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February 2020
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Society wants to make history vital Pickens Historical Society wants to see Old Jail become new draw

appalchian heritage night speakers

Woodbridge owner Dwight Henderson (left) and Bill Cagle, president of the Pickens Historical Society, discuss local history at the Appalachian Heritage Night Friday.

At Appalachian Heritage Night, speaker Bill Cagle, president of the Pickens Historical Society, unveiled plans for the re-energized group to be “more vital in the community.”

Cagle said Friday that the society has some ambitious plans to showcase the area’s unique past with some lively events. The group, formerly named the Marble Valley Historical Society, is most widely known as caretakers of the Old Jail on Main Street.

The Appalachian Heritage Night was a great start for their more robust presence with a packed room at the Woodbridge Inn hearing Cagle discuss the history of the area. The evening also featured a slew of historic photos with accompanying Appalachian music and special food and drink, including traditional Appalachian muscadine wine.

Cagle said the immediate short-term goal is to reorganize, clean and get the Old Jail on Main Street open for regular tours as well as special events. The historical society is already on board with an effort by local potter Larry Wilson to create a series of Second Friday/Saturday events this spring to feature the jail, the Woodbridge, the nearby folk school and the north end of Main Street.

“We want to have real country music, not this pop country, on the front porch of the jail and have artists selling paintings and crafts,” Cagle said of the spring events. “We want more activity for the merchants.”

As a long-range plan, the historical society is looking to create a permanent home that could be used for classes, presentations and speakers. 

Cagle told those in attendance that they were right beside “America’s first superhighway.” The Federal Road is the reason the Woodbridge sits where it sits. Originally known as the Lenning Hotel the restaurant/inn served travelers on the Federal Road that crossed the Cherokee Nation.

Built in the early 1800s at 25-feet-wide, the Federal Road is linked to much local history. It formed the route north used to remove the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. It also ran south across Georgia to Augusta.

Henry T. Fitzsimmons, the first marble worker/businessman in this area, was thrown off a stagecoach here for being drunk, according to legend. If he hadn’t been kicked off the Federal Road stagecoach, perhaps we wouldn’t have developed as a marble mining hub -- 60 percent of all monuments in Washington D.C. “come from little ol Pickens County,” Cagle said.

“There is a lot of history here and we want to be a part of it going forward,” Cagle said of the historical society. “We need people to help and volunteers. We need input and ideas.”

Look for future Historical Society events or contact them on Facebook at Pickens Historical Society.