GAAS visits Stewart County

Submitted by Lyn B. Kirkland and Elizabeth Allan (

Drugstore front sign

On Friday, June 29, 2012, twenty-plus members of the GAAS (the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society, a Chapter of the SGA)—professional and avocational archaeologists—and their guests visited several notable locations in Lumpkin, Stewart County, in Southwest Georgia: the Bedingfield Inn, the Hatchett Drug Store Museum, and the Singer/Moye archaeological site, a complex of nine Mississippian mounds, which now belongs to the University of Georgia. The site is currently being used for a UGA field school.

Dr. Allen Vegotsky organized the trip and acted as guide at the Hatchett Drug Store Museum where he had volunteered hundreds of hours over a period of years to inventory the over 5000 items in the museum, which had been relocated from Ft. Gaines, Georgia to Lumpkin. The Stewart County Historical Commission hosted the event, providing a delightful lunch as well as well as a guide for the 175-year-old Bedingfield Inn. Members of the Singer and Moye families who once owned the archaeological site before it was ceded to the Columbus Museum and then the University of Georgia, also joined GAAS members for all or part of the events. Catherine Long joined GAAS members representing the Society of Georgia Archaeology. Professional historian, Mick Bunn, who once oversaw the Singer/Moye site for the Columbus Museum, also joined GAAS members and guests.

Exterior clapboard

The Bedingfield Inn, which is located on the Courthouse Square in Lumpkin, served as a stage coach stop and Dr. Bedingfield’s office beginning in the 1830’s. The Greek Revival style structure stands on its original location. The Inn is complete with period furniture from the nineteenth century. The kitchen is separate from the main building. Visitors will see travelers’ accommodations of the period. We were intrigued by one unheated (no fireplace) room upstairs with a separate entrance where travelers who could not pay for a regular room could sleep.

Vegotsky pharmacist vertical

Dr. Allen Vegotsky, in his alter ego as Sam Hatchett, pharmacist, guided the group through the drug store museum, discussing various patent medicines and other items sold at a drug store from the early part of the last century, including harmonicas, oil lamps, kerosene, hoof packing, and more. In the process of discussing changes in drug stores over a period of approximately 50-75 years he discussed the labs in drug stores where medicines were compounded and the contents of the medicine were processed. He also talked about the professionalization of pharmacists and learned that at one time little or no training was required—one usually learned from a mentor. In the 1930s when standards for pharmacists were changing due to government oversight, one could become a pharmacist by going to a three week crash course to complete pharmacy school and pass State Board exams.

The tour of the Singer/Moye site was conducted by Stefan Brannan, Field School Director of the University of Georgia. In spite of the 105°F weather we walked around the site observing University of Georgia field school students surveying, measuring, and shovel testing the area known as the plaza, between the mounds. Brannan and his colleagues are trying to determine, among other things, if the area is truly a plaza. He led us up the highest of the mounds, Mound A, and pointed out the area excavated by Frank Schnell and colleagues who worked there for the Columbus Museum. The finds from previous excavations have gone to the University of Georgia, and over the next few years Brannan will catalogue and interpret the artifacts. Brannan related that a relatively large number of prestige items had been found on the top of Mound A, suggesting that at one time it was used by high status individuals.

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GAAS will resume monthly meetings at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (Clifton Road, just north of Ponce de Leon) in September. Meetings are always held on the second Tuesday night of the month. Visitors are always welcome. Please note that the meeting time has been changed to 6:30 PM.