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Back when Liberty celebrated its 200th birthday
Liberty lore
Margie Love
Margie Love is a longtime Courier columnist, who writes about area history. - photo by File photo

Liberty County celebrated its 200th birthday for four days ending with services at the old Midway Church on Sunday, July 4, 1976.

Nicky Clark, editor of The Liberty County Herald, wrote a great article about the events. Everyone who participated in the activities that the Liberty Festival ’76 Committee offered, enjoyed them.

Here’s Clark’s story:

"Beginning Thursday morning at 8 a.m. with a boat ride to St. Catherines Island and culminating with one of the most appropriate programs at the Midway Church on Sunday morning, I witnessed Liberty countians enjoying themselves in Liberty County. I took the 8 a.m. boat ride to the island on Thursday, the first one offered. On the trip were about 50 people, most of which had never stepped foot on the island. Many had lived here since birth but had never been on the island. I felt good about the fact the boat tour was provided and that these Liberty countians took advantage. Also, on the boat cruise was Laura Devendorff of Springfield Plantation, the originator of the idea for a boat cruise.

Friday was nice. I went to the armory and observed Mrs. Charles Patterson making lye soap. I saw the display that Pete Clark and Fred Ginter had worked on. They had accumulated a lot of old farm machinery to use in their very informative display. I also looked at most of the displays and couldn’t get out without buying my wife a ring from one of the vendors. I bought a silver Liberty County medal, a real keepsake and one that I’m especially proud of. My wife wrote the information that appeared on the back of the Liberty County bicentennial commemorative medals.

Friday night was the boat cruise and what an evening trip it was. About 155 people took advantage of the evening cruise that left Colonels Island Marina at 8 p.m. and returned after cruising along St. Catherines Island sometime around 11 p.m.. I heard a lot of talk about people not being aware of the boat ride. If that was the case, then it’s a good thing, because there wasn’t any room for any more passengers on the two decks of the Harbor Queen that night. There was a lot of talk about maybe "doing it again" or getting up "another boat cruise" because this one was so enjoyable. Saturday marked the third day in a row that I had been to St. Catherines Island. I went over in a boat with cousins Jim and Judy Morgan and as always, I had a great time.

Making it back into Hinesville in time for the costume ball, I had to don a wool World War II major’s uniform lent to me by my father-in-law Harry B. Chapman of Ludowici. I wore the uniform until I had my picture made by Earl Elam with the wife for posterity’s sake. Besides, I had promised Kim I’d have a picture made. After changing into something more comfortable, I sat back and watched the evening’s festivities. I was glad that Kim was awarded a prize for her costume of the 1930’s era. And my good buddy Olin Fraser won a silver medal for his cowboy costume. These two medal winners made me really happy and all of the winners looked very good as they took a part and really dressed for the historic occasion. Both bands were good and the attendees really enjoyed the Costume Ball.

Sunday morning was as especially enjoyable occasion. It was so deep in history and held in a place that only seemed too fitting to celebrate the Fourth of July as a Liberty countian. I was at Midway Church in Midway, 200 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, and I was with most of my family. The good Lord couldn’t have given a better day. I’ve got to say that Mr. Olin Fraser, Sr. and my wife, Kim, had charge of this program and I watched for two weeks the nervous anticipation displayed by Kim and the panic when she saw there was no piano as planned when she walked into the Midway Church that morning. She was forced to play the old organ in the church (she had to pump the organ with her feet while playing) and it turned out beautifully. Olin Frazer, Jr. sang and Roger Durham accompanied on slide guitar and guitar during the singing of "Dixie" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." The congregation sang "America." Fleming Martin, III offered prayer. Charles Fraser of Hilton Head Island, S. C., a former Liberty countian, gave the very enjoyable address. Roger Durham read an old copy of the Declaration of Independence and Charles M. Jones, Liberty County attorney and former Majority Whip of the Georgia House of Representatives, offered the benediction.

It was really thrilling to be at Midway on July 4, 1976. There was a very good crowd on hand despite the Sunday activities at all the churches in Liberty and surrounding counties. I went early Sunday morning and walked upstairs all the way to the top where you could climb up the steeple. Sitting down, it was easy to reflect upon the past and I enjoyed those few minutes alone immensely as I listened to my wife nervously practice the organ. People soon began arriving and Charles Fraser and his family were first. Then my brother and his family arrived. Soon the church was filling and my Mother arrived. Then Kim’s family arrived and after the services most of the people attending enjoyed picnic lunches under the old large oaks on the Midway Church grounds.

Two hundred years ago, the people of Liberty County were already nourishing an intense love for Liberty County and this nation. The feeling remains intact today. May it continue to flourish and grow as the United States of America carries on into the third century of existence!"

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