Liberty Independent Troop Corporation members have begun taking steps toward establishing an armory museum. However, they must first collect historical artifacts and properly display and store items that reflect the Army National Guard’s long history here in Liberty County.
“We have a continuous recorded history since 1799,” said Wayne Stewart, troop president. “The troop corporation owns the property around what is now the armory. We bought 50 acres in 1902.”
Stewart said the troop sold land to the county on which the present recreation department office now stands.
“The property around the ball fields belongs to the troop and is leased to the county for recreational activities,” he said. “Behind the armory building, several acres are leased to the Boy Scouts of America Troop 500.”
Stewart said the troop currently does not have a room in which to properly maintain and display historical artifacts. He and other troop members are searching for items such as trophies, uniforms and photographs. They hope to contact people who served in the National Guard unit in Hinesville.
“There are some items that the Midway Museum has that relates to the troop,” Stewart said.
Stewart was assigned to the local guard unit as a chief warrant officer. He worked out of the armory until he retired about 24 years ago.
“The unit’s current designation is Company B, 348th Support Battalion,” he said.
In a historical timeline Stewart prepared, the troop was first organized as a Georgia Militia unit on Sept. 12, 1788. The troop later was “mustered into confederate service on Oct. 8, 1861, at Sunbury as Capt. W.L. Walthour’s company, the 1st Battalion, Georgia Calvary,” Stewart wrote.
Through countless reorganizations and re-designations the unit fought for the South in the Civil War, served the U.S. in World War I and fought in the Pacific theater in World War II. Stewart lists the East Indies, Papua, New Guinea and Luzon as places where the Hinesville-based National Guard unit was sent nearly 70 years ago.
Stewart said he has approached the Liberty County Board of Commissioners about the troop’s preservation efforts, and spoke to Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis and Keep Liberty County Beautiful Executive Director Sara Swida to enlist their agencies’ support.
“I met with Mr. Stewart several times during the last six months regarding the troop’s desire to develop their historical collection and establish a physical presence for the Liberty Independent Troop,” Davis said. “The HDDA’s Board of Directors was excited to learn of the group’s effort to further develop the collection and establish a museum in which to house and showcase the collection. Although we have not been able to assist in tangible way as of yet, we have been able to engage the attention of partnering organizations and individuals who are better positioned for some of the (troop’s) immediate needs. HDDA anticipates being more directly involved in the future as development plans ensue. At this time we have identified a few possible resources for funding. However, the funds require local matching funds, so local support is extremely important in all areas of this very worthy project.”
“Grants have been mentioned in conversations, along with the possibility of using SPLOST funds and of course private donations,” Stewart said.
The troop president said his organization is also looking at potential locations in and around Hinesville that might be suitable for a museum. For now, the troop intends to beautify the area around the armory, he said. That’s where Keep Liberty Beautiful comes in, Stewart said.
“I think the armory has great significance for our community and particularly for the many individuals and their families who have been affiliated with the National Guard over the years,” Swida said. “What we will be doing is helping develop a plan to improve the landscape and visual appearance of the lawn and entry area for the (armory) building. We are currently discussing improvements needed to enhance the front and to make the location more visually appealing as well as low maintenance. Once the plans are formulated and the supplies procured for the projects, we will help coordinate some volunteer days to implement the outdoor projects. Our hope is that most of the labor for these efforts can be taken care of by local volunteers and partners to help keep the costs minimal.”
For more information, call 876-3831.