Foxfire, a phosphorescent lichen, a tiny organism that glows in the dark and is frequently seen in the shaded coves of these Appalachian mountains.
In 1966 Brooks Eliot Wigginton accepted a job in Raburn County where he found teaching high school English students an educational and disciplinary challenge. Reflecting back on some of his own boring lecture classes in high school, he decided to engage them and hopefully increase their desire to learn by starting their own magazine. It needed to be something relevant that would sell so he assigned students to go home and begin interviewing their relatives about planting by the moon signs. These conversations led to superstitions, home remedies,weather signs, and other stories. As they collected these stories, a name was needed for the magazine. Each student submitted 3 titles which students then voted on and that's how "foxfire" began.
Thursday we headed to Mountain City in north Georgia to visit the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center. We have the first five Foxfire publications so I was familiar with many of the stories and to walk the paths that led us to each restored building and experience the history made it all come alive. In relating her story to us, the Cherokee woman at the Gate House told us that her family escaped walking the Trail of Tears because they were able to hide out deep in the mountains.
clay chinking and dovetail notches
inside the wagon shed
The wagon shed houses the Zuraw Wagon and the Judd Nelson Wagon. The Zuraw Wagon is the only documented wagon known to have traveled to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears. The wagon wheels were greased about every 30 miles or the wheels would seize up.
The tour took us up very narrow steep paths with large tree roots jutting through the hard-packed clay. Because of the deep-seated community loyalty of Appalachian people, no one would sell or give away their local church. Whenever a new community developed, the church was the first building constructed as it served as church, schoolhouse, and meeting hall. Foxfire modeled this chapel after one that stood outside Waynesville, NC. using logs salved from the Hunter barn. The students constructed the puncheon benches inside using hand tools. Interior paneling is "wormy" chestnut, now nearly extinct due to a shrubbery blight imported through NY Harbor in the early 1900's. This loss of prime lumber and native food was devastating to the Appalachian people and wildlife.
stained glass inside the chapel
on the outside
infant and adult-size coffins
Smokehouse used for curing meats.
We spent a couple of hours walking up and down steep trails trying to absorb the history of the people. This is definitely a place I'll return to with visitors to share this early Southern Appalachian experience.