“What kind of table is that old one with all the junk on top of it?” the lady asked her mother-in-law.
She was looking out the kitchen door at an old shed in the backyard. She could see old tea kettles, smoothing irons, cast-iron pots and skillets and other old items tossed on top of the table. Even the chickens found it to be a favorite roosting place at night.
“Why, that is just an old table that had been thrown away that once belonged to John Elliott,” said the mother-in-law, referring to the former president of the Provincial Congress in Savannah in 1775 and U.S. senator. “No one wanted it so we just put it out there and piled junk on it.”
Today, that beautiful table with banquet ends can be seen in the Midway Museum. When the young woman looked out and saw the thrown-away table, she began dreaming of a place to protect and keep these historic pieces for future generations. The lady was Martha Randolph Stevens — a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson — who became the first president of the Midway Museum. Meredith Devendorf told me this story.
The Midway Museum was completed and officially dedicated Nov. 29, 1959. Its completion was the culmination of a dream by a number of Liberty Countians that began in 1946. Midway Museum Inc. was formed from the memberships of the St. John’s Parish, Daughters of the American Colonists and the Liberty County Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy. It later was adopted as a state and national project of the DAC, and funds were raised throughout the United States. In 1958, Gov. Marvin Griffin allocated $50,000 in state funds for construction. An old inn in Riceboro, of which pictures have been preserved, was used as the model for the colonial museum.
M. F. Clark, editor of the Liberty County Herald, published a great edition for the opening of the museum. He stated, “The Midway Colonial Museum is the first colonial one in the state of Georgia, and it is fitting that it should be located here. Liberty County is proud of her history, and now after many years of untiring work by so many, her deeds are now placed together under one roof.” It is from this edition that I gleaned much of my information.
Items donated to the museum are too numerous to name, but I will mention a few. A huge house key from the supposed home of Button Gwinnett on St. Catherines Island is in a simple frame on a mat of yellow velvet. The foot warmer in the fireplace dates to 1710. A large drop-leaf table and brass candlesticks from the Spaulding family are particularly interesting. Still beautiful is a china tea pot from the famous scientist family, the LeContes. The Midway Congregational Church’s original pewter collection plate is among the mementoes. Dr. Lyman Hall’s pistol is on display.
Early firearms and Confederate Cavalry sabers vie for interest with rare books and maps. A gold saber, handsomely engraved and used by a Liberty County native throughout the Civil War, is in this collection. Old plantation implements and kitchen utensils of an era long gone are grouped around the fireplace. A spoon used by Mrs. Herbert L. Stacy Sr.’s great-grandfather is on display. The Liberty Independent Troop’s original flag that was presented to them in 1874 is in the museum. There is a painting done by Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. A little settee came from the Thomas Jefferson home. There is an old log book that belonged to C. C. Jones of “The Children of Pride.” There is an iron salt vat in the backyard and a bell that came from the Maxwellton Plantation. The old kitchen in the backyard is very interesting to explore. There are hundreds more very interesting items in the museum that you will have to go and see for yourself.
The Christmas season is a great time to visit. Museum Executive Director Diane Kroell and Della Martin will be proud to give you a tour. Both are history lovers and doing a great job organizing and showcasing the valuable historical treasures.