In the Clark’s Hill region of Georgia, not too far from Augusta, I found the largest man-man lake east of the Mississippi, built by the Army Corps of Engineers. Nearly 72,000 acres of freshwater and 1,200 miles of shoreline grace this area, making it a favored destination for water sports, hunting, and camping.
Here’s the interesting thing about this lake. On the Georgia side, folks call it Clarks Hill Lake- likely because it borders Elijah Clark State Park. But, the opposite shores are in South Carolina, and there the name is J. Strom Thurmond Lake. Oh, how political power prevails. Nonetheless, bass fishing is good on either side.
In the Clark’s Hill area, you’ll find the counties of Columbia, Lincoln, McDuffie, Warren and Wilkes, each with its unpredictable attractions.
In Columbia, I stopped at the International Disc Golf Center, walked around the Augusta Canal headwater gates, visited the Laurel and Hardy Museum. In McDuffie, I saw the hounds on Belle Meade Fox Hunt grounds.
In Warren County, I ogled antique cars at the Ogeechee Car Museum and sipped tea in the tiny town of Jewell, population 35.
In Washington- Wilkes, I toured the historic buildings of Callaway Plantation, the City historical museum and stayed at the 1898 Fitzpatrick Hotel.
While I visited each of these sites, the main purpose of my trip was to attend Lincoln County’s Pioneer Days, held in the Lincoln County Historical Park. During my adventure, I stayed in a woodsy cabin on the grounds of Elijah Clark State Park. The two-bedroom, lakeside lodging came with all the creature comforts one could want. I highly recommend it and the park. Don’t miss the Elijah Clark Cabin, an enchanting replica based on descriptions of the Revolutionary War hero’s home.
The little town of Lincolnton, population around 1,500, hosts an annual event on the third Saturday in November. Pioneer Days attracts over 3,000 attendees who come to taste authentic southern and festival foods, watch period- dressed participants demonstrate old time equipment, and enjoy catching up with neighbors.
You can see corn ground in a 1920’s grist mill, lumber cut at the sawmill, smoked meat in the smokehouse, an animal-run cotton gin, watch demonstrations in the blacksmith shop, and warm up by the fireplace in the 1790 Andrew Jackson Reid Log Cabin. There are antique tractors and engines on display. You can shop for sundries in the 1890’s Country Store, sit at a desk at the 1900’s Salem Schoolhouse and tour the early town’s doctor’s office. There’s also big-old Turpentine still, but they aren’t allowed to run it, and a small Quilt show.
So how did this 3.2 square mile town come to maintain such a grand historical park? The answer is Gary Edwards, President of the Historical Society. He didn’t move mountains, but he did move buildings to their current location, often saving them from destruction. Gary just doesn’t let go of the past.
Festival entertainment? Why, of course. Musical groups perform in the Lewis Family Pavilion and around the park grounds. One of the most popular was this banjo group playing some down home foot stompin music.
One of the favorite parts of my day was getting in line and filling my plate with slow cooked turnip greens, chicken and dumplings, red beans and rice, fried cornbread, fried okra, sausage biscuits and hoe cakes. There are also hot dogs and hamburgers for the little ones. This meal is honest southern cooking prepared by the Lincolnton ladies, and it is beyond satisfying and yummy.
Dessert comes out of another tent, and you better get in line early because demand is high Fresh apple fritters are the draw and ingredients run out about 2:00 in the afternoon. Lip-smacking delicious in my book.
If you would like to immerse yourself in a little town with tremendous spirit, make plans to attend Pioneer Days. And, even better— the event is free.