various appliances in their homes today, carbide tanks supplied energy to light the sconces and ceiling light fixtures in some homes of this time.

For our education, a mock kitchen displays wares of the past. A wood burning stove, hand irons, brooms, cast iron pots and pans are a few of the items on display. Canned goods, hand beaters, a grinder and Ball Mason jars flank the shelves.

Narrow stairs lead up to the bedrooms. As feet were noticeably smaller in that period, the depth of these steps is roughly the size of a woman's US size six shoe.

At the top of the stairs the children's bedrooms allow visitors to comprehend a bit more of daily practices. The bed shows why we hear, "Sleep tight." The ropes tied along the pegs were often tightened to keep them taught and support the weight of the people sleeping on the tick (mattress).

There is a "toilet" in the corner. An outhouse did exist on the property. This convenience, however, served a purpose at night. Sears catalogues met needs instead of toilet paper. This I learned long ago on my uncles' farm. However, on this trip to the Tabor House, the docent explained that families in the area used corn cobs as well. That is a fact I did not learn at home or in school. Did you?

There is a room honoring those who served and serve in the United States Armed Forces. Enlightening exhibits in this room give a glimpse into life as a soldier. One item is a bullet used during surgery. In the absence of anesthesia, patients would bite down on an item to bear the pain. One object used was a lead bullet. Hence the phrase, "Bite the bullet." 

Resurrection Morn hangs on the wall. This story is from November 1863 when Rev. Willie Ragland baptized Goodwin of Company A in the Rapidan River. The Northern Army was just across the water. As the Southern soldiers approached the bank, they began to sing the old hymn, "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." The Northern soldiers joined in and sang from across the river. War stopped for a time and peace ensued as one soldier said goodbye to his old body and welcomed in the new through Jesus.

If you would like to visit the Tabor House or support their efforts, the museum is open to the public mid-March to mid-December. 138 Spring Street, Ellijay, GA 20540

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 100 Plans on the app.

Rebecca lives near the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW and FHLCW, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.


  1. I love museums.This was an interesting tour you shared with us. I especially enjoyed the baptism story. And yes, I knew about corn cobs for toilet paper. I had an uncle who stacked them near his outhouse. But he also provided TP. The corncobs no longer held corn and were softer then you might imagine. Still I used the TP. Thanks for sharing your visit to Tabor House.

    1. Hi! Thank you for reading and commenting. Thank you also for the first-hand knowledge. I wondered about the real life application, so to speak.

  2. Thank you for posting today. I really enjoyed your tour and the stories you learned of. My husband and I should take more advantage of local museums.

    1. Connie, thank you for your constant presence here. You are a gift! Hope you enjoy the museums.

  3. I actually have been to museums in both my original hometown and my now hometown, I strongly recommend going to a local hometown museum ASAP. My local museum in my birth state was burned by a protestor about the Franciscan Monks treatment of the Indigenous population. The 300-year church was a historic site on the El Camino Real and one of the 21 missions started by the friar. His statue no longer stands in Los Angeles and many of our historical sites now controversial. Learn about your local history while you can.

    1. So sad to hear of such a loss. No time like the present, to learn about the past.