Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dr. Durham’s Herb Walk

The minute I learned about Dr. Lindsey Durham’s “receipts” (prescriptions for cures) I knew I would have liked this man! He practiced “eclectic medicine”, just as I grow an eclectic garden. It’s not quite the same thing – I have no interest in practicing medicine or using my herbs for anything but teas and cooking, but my garden is eclectic because I grow thyme underneath a viburnum, yarrow among the daylilies and sage in front of a fothergilla; there is rosemary next to a rose and others flanking the mailbox. There is no such thing as a flower garden, an herb garden or a hedge of shrubs in my landscape!

Back to Dr. Durham: his grandfather, Abram Durham, came from England (County Durham) and settled in Virginia in 1750, where Lindsey’s father, Samuel Davis Durham was born in 1755. Samuel married Isabel Lindsey in 1781 and, with several others, set out for Georgia the following year.

Read Ellen Whitaker’s “A Brief History of the Life of Dr. Lindsey Durham” in her and Debbie C. Cosgrove’s “Dr. Durham’s Receipts: A 19th Century Physician’s Use of Medicinal Herbs” for more details of this remarkable Georgian’s life and career.

Shortly after turning onto FR 1234 off Macedonia Road, off Georgia Highway 15, halfway between Watkinsville and Greensboro, one arrives at the Scull Shoals Education Center, where Debbie and Bill Cosgrove, with the help of countless volunteers, have established a small replica of Dr. Durham’s 13-acre herb garden.

Debbie Cosgrove (center, in black, outstretched arm) lecturing during Dr. Durham's Herb Walk on November 7, 2010.

Many of the trees, shrubs and flowering plants are labeled and it can be a pleasant Sunday afternoon to go and take a look, particularly in spring, but also in autumn, and especially with Debbie Cosgrove as guide. This is truly a place where the history of eclectic medicine comes to live.

Scull Shoals - Oconee National Forest - Georgia

If history and archeology fascinate you, include a guided tour of Scull Shoals on your itinerary. If you are more of a traditional tourist, however, the site will disappoint you. There is not a lot to see! And there are no creature comforts of any sort.

In early November, an archaeologist walked a small group of us through the site and imparted information about digs that had occurred or were expected to take place in the future. Warehouse ruins in top left.

The old forest has in many places given way to Chinese privet, there is scant evidence of river landings and even the best-preserved structures are, with one exception, not more than small heaps of rocks and bricks.

Warehouse ruins, dating back to 1870

All that's left of what was once the mill manager's or superintendent's large, 3-story house. 

I have now twice visited and will probably go again, but with its lack of facilities and ample presence of mosquitoes and other insects, it’s the “off-the-beaten-path” travelers, along with the history and archeology buffs, who are likely to be the only ones to find this an interesting place to visit.

In late September, author Robert Skarda conducted a tour of the site; warehouse ruins on right.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Remembering History

Often, when I travel the roads of North Georgia, I wonder what this land was like two hundred years ago, not long after white settlers began arriving here from Virginia, the Carolinas and the Georgia coast, before the Trail of Tears and long before the Civil War.

We have some knowledge from William Bartram’s writings.

And more from contemporary writings by authors such as Robert Skarda, whose “Scull Shoals: The Mill Village that Vanished in Old Georgia” recounts a late 18th-early 19th century settlement along the Oconee river in northeast Georgia, including Georgia’s first paper mill. The book is available from Friends of Scull Shoals.

The area around Cleveland, where Loganberry Heritage Farm is located, belonged to the Cherokee nation; the pre-white settlement of Scull Shoals was part of the Creek lands. Unlike the Cherokees, who are an independent tribe, the Creeks were a confederation of tribes who were considered hard to distinguish from one another and whose names were so difficult to pronounce that, it is said, white settlers simply called them “Creeks” because of their location along creeks and small rivers.

The history of North Georgia is colorful, riven by brutal, unconscionable acts, and fascinating for a newcomer to the area.