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Midway Museum needs help preserving history
Liberty lore
The Midway Museum soon after it was dedicated in 1959
“What kind of table is that old one with all the junk on top of it?” the young lady asked her mother-in-law as she looked on their back porch. She could see an old tea kettle, a smoothing iron, iron pots and skillets and other old items.
“Why, that is just an old table that has been put out there that once belonged to John Elliott. He was born in Liberty County in 1773, graduated from Yale University in 1794 and became a U.S. senator from Georgia, serving from 1819 to 1825. It was so big that no one had room for it so we just put it there. At least the chickens have a nice place to roost and they seem to love it. You can tell by the deposits!”
Today, that beautiful table with banquet ends that can seat about 20 can be seen in the Midway Museum. When the young woman looked out and saw the table she began dreaming of a place to protect and keep these pieces of history for future generations. That lady was Martha Jefferson Randolph.
The museum was completed and officially dedicated on Sunday, Nov. 29, 1959. The 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 was later adopted as a state and national project of the Daughters of the American Colonists and funds were raised throughout the United States.
The seven-acre site was purchased in 1946. Gov. Marvin Griffin, at the request of the group, allocated $50,000 in state funds for construction in 1958. An old inn in Riceboro, of which pictures have been preserved, was used as the model.
The Liberty County Herald printed one of the finest supplements I have seen for the museum opening. It was the Special Museum-Historical Edition and has all the history of the museum and other history relating to Midway and Liberty County. My copy is brown with age and coming apart at the seams. It has 28, 11x16 pages filled with pictures, information and congratulations from the area.
Herald editor M.F. Clark writes, “It is with great pride that we publish this historical museum edition concerning the opening of the Midway Colonial Museum. Liberty County is certainly indebted to her people for creating a museum here so the world may forever look back into the past of our great county. Liberty County’s history is tremendous. She boasts two signers of the Declaration of Independence, many men and women who played a part in making this country a free land and above all she boasts the name, LIBERTY. It was here on these grounds that liberty was created. She sent many men into the wars, never to return. She fought for her freedom as well as the freedom of the United States. She has given birth to senators, congressmen, doctors, lawyers, generals, professors, scientists, ministers and many more such men who worked on and on in the name of liberty...
Items donated to the museum are too numerous to name but I will mention a few. A huge house key from the plantation home of Button Gwinnett on St. Catherine’s Island is in a simple frame placed on a mat of yellow velvet. The pistol that belonged to Dr. Lyman Hall is on display. The footwarmer in the fireplace dates back to 1710. A large dropleaf table and brass candlesticks from the Spaulding family are particularly interesting. Still beautiful is a china tea pot from the family of scientists, the LeContes.
Early firearms and Confederate calvary sabers vie for interest with rare, old books and maps. 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. There is a settee from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. A log book that belonged to the Rev. C.C. Jones can be seen. The original key to the Midway Church in 1792 is hanging in the museum. A set of musical glasses that date back to 1800 from England can be heard played by curator Joann Clark.
An insurance executive, Bob Ward, who visits my office occasionally, told me his great-grandfather, Enoch B. Daniel’s Confederate uniform was donated to the museum.
The old plantation bell on the grounds behind the museum is the bell from old Maxwelton Plantation. Before his death, the late Sheriff Paul Sikes, to whom the bell belonged, said he wanted to give the bell to the museum and it was delivered by his son, Sheriff R. V. Sikes. The huge cast iron salt cookers are from there too.
The outside kitchen is set up as it was years ago on the plantation. Many pieces of antique cookware can be seen.
The landscaped yard is filled with many varieties of plants as were common years ago. A nature trail meanders through the woods. Benches and picnic tables scattered about invite you to enjoy a picnic lunch or just rest and observe nature.
Today, the Midway Museum is in dire financial need. There are no state or county funds that support it. The museum needs the support of the citizens in Liberty County. If you and your family have not visited, please take time and enjoy it. The entrance is only $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and $2 for children. Groups get discounts. It is closed on Mondays and open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays it is open from 2-4 p.m.
After visiting the museum and the gift shop stocked with many things unique to this area as well as most of the local history books, take time to visit the historic Midway Church using a large key to unlock the door. Go across the street and wander through the old graveyard that has over 1,200 buried in it. Take time to read the inscriptions on the monuments. Much history is buried there.
Anyone can become a museum member by paying the $10 dues. Donations are solicited and needed. If anyone knows about a grant that can be applied for or other funds that may be available, contact the museum. If things do not change, the Midway Museum may cease to exist.
This is the largest calling card to Liberty County history. Let’s not stand by and lose something that is priceless and that so many have donated money, time, hard work and items for the benefit of preserving the history of Liberty County!
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