Happy Birthday, Georgia — The Archives Remembers

“The rest, as they say, is history.”

We hear this statement regularly in every facet of life.

It is a popular phrase, designed to reduce, for the sake of brevity, the relatively recent past to seven words. The inference is that the story is too recent to bear reciting. Since it happened relatively recently, we, in our infinite humanity, figure we will remember without effort.

But, the recent past quickly becomes the distant past. Years flash by, and memories fade. Stories handed down through generations, like the old telephone game, are misremembered resulting in tangled distortions.

If such anomalies can occur in family histories over, say, three or four generations, just think what could happen if we had only oral history to rely on for the history of the state of Georgia.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 will mark 280 years since Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe escorted 114 men, women and children to Yamacraw Bluff, about 20 miles from the mouth of the Savannah River. The contingent had been at sea for more than two months. They had stopped in Charleston while Oglethorpe and soldiers found a place for them to settle in what would become the 13th colony.

What happened to those 114 souls? What hardships did they endure? What kind of government, industries and social structure did they develop?

The questions about Georgia’s rich history literally are endless.

Who was Button Gwinnett? What role did Georgia play in the American Revolution? What was the Yazoo Land Fraud? The convict lease system? What happened to the women who worked in the Roswell Mill?

How did Leo Frank die? What did the governor’s mansion look like in 1932? What did the legislature do in 1955? For what is Alonzo Herndon famous? What crops did your great grandpa grow on his farm in Early County?

How in the world did Georgia get 159 counties?

Of course, you could check any of several online sources, but the information generally is relatively superficial and the source documentation often non-existent. If you wanted to know the whole story, the real story, to see the actual documents, you’d go to the Georgia Archives.

Funding for the Archives has been dwindling for several years. If we don’t take the time to care today, how will future generations learn about what happened in the past?

So the next time you hear the phrase, “and the rest is history,” remember the Georgia Archives. The Archives exists for “the rest,” to be the collective memory of the state of Georgia and its people.

Take time to wish the State of Georgia a Happy Birthday and to tell your state legislature how important the Archives is to you and your fellow Georgians.

Vivian Price Saffold

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