Midway Museum hosted its 55th annual Christmas Tea on Saturday to celebrate the holiday season and preserve Midway’s Colonial history.
“The Christmas Tea was started 55 years ago when the museum opened,” museum curator Dianne Kroell said. “The United Daughters of the Confederacy, as well as the Daughters of the American Colonists, started this museum in 1959 and thought a tea would be a great way to celebrate Christmas with friends and family.”
The museum — Georgia’s only Colonial museum — is home to a collection of heirloom furnishings, paintings, artifacts and historical documents. Visitors can peruse this collection while enjoying the Colonial-era atmosphere and rich history of Midway. A settee in the front parlor formerly was owned by Thomas Jefferson while he was living at Monticello.
“One-third of the wealth of the colony was in this part of the state at that time,” Kroell said. “The area was decimated during the Revolutionary War, which ruined the economy in this part of Georgia for 100 years.”
English Puritans, a religious Congregationalist group, founded the Midway Society and the St. Johns Parish in 1754. They migrated from Dorchester, South Carolina, in 1752 to the area that later became known as the Midway Community.
“Seventy-one families migrated down here from South Carolina to grow rice,” Kroell said. “That migration is known as the sixth and last large migration to Georgia.”
Midway wasn’t a town until 1925. It was called the District of Midway during the 18th and 19th centuries.
“They named this area Midway because it was ‘midway’ between Savannah and Darien,” Kroell said.
In 1777, the area became known as Liberty County because of the Midway Society’s devotion to Independence from Britain. Liberty County is one of only two counties in Georgia not named after a person. The other county is Peach County. Midway is known for its historical leadership and political influences.
“Five counties in Georgia are named after Midway men, too,” Kroell said. “Baker, Gwinnett, Hall, Screven and Stewart were all Midway men.”
Lyman Hall and Button Gwinnett, two signers of the Declaration of Independence, hailed from Midway. Other prominent Midway men included Nathan Brownson, a Continental congressman from 1776-78, and James Screven and Daniel Stewart, two generals who fought in the Revolutionary War. Stewart was a member of St. John’s Parish and was the great-grandfather of President Theodore Roosevelt. Stewart and Screven are buried in the cemetery across the street from the museum.
The historic Midway Church is next door to the museum. This church was built in 1752 but was destroyed during the Revolutionary War by the British. The church that stands there today was built in 1792.
“The church is the second-oldest church in Georgia, and it welcomed everyone to worship,” Kroell said. “People of all races worshiped together throughout the entire existence of the church.”
Every April, the Midway Society conducts an annual service commemorating the town’s settlement.
Collectively, the Midway Church and Cemetery and Midway Museum are known as the Midway Historic District and are noted as historic landmarks.
“A lot of people don’t realize how important the history is in Liberty County,” museum volunteer Cristina Dover said. “I love learning about it.”
Dover has two degrees in history and taught history classes for a while. She now is training to do museum tours.
“I would love to do museum work,” she said. “I love volunteering and helping out where I can.”