On Sunday, November 29, 1959, the Midway Colonial Museum officially opened its doors with a grand dedication ceremony.
Crowds gathered under the ancient Live Oaks and Magnolias to hear how the culmination of a dream came to fruition. Presiding at the ceremony was the Hon. Alexander A. Lawrence, a member of the Georgia Historical Commission.
Following an invocation by Rev. David E. Boozer of the Flemington Presbyterian Church, the Hon. Shelby Myrick, Jr., Chairman of the Midway Church Board of Selectmen, gave the welcome address. Hon. Joseph B. Cummings, Chairman of the Georgia Historical Commission, then presented the Midway Museum.
Special guests were introduced and the various groups and organizations that helped the museum become a reality were recognized. Secretary of State Ben W. Fortson, Jr., spoke of “Midway, Cradle of Liberty.”
The 80th Army Band of Fort Stewart played” Faith of our Fathers” and the ceremony came to a close with a benediction by Dr. T. Layton Fraser of Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina.
In 1946 two groups of women, the St. John’s Parish Daughters of the American Colonists and the Liberty County United Daughters of the Confederacy, came together to plan on how they would raise enough money to build the first Colonial museum in Georgia. They created the Midway Museum, Inc.
These women were descendants of the settlers who migrated from Dorchester, South Carolina during the years 1752-1771. These settlers were rice planters who had depleted their soil and needed more land. They found the marshes and swamps of what was then St. John’s Parish perfect for their needs.
When the last group arrived there were 350 settlers. The eventually formed the Midway Church and Society. These two groups of women wanted a place to preserve all the treasures and antiques they had inherited from these ancestors and so began the task of earning the funds for first the land and then the building itself.
It became a state and national project with money coming from all over.
In 1958 Governor Marvin Griffin set aside $50,000 in state funds for the building project. The Georgia Historical Society then hired an architect from Atlanta, Thomas Little, to design the project and they were on their way.
Using pictures from the old Richboro Inn he created an authentic 18th century Planters Plain Raised Cottage typical of what was built in that time period in St. John’s Parish.
Everything was authentic from the square nails used on the random width pine boards, to the moldings, the bannisters on the stairs, even the particular color green so common in the early days. It consisted of parlor, music room and dining room on the second floor and a meeting room, kitchen and restrooms on the ground floor.
The third floor was unfinished but would eventually have a Planters Bedroom and a Children’s Room. Rooms were filled with 18th Century English and American made furniture, china, maps , a huge Rosewood piano, a Hepplewhite Secretary, quilts, clothing, porcelain dolls and even the Communion Service from the Midway Congregational Church and a settee from Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.
Civil War memorabilia such as a confederate officer’s saber and epilates, a confederate battle flag and much more were also included. Eventually, through the generosity of the state, an outdoor colonial kitchen was created with authentic kitchen tools and a working fireplace.
Today the museum is bursting with wonderful finds that have come in over the years. Recently the museum added a wonderful collection from the Charles Colcock Jones Foundation.
There is a research room where people can come to look up ancestors and sometimes find ones they never knew about.
It is filled with documents and family trees. There is also a book store with something for anyone interested in history.
Throughout the year the Midway Museum offers many things to the public.
There is a Cemetery Tour in October complete with reenactors portraying some of those souls buried there.
A Christmas Tea is held in December in the Garden Room of the Museum and includes a tour.
And “Night at the Midway Museum”, first introduced this year, features a wine tasting and a special tour where famous people from the Midway past come to life in the various rooms. The Garden Room is also available for weddings, parties and meetings. Celebrated authors such as Erskine Clarke have been invited for book signings. And private tours of the museum and cemetery are available, with advanced notice, for schools and organizations.
Visit the Midway Colonial Museum, Georgia’s first and only Colonial Museum, and help celebrate its 60th Birthday. Step inside and go back in time and learn the amazing history of Liberty County.
You will not be disappointed.