With America in apparent decline and a key election coming in 2016, it seems appropriate to revisit exactly how, where, and why this great nation of ours was founded. Nowhere in our area are the answers more readily available than in the cradle of the revolutionary spirit in and around Midway on the Georgia Coast!
Today the tiny community of Midway in Liberty County is located on Old Highway 17 between Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia. This historical area dates back to a meeting in a log house at Midway Neck on August 28, 1754, when English Puritans founded the Midway Society as a strongly religious group. These people had migrated to Midway from Dorchester near Charleston, South Carolina in 1752 on a grant from the Colonial Council of Georgia as a protectorate from the Creek Indians. Mostly rice farmers, the new settlers quickly developed a thriving agricultural economy in the community.
Many of the early residents in this part of Georgia were very brave, quite political and were heavily involved in the early fight for our independence. One of these patriots was Lyman Hall who was a well-known member of the Midway Church and a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia during 1775. Hall, Button Gwinnett from St. John’s Parish, and George Walton from Augusta were the three Georgians who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Though not there for the signing, Nathan Brownson from Midway was also a member of the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1778 and is buried at Midway Cemetery.
Lyman Hall was a physician by trade, but because of his stand for liberty, he fled north during the Revolutionary War with his family and worked for the fledgling Continental Congress. He settled in Savannah after the war and was the first elected Governor of Georgia where his efforts led to the charter of the University of Georgia.
The combination of St. John’s Parish, St. Andrew’s Parish and St. James Parish became Liberty County in 1777. This county was the first in Georgia to vote for liberty.
Though the Midway Congregational Church was first built in 1752 and destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War, it has always been the centerpiece of this community. Even during those early years and still to the present, the colored members of the church always worshipped with the white population. The Midway Church was rebuilt in 1792 and still stands today as a beautiful, living monument to the beginning of our country.
The old cemetery across Highway 17 holds the remains of many great men from that era and throughout American history. Buried there are two generals from the Revolutionary War…Daniel Stewart, who was the great grandfather of President Theodore Roosevelt, and James Screven, who died in a battle with the British about a mile south of Midway Church in 1778. A statue honoring these heros was erected and dedicated in the center of the cemetery in 1915.
Five counties in Georgia (Screven, Hall, Gwinnett, Baker, and Stewart) were named after Midway men. Also, many other famous people came from this small area including John Le Conte, who became the first president of the University of California and Rev. Abiel Holmes, who was the father of celebrated writer, Oliver Wendell Holmes.
A highlight of any visit to Midway would have to be seeing and experiencing history at the Midway Museum. This raised cottage style house like those from the 18th century is adjacent to the Midway Church and is the home to many priceless documents, exhibits and furnishings that commemorate and celebrate the passion for freedom that was always a part of the Midway Society!
With so much unrest in our country recently, I find it inspirational and very rewarding to visit places like Midway to rejuvenate the passion and dedication that it took to give us the freedoms that we enjoy. It is also important to introduce our children to the wonderful history and commitment of our founders! Anytime is a good time to see Midway Church, Cemetery and Museum, but you can always check their web site at: www.themidwaymuseum.org