1 Tank Trip: Ashburn and Turner County

1 Tank Trip: Ashburn and Turner County

By Jay Polk - bio | email

September 4, 2008

ASHBURN, GA (WALB) - A paradise for those who like to hunt and fish, a "castle" where you didn't want to spend any time, and a place in the country that sells fresh vegetables - and ice cream. Those are the places that Jay Polk is visiting in the latest installment of his series, One Tank Trips.

Ashburn, town of about 4,400 in Turner County, is home to the world's largest peanut. But if you're looking for more than just peanuts, this is still a good place to go. Fresh vegetables abound here if you're willing to travel off of the main highway just a little bit.

People do seem willing to make the extra drive to a spot a few miles northeast of town. The customers at Calhoun's Produce come from many different places, according to Sheila Rice.  "People travel from North Georgia, Florida to get their fresh vegetables. So they come from far off."

At the store, Calhoun Produce sells their own products, such as the butterbeans and peas that are processed here on site, and products from other local farmers as well.  According to Rice, "Everything is local produce."

There's plenty to choose from, "We've got fresh shelled butterbeans and peas in season now. And tomatoes, squash, peaches, okra, onions," she said.

They've been in business since 1980. And the store has a loyal group of customers who visit frequently. Like Frances Ellis of Ashburn. How often does she make it out here? "Every time we get hungry for some fresh vegetables," she said.

During the strawberry season, which runs from March through May, there are field trips available for kids from 3 to 6. After a short film is shown, the kids are given a bucket to allow them to pick their own berries. In fact, strawberries are the big crop here.

Even when they're not in season, both strawberry lemonade and ice cream are available.

But rural areas in Turner County are not just used to grow crops, some of the land has been set aside for sportsmen and women. Like the 22,000 acre Little River Plantation, just a few miles to the northwest of town.

Founded in 1999, the Plantation offers two distinct areas, the lodge which caters to those who want to catch quail and fish and a bed and breakfast a couple of miles away, which is more for those wanting to catch bouquets and garters, it's a popular place to get married.

The bed and breakfast is quite scenic. No surprise then that it has couples coming from near and far to get married here.  Michael Ward of Little River Plantation said, "We've had 'em from Atlanta, down in Florida, Tallahassee."

If you decide you want to go the extra mile and get married here, but aren't sure who to turn to for the essential services, they have the answer: "we have a list of caterers, and photographers and stuff that we can recommend if they need a little help," he said.

Some couples even choose to split up the wedding party, electing to stay at both the lodge and the bed and breakfast. At the lodge, the hunting and fishing is drawing people from all over.  How far away have they come from?  "We've had people from New Jersey and Canada and places like that," he said.

The quail season is in the Fall, with guided hunts on a marked trail. If you think that your aim is getting a little rusty between seasons, you can practice at the skeet range on the site. There are also 20 lakes here which offer trophy bass, among other types of fish. catfish. And fishing is available on a year round basis.

Just make sure that you have all of the correct permits. After all you wouldn't want to wind up at our next stop.

In the old days, if you had been caught trespassing on someone's land or poaching one of their deer here in Turner County, they wouldn't have put you in these stocks. Instead, they might have put you in the old Turner County Jail. What is now known as the Crime and Punishment Museum.

Built in 1906 for the princely sum of $10,000, the jail was open until the early 1990s. Even though it was turned into a museum about five years ago, the outside of the building remains the same.

And it certainly doesn't look like a jail. Dubbed Castle Turner for it's lavish architecture, the lower floor was actually the living and working space for the Turner County Sheriff and his family. But upstairs, it's a much different story.

Here is where the prisoners were kept, usually for about a month or so before being put on a chain gang to work on the roads and railroads. Two men even paid the ultimate debt to society in the gallows.

Shelley Zorn of the Ashburn/Turner County Chamber of Commerce tells their story: "The first one was in 1906 when the jail first opened, he killed his employer for $150. And he went to the window where the crowd was and said 'Don't waste your life like I did.'  They baptized him right there in the cell here in the Turner County Jail."

"And the second one was September 11th, 1914. His name was Miles Cribbs and he killed his mother-in-law."

One thing that was unique about the prison was that the sheriff's wife would cook the meals for both her family and the inmates.

"Here in Turner County they would eat pretty good," said Zorn.

That culinary fact leads us to the most interesting feature about this museum, the Last Meal Cafe.

Serving desserts when the museum is open and full meals to larger groups who call in advance, the cafe celebrates the fact that the last meal of the condemned often included a dessert.

The museum gets between five and ten thousand visitors per year and, perhaps because it's one of only three jail museums in the country, they come from a surprisingly wide area.

Zorn said, "from all over the U.S., we've had visitors from all over the world. From Venezuela, Brazil, Austria, England, Canada, Russia. From all over the world, we've had visitors here."

It seems like Ashburn and the surrounding area is drawing people to it's unique attractions from all points on the compass. And that's no crime.

Ashburn is also home of the Fire Ant Festival where you can chow down on some chocolate-covered ants. Yum!

Ashburn is on Interstate 75, Exit 82; it's about 45 minutes from Albany, about an hour from Valdosta and is easily accessible on a single tank of gas.  Check out this web site next week to see where Jay's travels lead him.

Here's a hint, one of your favorite anchors on WALB News 10 is from there.