14 December 2009

Eatonton, Georgia: Joel Chandler Harris: Literary Landmarks of the Southern United States, #28

Joel Chandler Harris (1848–1908), the man who created Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus among many other characters, was born in poverty in Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia. As a teenager with a keen thirst for knowledge, he would often go to the local post office to read discarded papers and magazines, and it was there that he learned of an advert for a printer's apprentice. A plaque we didn't see but have since found on the internet can serve to continue the story:

'Turnwold Plantation. Here, from 1862 to 1866, Joel Chandler Harris [...] worked as a printer's apprentice on what was probably the only newspaper ever published on a Southern plantation. "The Countryman", a weekly newspaper edited and published by Joseph Addison Turner, owner of "Turnwold". Mr. Addison, planter, lawyer, scholar and writer, encouraged his youuthful apprentice in writing and the use of the large plantation library. In the slave quarters, the boy heard African animal legends and the true Negro folklore of the old South, which he immortalised in his "Uncle Remus" stories.'

Brer Rabbit appears as the logo of Eatonton's Chamber of Commerce.

The small town of Eatonton is also noted in having another writer born here: Alice Walker.

Brer Rabbit greets visitors at the entrance to the museum.

'Uncle Remus Museum. This memorial to Joel Chandler Harris, born Dec. 9th. 1848, was constructed from three slave cabins found in Putnam County. uncle Remus Museum Inc., a local non-profit organization of dedicated citizens has established and maintained its operation continuously form the opening on April 26, 1963.

'Turner Park is a part of the home place of Joseph Sidney Turner, the "little boy" to whom the world famous stories of the "critters" were told by "Uncle "Remus", Harris' unique creation. Turner grew up at "Turnwold", nine miles east of Eatonton, home of his father, Joseph Addison Turner, where Harris had his first job assisting in printing The Countryman'.

The museum created from a slave cabin.

And the other two slave cabins.

And who can resist a photo of a butterfly in the museum flowers? This monarch may be common in the South and the southern Midwest to name but a few areas where I've noticed it, but in England it is virtually extinct.

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