Published on November 1st, 2019 | by Sarah Kirsch0
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” ~Michael Crichton
Two years ago, when my kids were in the American History portion of the curriculum we use for school, it was suggested that we take a trip to see Westville, a living history village of the deep South in the 19th century located in Lumpkin, Georgia…a labor of love started by John Word West. Sadly, we found out that it had been closed, all the buildings were in the process of being moved, and it would not be done for quite some time.
Fast forward to Fall break this year. I had grand plans that were horribly dashed…and then we were kicking around ideas and remembered Westville. With a little digging we found out that though it wasn’t completely finished, it had reopened in Columbus in late June! Hooray! Lunches packed, the 9 of us piled into our friend’s giant white van, AKA the Party Bus (homeschoolers, ya’ll), and set out to go back in time. Columbus is such an EASY day trip from our area. With Ft. Benning being so close, there is a plethora of awesome outdoor activities and a TON of cool museums. With Westville as our destination we hit the road.
When I say that it is an experience from the minute you arrive, I mean it. After purchasing tickets from their helpful staff and getting our maps, we set out down the trail to the village. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day, and as we rounded the corner of the trail, we see this beautiful cluster of 19th century buildings set up just like they would have looked during their time. Even my 15-year-old said “Woah.” (Seriously)
Our first stop was at the center of the village, the Courthouse. Currently still under construction, it houses a sort of “coming soon” exhibit, which is fantastic. As of now there are 17 buildings located there, 14 that are open to the guests, and there are plans to move the rest of the village (14 more buildings) as well, that includes a Pioneer Village and a section from the Antebellum period.
The REAL treasures of this establishment are their volunteers; they are all ages and from all stages of life. From young hipsters finding meaning in something real, to older empty nesters who have found a passion for new skills and for teaching people to appreciate the beauty of the past. All working together to make the village historically accurate and allow guests to experience so many of the everyday tasks. Their costumes are historically accurate, and many of them are made by the volunteers themselves. Leather crafted shoes are worn, made on site. Furniture, bedding, metalworks…painstakingly handcrafted by their staff. Not only that, but each of these trades have open shops that we could visit and watch – most even jump in and help or touch components as they were being worked. We asked so many questions and were met with crazy informative, knowledgeable answers that the kids could understand. (I know, because I quizzed them with money as a prize in the gift shop…hey, whatever works.)
Our kids had a day FULL of leatherworking, cotton carding and quilting, dressmaking, blacksmithing, woodworking, and a lesson in the fine art of Cat’s Cradle…disconnecting them from the digital world for an entire day. (Ok, that may be untrue…my daughter Youtubed Cat’s Cradle shapes the minute she got home…and practiced on her yarn loop for the rest of the evening…win.)
I have to believe that Mr. West was onto something. You cannot know where you are going until you know where you have come from. I still have not figured out why in this digital time we choose to dissociate our past and all the richness that it can offer for this cold, virtual reality that leaves you wanting. But, it is places like Westville, and more locally, Landmark Park, that allow a window to the past, good and bad, reminding us of where we have come from and the grit and ingenuity of the Southern people.
3557 S Lumpkin Rd
Columbus, Ga. 31903
Beaver Moon Harvest Fest – November 2 11am-4pm
There will be vendors, exhibits, interpreters, food and crafts!
They are also planning 3 weeks of Christmas! Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to find out details! You won’t want to miss it!