GEORGIA, UNITED STATES – High school students in Rabun County instigated the collection of historical artefacts that now comprise the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Centre in Mountain City.
The students enrolled in the English class at Rabun-Gap Nacoochee School in 1966 commenced interviewing community elders to publish the Foxfire magazine, documenting the pioneering spirit of the Appalachian people. As the students met with family, neighbours and community members to record life stories and traditions from earlier generations, folks would give the students an old tool or finished handcraft item they were researching or documenting. The class quickly amassed a large collection of artefacts and classroom space was growing crowded.
From the success of the Foxfire magazine, a book series followed based on compilations of articles. In 1974, profits from the magazine and book royalties were used to purchase land on the side of Black Rock Mountain. This created an Appalachian heritage centre in partnership with the community and the opportunity for the student to now collect and preserve a significant piece of Southern Appalachian culture – log cabins.
The first of the more than twenty log cabins on the property were mostly moved and reassembled by students. About half of the structures at the centre are authentic, standing as they were originally built nearly 200 years ago. The other cabins are constructed from recycled materials, following traditional designs. Other buildings in the collection include a replica chapel, mule barn, wagon shed, blacksmith shop, smokehouse and a complete grist mill. A 210 year-old Zuraw wagon known to be used in the Trail of Tears is on display. An extensive collection of simple tools, furnishings, toys and handicrafts complete the museum.
In 2016, Foxfire celebrated 50 years, since the first class embarked on publishing a magazine as a way to make their English study engaging. The 106 acre site now boasts a museum, a hands-on classroom, a venue for events, and a repository for artefacts. Annually the museum and heritage centre provides dozens of schools, home school and private tour groups exposure to the rich and engaging Appalachian mountain culture of the past. Visitors from around the world drive to the little town of Mountain City, Georgia to visit a unique site started by a high school English class.
Images: Foxfire Fund