Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ancestral Homelands: Upson County, Georgia

This largely rural county is about 65 miles south of Atlanta--close enough to be tugged out of its agrarian orbit by the gravitational pull of the metro area's outer suburbs. I think in about 10 years, it'll be captured by the urban galaxy, just as nearby Clayton and Henry counties already have been. As close as it is to Atlanta, the drive down U.S. 19 takes forever because of the traffic lights about every mile through the outer suburbs.

Today, it's oppressively hot, but thankfully, only mildly (65%) humid. Crossing from Pike County, I was struck first by the number of churches. Every variety of Christian church and Upson County's got two of 'em. A number of the names of the churches I recognize from my research. The county has a population of just over 27,500, with a median household income of about $31,000, far below the national average of $42,000, according to 2000 federal census data. Thomaston is the county seat, population about 9,500.

I head first to the Thomaston-Upson Archives, near downtown Thomaston. The Archives is located in an historic building across from the Government Complex. The archives is a joint project of the city and county governments and the Upson County Historical Society. The place is under the direction of an historian-archivist named Penny Cliff, assisted by a small cohort of staff [two] and volunteers [seems like everybody else in town]. Cliff is a highly knowledgeable, professionally demeanored but exceedingly enthusiastic director, who is English by birth. She greets visitors warmly and the locals appear to have developed a strong affection for her.

The Archives seem to have everything there is to know about Upson County history. But sometimes, it's what you don't find that speaks volumes.

Next: Silence Is Golden

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