Georgia’s Antebellum Trail – Milledgeville, Eatonton & Madison

May, 2015 — As we scouted around for a good route to travel north through the middle of Georgia from Thomasville to North Carolina, we came across the Antebellum Trail. This route passes through several pretty and historic small towns in Georgia that have strong roots from before the Civil War. We were on the hunt for statuesque antebellum mansions, and all the towns on the Antebellum Trail boasted at least a few.

Antebellum mansion with rhododendrons in Madison Georgia

Roses bloom in front of an elegant antebellum house in Madison, Georgia.

There are seven towns and cities on the Antebellum Trail, and we ended up visiting three of them: Milledgeville, Eatonton and Madison. In each of these towns, caring homeowners and historical societies have lovingly preserved these elegant old homes.

Antebellum house in Eatonton Georgia

Matching double-decker rotunda porch wings! (Eatonton, Georgia)

And thank goodness they have, because old wooden homes just don’t stand up to the elements all that well. For every four or five true beauties that we gazed at on these lovely old town streets, we saw a forlorn one that had succumbed to the ravages of time.

Crumbling antebellum house in Milledgeville Georgia

Occasionally we came across crumbling relics.

There is a majesty to the tall columns and proud, imposing front porches of these antebellum mansions, and it seems that the number of columns that lined the front of the house made a statement about the wealth of the people that lived within. We read little signs on plaques that referred to the home being a “four column house,” or a “six column house.”

A four column antebellum mansion in Eatonton, Georgia

A four column mansion in Eatonton, Georgia

And then, of course, there were the people that built their house with columns going all around the outside. Wow!

Stately antebellum mansion in Milledgeville Georgia

Aw, heck, why not have columns on all sides? (Milledgeville)

There were inviting front porches everywhere we turned, and straight-backed rocking chairs adorned many of them. Even the simplest historic homes that just had a few posts holding up the porch roof rather than a row of grecian columns still had a row of rockers out front.

Rocking chairs on a porch in Milledgeville Georgia

Straight-backed rocking chairs grace almost every front porch.

Milledgeville was in high spirits when we visited. We just happened to arrive on First Friday, a big downtown party that takes place on the first friday of every month. Impromptu bands made music in the street, and all the merchants and bistros threw their doors wide open. Throngs of people filled the sidewalks.

A band plays at First Friday in Milledgeville, Georgia

We pulled into Milledgeville on First Friday, and bands were playing on the sidewalks!

If this weren’t enough, there was an antique car show going on at one end of town. As we walked towards it, we heard music coming from the large lawn across the street — the front lawn of the Georgia College and State University campus. We walked over and discovered it was a spring outdoor concert. One group of kids after another got up onto a makeshift stage and played jazz tunes and big band music. What fun!

Georgia Collete & State University

There was an outdoor music concert at Georgia College and State University too!

As we wandered back to the truck, we noticed lots of college students dressed to the nines walking around. It turned out that tonight was their big Senior Formal. The smell of perfume and cologne wafted over us, and we marveled at the shiny shoes, snappy ties and slinky dresses. Oh, to be young and sexy!

College Kids on a roof in Milledgeville Georgia

Hey — what’s going on up there?

Meanwhile, some of the underclassmen seemed to be cutting loose with a prank or two. Many of the old homes around Milledeville are student housing of one kind or another, and I spotted a pair of boys climbing out of a window onto a rooftop. This was going to be quite a night!!

Coming down a few notches to a much lower key, we visited nearby Eatonton, a tiny town with just a few cross streets.

Downtown shops Eatonton Georgia Antebellum Trail

Peaceful Eatonton, Georgia

Exploring the outer edges of town, we went down one side street and noticed we were about to drive under a very low train bridge at just the last second. “Will we make it?” Mark looked at me wide-eyed. I hopped out to see. Just barely!!!

Low bridge in Eatonton Georgia

Going under the limbo stick!

The Civil War is still felt in this part of the south, and we read plaques in every town that talked about General Sherman’s 1864 “March to the Sea” where he barnstormed across Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah, mowing down everything in his path.

Civil War Memorial Eatonton Georgia

A statue commemorating all the Confederate soldiers
that fought in the Civil War

On the other side of the grand Eatonton Courthouse in the middle of town we found a statue of a very different sort: Brer Rabbit!

Brer Rabbit in the Briar Patch Eatonton Georgia

On the flip side — Brer Rabbit!

Eatonton was the birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris who compiled a collection of stories about the wily Brer Rabbit (“brother” Rabbit) whose cunning and wits saved him (usually) from various scrapes. Harris’ stories were told by the fictional Uncle Remus, but he had heard them himself as a boy from the slaves on the plantation where he grew up.

Writer's Museum Eatonton Georgia

How many towns have a Writer’s Museum? Tiny Eatonton does!

Harris wasn’t the only famous writer from this area, and The Writer’s Museum on Eatonton’s town square is dedicated not only to him but to Flannery O’Connor as well. We knew little about either writer when we walked into the museum, but by the time we emerged we just had to check out Flannery O’Connor’s homestead on the outer fringes of Milledgeville.

The narrow road into the estate is so well hidden that we almost missed it, but the home and grounds within told the intriguing story of this young, brilliant writer who succumbed to lupus at age 39 in 1964.

Flannery O'Connor Homestead Milledgeville Georgia

Andalusia Farm — home of 20th century writer Flannery O’Connor

She wrote her most famous works while living at this house between the ages of 27 and 39, and due to her decreasing mobility, she spent much of that time inside where she enjoyed the views from the large windows.

Flannery O'Connor Home in Milledgeville Georgia

Flannery O’Connor suffered from Lupus, and as she became less mobile she stayed indoors more and more.

