Jefferson Davis site is switching hands - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Jefferson Davis site is switching hands

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

IRWINVILLE, GA (WALB) - It's a gray day in Irwinville. Given the history here, maybe the color of the sky is appropriate. Because this is the place where the leader of the "gray" side in the War Between the States spent his last night as a free man.

"When you go out to the monument, you're actually standing where he camped," said Paul Bradshaw of the Jefferson Davis State historic Site.

Over the years, the site of the capture has been under different management.

"The state ran it for several years and then the county took it over in 1977, most recently and ran it for about 20 years, until 1997 when the state re-acquired the property," said Bradshaw.

Now there's a museum with memorabilia from the war and Reconstruction periods. There's a playground. There's a short trail. There's a pavilion for events that can hold up to 100 people. And this is also a popular spot for weddings, according to Bradshaw.

"Everybody wants to have their pictures taken and do the ceremony right in front of the museum, you know the big white columns. It looks like an antebellum type home."

But like everywhere else in state government these days, times are tough.

"The Department had probably close to 40% of its operating budget removed," Bradshaw said.

And the axe came down hard in Irwinville.  With the state budget cutbacks it looked like this museum might got the way of the Confederacy itself. But, then, one group came riding to the rescue.

That group was the Irwin County Commission. When they heard about the closing, they knew that they couldn't just stand by and let it happen.

"The Commissioners are ready to do what they need to do," said Joey Whitley, the Irwin County Commission Chair.

And once the public heard what was happening, their response was immediate as well.

"The phone went to ringing as people wanted to know what can we do to keep the park in Irwin County. It's a big part of the history of Irwin County," said Whitley.

While it will cost some money to run the site, the county commissioners feel that it's worth it.

"Most of the time when you bring people off of the interstate or any part of the commute that's actually coming to visit, they will spend dollars which is good for our economy," said Whitley.

Now that Irwin County is about to take control, they're hoping to keep it open for many years to come. So that the lessons taught here will not be forgotten.

The park is scheduled to change hands on June 16th.

All the artifacts in the museum are staying put and pavilion rentals that have already been booked are being honored.

On June 11th at 7 p.m. there will be a public forum in the courtroom at the Irwin County Courthouse in Ocilla to discuss the future plans for the park.

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