Many who are products of the American public school system can proudly claim to have received a wonderful education. However, there are typically holes in that education too. Holes that travel can fill. Unfortunately, American History curricula often educates students on the same half dozen people, places and battles from each era. When in search of more unique educational and well-rounded information, look no further than the American south. The region is chock full of hidden history from the Shenandoah Valley to New Orleans and everything in between.
Did you know that significant battles of the American Revolution occurred outside New England?
Quaker Meadows Cemetery in Morganton, North Carolina is run by the local historical society. Members of that foundation offer guided tours by appointment of this serene, hilltop cemetery that is the final resting place of a whopping 10 Revolutionary War patriots. Expand your knowledge of the American Revolution beyond the confines of New England by touring this site. Many of the men and women buried here fought in the battle of King’s Mountain, which is widely regarded as a turning point for the Revolutionary War in the South. Several hundred patriots gathered in Morganton on a local farm before marching into battle the next day. Those who survived, returned to Morganton to live out the rest of their days and have been buried with stirring words, namely “patriot” on their headstones.
Did you know that America relied heavily on man-made canals to transport goods in the 1800’s?
Start your education at the Columbia Riverfront Park and Historic Canal in Columbia, South Carolina. Walking or running the flat, four-mile, paved trail will also augment your knowledge of the foundations of American industry. The trail is constructed on the levee between the historic canal and the Broad River. Columbia Canal, which dates back to 1824, was constructed to bypass the rocks and rapids of the Saluda, Broad and Congaree Rivers. This made trade between the upcountry farms and the Port of Charleston easier. People transported corn, wheat, livestock, and of course, “King Cotton” via the canal. In the 1890’s, the canal was reconstructed to provide water for hydroelectric generation. It powered the first mill in the world to run completely on hydroelectric power.
Did you know that early settlers did not typically raise pigs on their farms?
Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville, Florida re-creates 1800’s farm life and teaches visitors factoids like why farmers did not always raise hogs. Early settlers, especially in the South, would trap small wild pigs and “notch their ears”. Each family had a unique notched pattern, similar to a cattle brand, with which they marked the animals. Farmers would then release the pigs into the wild to fatten up naturally. They baited them back in the Fall. Once re-captured, the animals would be slaughtered in preparation for the winter. Pigs would provide nourishment for a farmer’s family throughout the winter season. Make this fascinating living history farm a stop on your Florida itinerary.
Did you know the third oldest Jewish congregation in America is in the South?
Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, Georgia was founded in 1733 by mostly Spanish and Portuguese immigrants. Their current sanctuary was built in 1878 and is a very rare example of gothic architecture being used on a synagogue. Conde Nast Traveler even named it one of the top 15 most beautiful synagogues in the world. If New York and Ellis Island come to mind when you think Jewish culture arriving in America, Savannah is definitely going to impress you.
Did you know that Georgia has Byzantine and Romanesque architecture to rival any in Europe?
Sacred Heart Cultural Center in Augusta, Georgia gives visitors another reason besides golf to visit this community. The deconsecrated Catholic church dates back to 1897 and took over a decade to restore. The building has stained glass windows similar to those in Notre Dame in Paris and boasts 15 different styles of brickwork, most of which, can no longer be re-created because the techniques died out among brick layers generations ago. Today an enthusiastic non-profit group offers audio tours for a mere $5.00.
The American South, like all other regions of this nation, has played an important role in shaping lives, destinies and the cultural fabric of America. Travelers overlook the fascinating locales that are here to explore at their own peril. Spend a day at any one of these sites to shatter stereotypes, expand your education on how the nation was founded and dive deep into hidden history.
Speaking of hidden history, read all about The Cherokee Nation and The Great Smoky Mountains.