When we got to the trendy town of Madison, we were most impressed by the dramatic courthouse which stands on a corner facing outwards towards the heart of town.

Courthouse Madison Georgia

Madison has the most flamboyant of the courthouses we saw on the Antebellum Trail

At the visitors center we were told we should visit Madison’s new city park, and when we got there we saw why. It is a beautiful brand new city park for outdoor events and gatherings that was dedicated in 2009 but that looks as though it might have been around when General Sherman came through!

The Town Park in Madison Georgia

Urban revitalization in the small town of Madison — a wonderful new outdoor park that blends right into the historic look-and-feel of the town.

Our stay in Georgia was brief, but we thoroughly enjoyed sampling each of these unique towns and wandering at a leisurely pace along the Antebellum Trail. If you are taking your RV on a north-south route through Georgia, the Antebellum Trail is a wonderful way to go.

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Thomasville, Georgia – Antebellum Elegance

April, 2015 – Florida was heating up fast and Sarasota had become a veritable sauna, so it was time to pack up the RV and head north to cooler climes. Before long we were in Thomasville, Georgia. What a delightful change it was to go from the vacation spirit of beachfront Florida to the stately antebellum elegance of mansions with columns set back from beautiful tree-lined streets.

Antebellum mansion in Thomasville Georgia

We hopped out of the truck for a walk — and found this!
Check out that double rotunda porch!!

We parked our truck near a cool looking church and just started walking. We had no idea we’d planted ourselves on one of the most elegant historic streets in town at first, but the rows of gorgeous old homes captivated us.

We were on Hansell Street in the Tockwotton district, and as we walked down these shady, wide streets, we were instantly transported back in time to an era long ago. I could just imagine myself sweeping out onto one of the broad porches in long, flouncy gown, entertaining my gentleman callers!!

Antebellum mansion in Thomasville Georgia

These grand antebellum mansions evoke another era
— and another life!

These graceful houses here were built in the early 1800’s, prior to the Civil War (which is what “antebellum” means). Wealthy northerners looking for a respite from winter found Thomasville was the perfect place to escape the snow and cold back home.

If these were their winter getaway cottages, then what did their “real” homes up north look like?!

Antebellum home in Thomasville Georgia

A place to sip mint juleps in a graceful gown.

These homes take a lot of work to maintain, and several landscaping crews were busy in the yards on this street. We saw a young fellow with a hedge trimmer in his hand, and I ran over to ask him for directions to the visitors center. I was really taken aback when he addressed me as “ma’am.” I turned around to see if he was talking to someone behind me!

Antebellum house Thomasville Georgia

These houses were winter “getaway” homes for northerners!

But that was the norm throughout our stay in southern Georgia. We had suddenly risen to the status of Ma’am and Sir, despite running around town in t-shirts and shorts, and the people we met couldn’t have been more friendly.

Front staircase of antebellum house Thomasville Georgia

“Come on in, Ma’am” !!!

Thomasville’s historic districts are delightful, and we found more lovely homes on Dawson Street. Massive live oak trees spread their branches wide across the streets, and some of them are draped with parasitic frilly plants.

Tree-lined streets in Thomasville Georgia

Enormous trees arch over the historic streets.

We were just over the border from Florida, and in many ways the climate and vegetation felt like north Florida. We just loved the huge trees.

Tree-lined streets in Thomasville Georgia

Aren’t these trees great?!!

One family had hung an old tire swing from one of the tree branches hanging over their yard. I so wanted to try it out!

Tire swing on a live oak in Thomasville Georgia

How inviting!

The young landscaper with the hedge trimmer had told us to head over to check out The Big Oak. When we got there, we found it took up an entire house lot site. It was just enormous — and very ancient. It’s limbs span over 165 feet and it’s over 68 feet tall. More impressive, it is around 335 years old. It was a sapling back in the 1680’s!

Under the Big Oak in Thomasville Georgia

The Big Oak was a sapling when America was first being colonized.

Thomasville, Georgia, is known for its expansive rose garden. We arrived just two days after the end of their annual springtime Rose Festival and the roses were at their peak.

Thomasville Rose Garden in Georgia

The Thomasville Rose Garden

This garden has many different varieties of roses, and we really enjoyed the lovely shapes and heavenly scents of each variety.

Thomasville Rose Garden Georgia

We just missed the annual Rose Festival by two days…


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Shakespeare’s Juliet said of Romeo…

Roses in Thomasville Rose Garden Georgia

Even the petals that fell on the ground around the rose bushes were lovely.

Rose petals in Thomasville Rose Garden Georgia

Rose petals beneath a rose bush that had already come and gone.

Spring was springing all around us, and huge magnolia trees were in full blossom too. What a handsome flower they have!!

Blooming Magnolia flower blossom

Magnificent maganolia!

Not far from the Rose Garden is a pretty park with a big pond and a peaceful air called Cherokee Lake Park. We wandered along the water’s edge and watched some young goose families make their way across the vast lawns.

Geese with goslings

A little goose family trucks across the lawns at Cherokee Lake Park in town.

These guys were just too cute. They reminded us of the little sandhill crane chicks we had seen back in Sarasota Florida a month earlier. (And we’ve heard from our friend there, by the way, that they have been spotted again and are now half the size of their parents and are doing very well!).

Gosling in the grass

A little gosling rests in the grass.

Our stay in Thomasville was just a few days, but it was a great first stop in Georgia, and is one of the towns we enjoyed most on our all-too-brief tour of this pretty state.

Songbird at Thomasville Rose Garden Georgia

Thomasville was a wonderful introduction to Georgia for us.

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