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Sweet Tea & History: Out of the ashes of the Civil War, a South Ga. town rises

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT
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FITZGERALD, Ga. (WALB) - Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, are buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Georgia, something you won’t find just anywhere. But there’s a reason why you’ll find it in Fitzgerald.

When it comes to having a unique history, Fitzgerald is rich with stories, but the most fascinating one may just be how the town was built.

Founded by Union Soldier Philander H. Fitzgerald after the Civil War, the city itself is an example of what happens when people come together despite their differences.

A Union and a Confederate soldier shaking hands as the town of Fitzgerald is born.
A Union and a Confederate soldier shaking hands as the town of Fitzgerald is born.(WALB via Fitzgerald Blue & Gray Museum Pamphlet)

Because of weather conditions and poor crop seasons, Fitzgerald, an Indiana native, decided he wanted to find a new home for himself and other union soldiers where they could prosper.

When the then Georgia governor heard about Fitzgerald’s endeavor, he invited the soldier to tour the state, and eventually, Fitzgerald found what he was looking for.

While some southerners may have been reluctant about giving Union soldiers land to build a city, the story ends with both Confederate and Union soldiers marching side-by-side in celebration of the prosperous town built by reconciliation.

Philander H. Fitzgerald, a Union soldier and the founder of the City of Fitzgerald
Philander H. Fitzgerald, a Union soldier and the founder of the City of Fitzgerald(WALB via the Blue & Gray Museum's pamphlet)

This, by the way, is an extremely abridged version of the story behind the City of Fitzgerald. However, it’s a story that lives on thanks to the leaders and residents of the South Georgia town.

Originally, this week’s episode was going to focus on the city’s Evergreen Cemetery and how the Fitgerald Fine Arts program was working to launch living history tours through the historic cemetery. But I imagine you can see why I couldn’t separate that founding of Fitzgerald from the cemetery that is now home to both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Evergreen Cemetery in Fitzgerald, Georgia
Evergreen Cemetery in Fitzgerald, Georgia(WALB)

I will say though that the Fine Arts program is keeping not only the history of Fitzgerald alive but also the memories of those who helped build what eventually became what the city is today.

And while the living history tours of Evergreen Cemetery haven’t rolled out yet, it is in the works and Brandy Elrod, the tourism, arts and culture director for Fitzgerald, was kind enough to get some volunteers together to give me a small taste of what those tours will be like.

While they were just a sample of what’s to come, I can’t lie, I can’t wait to do a tour once they are up and running.

Elrod also gave me a tour of the Blue and Gray Museum when I arrived to record this episode. The museum is gorgeous! And anyone who has any interest in history, South Georgia history and especially war history, will love the items and memorabilia that are on display at the museum.

With all that said, it’s safe to say that I could easily do an entire season on the City of Fitzgerald and its rich history. From its architecture to the history of how it was founded, to the chickens, its giant chessboard and pieces that can be checked out, and even its classic muscle cars at “The Man Cave,” there seems to always be something to learn, see or do in the city.

So whether you’re looking for a place to visit for a day, a unique experience or a history lesson brought to life before your very eyes, Fitzgerald has something for you.

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