A Fair at Tullie's Farm

Trip Start Mar 07, 1997
Trip End Dec 25, 1998

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Flag of United States  , Georgia
Friday, November 14, 1997

Go with me? Sherman missed the Tullie Smith Farm in Atlanta. But we won't miss it in our trek southward this weekend. The farm is part of the Atlanta History Center, one of the country's largest history museums.

Atlanta is relatively new, as cities go - it was a mere railroad stop in 1837. But its role in the Civil War and Reconstruction, and its status as state capital and major boomtown make it a fascinating city to study.

Much has been preserved in the easily accessible Buckhead neighborhood - there's the museum itself, and McElreath Hall, which contains the state's biggest exhibits on the Civil War. Also in the complex is Swan House, an elegant mansion dating from 1928.

And then there's the farm. Robert Smith built the house in 1840; Tullie was the last member of the family to live there in 1967. Robert was a yeoman farmer who owned 11 slaves and 800 acres. He had cattle and hogs and grew mostly food and fodder, working alongside his slaves in the field. Yeoman farms of the period were more common that the southern plantations we picture.

This is an especially fine weekend to visit, because the farm is hosting a folk arts fair. And this fair has Gandy dancing! Gandy dancer songs created the rhythm railroad men worked by - a call and response chant that allowed them to pull in unison as they straightened sections of track. Buck Burley will be describing it for us; he actually was a caller on a workgang.

The fair focuses on West African traditions such as cane carving. Pete Dilbert's mahogany canes, decorated with human and reptile images, resemble the "authority staffs" which once served ceremonial purposes.

The technique of sweetgrass basket making was brought to the south over 300 years ago, and Annie Scott learned it from her mother. Watch the weaving of these beautiful baskets which once were used for processing rice.

Another traditional craft at the fair is the most famous form of old-style pottery, the face jug. Coils of clay are fired in an open pit and modeled with figures of human heads and animal shapes.

Round out the fun with the sweet harmonies of gospel music; and of course, food. Open-hearth cooking demonstrations and a program on the African connection in southern foods appeal to the cornbread-lover in all of us. See you there.

Atlanta History Center, W Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta, Georgia
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