After being away from blog land for a while I have been catching up on my reading of all the new posts of my bloggy friends. I have not downloaded my Black Sea trip pictures yet. But I have the pictures, still in my camera, of our latest trip. We came back at the end of October and when I saw an advertisement for the 100th Chrysanthemum Show in a nearby town on the first Saturday of November we decided to drive there and have a look.
That Saturday, 3rd November, was a warm and sunny day. It took us about 45 minutes to drive the 20 miles of little country roads to Stilesboro, Georgia - an unincorporated small town near Cartersville in Bartow County. I found out that the town was named in honor of William Henry Stiles (1808-1865.) Stiles, born in Savannah from an aristocratic family, studied law at Yale then served in the US Congress as a Democrat from 1843-1845. US President James K. Polk appointed Stiles to serve as a Charge d'Affaires for the U.S. at the court of Emperor Franz Joseph in Vienna, Austria, from 1845 to 1849. When the 1849 Revolution occurred, Stiles serves as a mediator between Hungarian freedom fighter L.Kossuth and the Imperial throne. Prior to going to the Congress Stiles was a district attorney for Georgia and was assigned the duty to pay off the Cherokee Indians in gold for their land. Traveling through the northwest Georgia mountains Stiles purchased land and built a plantation home "Etowah Cliffs" on the banks of the Etowah River. In 1845 the neighboring little town of Stilesboro was named in honor of William Henry Stiles. He died of pneumonia in Savannah in 1865 and is buried there.
Photo Courtesy Etowah Valley Historical Society
I am ambivalent about the chrysanthemum because it denotes a sad flower to me. In France the chrysanthemum is considered the flower of the dead. This started in France after the war of 1918 when it was chosen to flower the tombs of the fallen soldiers, as it flowers in the fall and can withstand some frost. When we went to France in October-November 2010 my cousin and I went to purchase some chrysanthemums at a local nursery. There was a large variety to choose from. (Click on the pictures and collages to enlarge them - they look ever so much better.)
There were other flowers for sale, of course, but chrysanthemums were those to buy that "Toussaint" day (day of the dead.) I decided on pink chrysanthemum pots
and placed them on my parents' grave. I read that in 2010, 21.3 millions pots of chrysanthemums were sold in France during October-November.
But to get back to this year, we found the historical Stilesboro Academy where the oldest chrysanthemum show in Georgia has been held since 1912.
As indicated above this was a community-built school house. It is a Greek revival building with twenty foot ceilings and 12 foot doors made of heart pine
After walking around the building and taking pictures of the large trees on the ground
and the lovely rural landscape in the back
we entered the Academy and paid our $2 admission. We looked at the historical displays in the entrance before going to the show.
We read that the three benches on display still bore Federal Troops horses' teeth marks and notches as General Sherman's troops stopped there and used the benches (placed front-to-front and fastened with rope) as feeding troughs in May 1864 during the Civil War.
Once in the show hall we had time to look at some chrysanthemum (mum) displays before the opening ceremonies began.
I had read earlier that in early 1910 sixteen women formed a social club, as it was done then often in the South. One of the members, Miss Campie Hawkins, had seen mums in a tenant farm and had grown some in her garden. She then persuaded the ladies of the club to grow mums as well then have a show, the proceeds of which would be used to improve Stilesboro and the academy. The first show was held in 1912 and since then this Annual Chrysanthemum Show has been held continuously by members of the Stilesboro Improvement Club. The opening ceremony started and the Club President, Jan Shepherd, gave a welcome speech. It was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a Devotional by Reverend Fisher. Then there were more remarks by the Program Chairman, Teresa Cook, and music played by Ms. Ann Lowe (shown below.)
Everyone was free then to go around the hall to admire the different varieties of mums.
You can see above the lettered Latin inscription "Deo Ac Patriac" MDCCCLIX (To God and Country - 1859.) This was painted by an Englishman in 1859 when the structure was originally built - it has never been repainted. Legend has it that this was the reason General Sherman did not burn the building during his "March to the Sea" in 1864 because this is the same motto as the West Point Academy, beloved by General Sherman. There are many flower forms of mums - the different forms and shapes have been categorized into 13 types. Some have giant blooms, some have florets (petals) loosely in-curved, some have irregular florets, some have long tubular spider like florets. I admired many lovely types in the hall.
Walking around the hall, I also looked at some old photographs hang on the wall - such as a group of cotton pickers nearby in 1923 (top left) - Etowah Heights, a large house destroyed by fire in 1911 - a midget wedding and Professor Sharpe with his class of 1892 at the Stilesboro Academy.
There were some country displays and a "Quilt Raffle" - I purchased some tickets, but did not win.
Nell Buchanan, the Vice President of the Stilesboro Improvement Club, told me that she baked the three pies above and gave them the names of her sisters. She graciously let me take her photograph, below.
My husband and I kept walking around the hall looking at individual mums
and at more arrangements like the pretty ones below.
I came closer to the photo showing the lady above but there was no indication as to who she had been. Here is a closeup of her below. Addendum October 11, 2016 - Just received a comment indicating that this lady is Cecelia Stovall Shelman, a Southern Lady and lost love of General William T. Sherman. You can read more about her here. Thanks for the note.)
Then it was time to partake of the advertized "1951 style" lunch - Brunswick stew, chicken salad, congealed salad and and assortment of homemade cakes and pies - with soda, iced-tea or coffee.
After lunch I went to take a closer look at old pictures of earlier chrysanthemum shows lining the dining hall.
Then it was time to walk through the tall doors, pass the old benches and the weaving lady and return to our little car.
But I wished to make another stop. We had passed some cotton fields on our way to the Academy - they were ready to be picked and looked beautiful.
From a distance it looked as it could have been snow on these fields. The area was huge and cotton could be seen far and away.
Then we stopped to take a closer look at the cotton. What a beautiful sight this was - lovely, fluffy cotton as far as we could see - it was a splendid image to take back home.