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Tourism officials create audio driving tours to spotlight community's history

Whether they are local residents or visitors from afar, tourists in McDuffie County now have access to a tour guide 24 hours, seven days a week. The Thomson-McDuffie Convention and Visitors Bureau just released three audio driving tours of the county that can be accessed and heard by cell phone, downloaded onto an iPod or mp3 player, or listened to on the internet.

Each tour is free, but does use minutes on one's cell phone plan, according to CVB Director Elizabeth Vance. Mrs. Vance is the brainchild behind the audio tours, which were written by CVB board chairwoman Michelle Zupan and feature voices of local talent. Each tour can be accessed by going to and clicking on "things to do." A brochure with a map of each drive also can be downloaded from the site. Brochures also are available at the McDuffie CVB office in the Depot and at all area hotels.

African-American Heritage: The Road to Freedom is approximately 48 minutes long and features narratives by Ella Mae Samuels and Michelle Collins, who tell the stories of African-Americans who lived and worked in McDuffie County, contributing to its success.

There are 13 stops on the African-American Heritage tour, in which tourists hear how the Quakers brought slaves in the 1700s to Wrightsboro (at the Wrightsboro Historic District), of the emergence of cotton plantations in Georgia and their dependence on the labor of African-American slaves and Irish and English indentured servants (at the Rock House), the history of the local black Reids Chamber Masonic Temple (at the Hickory Grove Cemetery), the different ways slaves worshipped (at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church), how slave labor was used at the Textile Mills and Cotton Gins (at the old box factory) and to build the Georgia Railroad (at the Thomson Depot), about African-American blacksmith Romulus Moore (at the Sheik Hawes Building), the history of Folk Art and artists Zebedee Armstrong and Jake T. McCord (at McCord's house), how blacks outnumbered the whites five to three in the county during reconstruction and voting rights after the Civil War (at the Courthouse), the tale of Thomas Watson's mammy, Amanda, (at the Tom Watson cottage), how Tom Watson hid black preacher, H.S. Doyle, from a lynch mob until help could arrive and then stood up to the mob (at the Watson-Brown Foundation house), a first-person dramatic reading of McDuffie slave Nancy Bowdre (at the McDuffie Museum) and the story of Blues artist Blind Willie McTell at his gravesite (at Jones Grove Baptist Church).

"I just want to say this is our first African-American anything when it comes to tourism in McDuffie County," tourism board member Kelly Evans said. "And I'm so proud of this, I can't stand it."

African-American Heristage: The Road to Freedom can be heard at 706-728-3058.

The Natural History of McDuffie County is the shortest tour, approximately 20 minutes in length, with monologues by Hickory Hill curators Michelle Zupan and Sydney Peden. There are five stops on the tour - the McDuffie public fishing area, Boneville, the Thomson Depot, the Wrightsboro Community Church and Clarks Hill Lake. Each stop gives a brief history of the area while focusing on the geography, flora and fauna and natural resources. The Natural History tour can be accessed by calling 706-715-3399.

The third tour, Lost Colonies, Lost Hopes and Lost Causes is approximately 35 minutes long. WTHO radio's Mike Wall and Donna Branch are featured on this tour, which takes the listener back some 12,000 years to Georgia's first inhabitants, the Creek and Cherokee Native Americans, to sites of lost colonies in McDuffie County and explores the lost political causes in the local history.

There are nine stops on the "Lost" tour, including Lost Lands: The Native Americans (at the Little River), Lost Gold (at Clarks Hill Lake), Lost Ecology: William Bartram (at Wrightsboro Church and Cemetery), Lost Colony: Wrightsborough (along Wrightsboro Road), Lost Tradition: the Fox Hunt (at the Bowdre-Rees-Knox House), Lost Frontier: The Rock House, Lost Hopes: Hayes Line District, Lost Ideals: Populism and Tom Watson (at Hickory Hill), Lost Cause (at the City Cemetery), and Lost Schools: Rosenwald Plan (at the former Pine Street School).

Lost Colonies, Lost Hopes and Lost Causes can be heard at 706-715-3397.

Mrs. Vance said the tours already have received a lot of hits on the CVB's facebook page, and she is eager to get some feedback.

Web posted on Thursday, March 05, 2009

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