PINE MOUNTAIN — Amid giant pine trees and wild azaleas deep in the forests of Callaway Gardens stands carefully laid stones from an old chimney. Nearby, guests walk around large, flat rocks, which are the remnants of a foundation for an old homestead that was home to hardworking farmers more than a century ago.
Hikes led by local archaeologists from Southern Research, Historic Preservation Consultants Inc. give guests at the gardens the opportunity to visit the ruins of the old homes. The owners of Southern Research, Kay and Dean Wood, found the sites after using maps from 1906 to locate where remains of old homesteads could still be viewed.
The guides lead participants to collapsed ruins and abandoned artifacts of old farm houses in Pine Mountain. Hikers follow along a scenic route through a forest with blooming wildflowers, century-old trees and babbling brooks.
“These homesteads are a good way for people to look back in time over a century ago and see how people around this area lived and farmed,” said Susanne Newberry, laboratory technician and archaeologist.
Newberry said that the two old home sites found by the Woods were once owned by the Goodman family who farmed the area during the 1800s.
Hikers begin the tour by visiting an old cemetery near the Callaway Discovery Center. Newberry leads the hike with her colleague, Misty Dunn, who is also a staff archaeologist with Southern Research.
“Some of our hikers have found artifacts at the old homesteads,” said Dunn. “We encourage them to look for things. We haven’t done metal detecting around much of the sites, so there’s lots of things that have yet to be uncovered.”
Newberry explained how homes used to be built and said that the landscape around this area looks vastly different than it did a century ago.
“All of the land around here was farmland, which means there were very little forested areas,” said Newberry. “All of what was around the old homesteads was fields and farmland. It was very open.”
Dunn and Newberry explain what life was like for farmers during the time period that people lived at the old homestead. In addition to learning about the history of those who lived in what is now Callaway Gardens, hikers will also learn little-known facts about the beginning of Callaway Gardens and how it was founded.
At the end of the hike, participants will visit what is believed to be the remains of an old gold mine operation.
“We talked to one older gentlemen, and he told us that his grandfather took him to see the old gold mines when he was a child,” said Newberry. “The area that the man described was right around here.”
The 1-mile hike is considered suitable for ages 12 and older and participants are advised to wear sturdy walking shoes and bring drinking water and insect repellent.
The two remaining hikes will start at the Callaway Discovery Center on July 21 and 28 at 9:30 a.m. The guides will begin with a quick historical overview that will include tips on how read the land to identify archaeologically significant sites. The group will return to the Callaway Discovery Center by 12:30 p.m.
Participation is free, but requires admission to Callaway Gardens. Anyone seeking more information on participating may contact the Callaway Gardens education department at 1-855-546-9740 or [email protected]
Donny Karr is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.