Ocmulgee 75th Anniversary celebrated

Submitted by Tammy Herron (tfherron@gmail.com)

Ocumulgee 75th anniv visitor center

Ocmulgee National Monument visitor center.

I received an invitation from the Superintendent of Ocmulgee National Monument inviting me to attend the 75th Anniversary Reception on Thursday, December 1, 2011. Two of my co-workers and fellow Society for Georgia Archaeology (SGA) members at the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, George Wingard and Keith Stephenson, joined me in the trek half-way across the state. George had never visited the remnants of this former town of the ancients. Keith, on the other hand, has visited the site numerous times and attended the 50th anniversary of the monument.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv invite A
Ocumulgee 75th anniv invite B

Ocumulgee 75th anniv poster

Ocmulgee 75th Anniversary commemorative poster.

On December 23, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation designating that 678.48 acres be set aside as a national monument known as Ocmulgee National Monument to be supervised by the Director of the National Park Service. Today, the park comprises 702 acres and boasts a newly renovated visitor center. This center beautifully displays numerous artifacts representing 17,000 years of the history at the site.

At the reception, guests enjoyed a smorgasbord of mouth-watering appetizers and slices of a beautiful cake in the shape of a bird effigy with the motto “All Things Are Connected.” Superintendent Jim David addressed those in attendance and spoke about the history of this unique archaeological site. A PowerPoint presentation containing many interesting photographs documenting the history of the site looped on a screen throughout the evening.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv cake

Celebratory cake.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv attendee group small

Attendees (left to right) George Wingard, Tammy Herron, Keith Stephenson, Lindsay Holliday, and Toni Lachine.

I was also invited to attend the Open House Reception on Saturday, December 3, 2011; however, I was unable to do so due to a prior commitment. George and Keith ventured back to Macon to visit with archaeologist Jack Walker, meet some of the men who worked at Ocmulgee during the 1930s, and enjoy the commemorative presentation followed by the cutting of a cake decorated in the shape of the National Park Service logo.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv rangers proclam

Ocmulgee employees with framed copy of the Presidential proclamation.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv Wilson autographing

CCC worker William C. Wilson autographing a book for Keith Stephenson (left).

Archaeological work at the site began in December 1933. Dr. Arthur Randolph Kelly supervised the archaeological excavations with the assistance of James Alfred Ford. George and Keith enjoyed meeting A.R. Kelly’s daughter, Cora, who attended the December 3rd event. Workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) conducted archaeological work at the site and constructed a number of the buildings at the park, including the visitor center and the reconstruction of the Earth Lodge in the 1930s. Workers also processed artifacts that were excavated at the site. Two surviving members of CCC Company 1426 Camp Ga., NM-4, Macon, Ga. who worked at Ocmulgee attended the anniversary celebration—Clovis Wood and William C. Wilson. Thomas Winchester, Jr., son of CCC member Thomas Winchester, Sr., was also in attendance. SGA member and Robins Air Force Base Archaeologist Stephen Hammack interviewed Jack Walker, who was employed as an archaeologist at the site in the late 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. The video camera was graciously provided and taping performed by SGA member Alan Marsh, Cultural Resources Chief at Andersonville National Historic Site. Keith enjoyed sitting in on this interview, while George discussed curation issues with Lonnie Davis, a Cultural Resources Specialist at Ocmulgee. Descendants of local residents who worked so hard to make this monument become a reality attended the event as well.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv employee group CCC

Anniversary event attendees with CCC members seated in front row at far right.

Certificates of appreciation were presented to those individuals and entities that assisted with the preservation and establishment of Ocmulgee National Monument, including the Society for Georgia Archaeology and the local SGA Chapter, the Ocmulgee Archaeological Society (OAS) (also online here). The certificate presented to the SGA was accepted by one of the Society’s newest members, George Wingard, in my absence. The OAS’s certificate was accepted by President Alan Marsh. Another SGA/OAS member, Carolyn Coleman, accepted a certificate on behalf of her father, Herman G. Weeks, who also worked at Ocmulgee as a member of CCC Company 1426 Camp Ga., NM-4, Macon, Georgia.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv certificate for the SGA

Certificate of Appreciation presented to the Society for Georgia Archaeology.

View the 2012 schedule of events on the park’s website to plan your visit to Ocmulgee. Also, if you are in the Macon area during the beginning of the month, remember that the Ocmulgee Archaeological Society meets on the first Monday. Meetings are typically held at 6:30 p.m. in Room 143 of the Science & Engineering Building at Mercer University. Contact OAS Secretary Stephen Hammack for meeting confirmation via email here.

Ocumulgee 75th anniv inside earthlodge

Inside the reconstructed earth lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument.

You may be interested in several other articles about this event. On Macon.com, you can read a general story about the open house, and Becky Purser’s article about two of the CCC members. GPB News also published a story by Josephine Bennett about Ocmulgee’s anniversary. The NPS’s own website also details the festivities. For more about the Ocmulgee mounds, read this article by Mark Williams online in the New Georgia Encylopedia.