Originally, we thought we’d just write one post about the three back to back stays in the US Army Corp of Engineer (COE) campgrounds. There was so much similarities about them, but as I began to write, the words just kept flowing. WOW, we did more than it seemed at the time….
After our camping experience in Gunter Hill (click to read our last post if you missed it), in Montgomery, Alabama, our expectations were pretty high for our next stay in Cotton Hill. Coupled with the fact friends we made in Fort Pickens really liked this campground a lot! It did not disappoint, except we were sad to learn they had a contract dispute with the county over the sewerage so the sites this year were not full hook up sites. But had 50 amp and water.
We had an easy drive, just 115 miles from Gunter Hill to the COE Cotton Hill Campground, 177 Campground Rd., Ft Gaines, GA 39851, (229) 768-3061. Initially, our reservations were from March 7 – 12, 2017, but due to a severe weather system coming up from the gulf coast, we extended our stay one night. We had to change sites from Old Mill Loop, site 35, to Pine Island (view) site 74 on March 12-13, 2017, which was OK, as it was time to dump our tanks anyway. Here are a few pictures of our site and where we did our daily walking/jogging (Bill decided to incorporate some sprints in his walks).
Our first day here, we walked the entire campground, combining the nature trail and walking on the roads. We just enjoyed everything about the campground.
For some reason, I thought this would be an active army base! Nope, it was a simple little Fort for the Georgians to protect their corner of the state from the Creek Indians. We had learned all about the Creek Indians in Montgomery at the History Museum. And they seemed to think the Georgians were the aggressors. Looked like to me, the Indians needed a fort to protect their world. It was sad to learn how the Indians lost their land when in good faith, they had land agreements. But that is another blog post….
We spent a 1/2 day touring the Fort Gaines area, learning it’s history, and of course, visiting the dam. Across the river is the city of Eufaula, Alabama. Friends told us we had to visit the Shorter Mansion and Museum, so of course, we did! We loved it but only had time for the one tour. We went back on Saturday to see the other, Fenton Hall, but it is now closed on Saturdays – although the City brochure and website said it was open. So guess we’ll just have to return to this area to see inside this beautiful mansion.
Fort Gaines is a small rural community founded in Southwest Georgia in 1814. Its history is rich, its natural resources bountiful, its citizens friendly. Short winters and balmy summers, the acres of rich timberland that surround it, and its proximity to Lake Walter F. George have made Fort Gaines a haven for hunting and fishing for many years. Recently several of the historical homes and monuments in the city have been revitalized, and the Dept. of Natural Resources has put renewed effort into the state parks in Clay County and along the lake. Also, in 1998 the Meadowlinks 18-Hole Championship Golf Course opened four miles north of town proper. This has made Fort Gaines an even more enchanting and inviting prospect for visitors and vacationers.” (Click here for more details.)
It is definitely small and rural!!! So what is there to do around here (besides enjoy the wonderful campground)? We don’t fish (yet – we see it in our future), hunt (never) nor play golf (never). But we do enjoy history and are always looking for places to hike. There was the four mile long Phenomenon Hiking and Biking Trail. But since it was paved, we had to rule it out as it bothers my knees. It runs from the “east bank” of the dam on Lake Eufaula (Walter F. George) to Bagby State Park. We did explore around the dam, which was where we learned the only “hiking” in this area was on this trial – which doesn’t work for my knees (nor bike riding). We found three things in the area to interest us and get us out of the campground:
Our friends had also recommended walking around the Frontier Village in Fort Gaines, so of course we did! We also stopped in the little grocery store in town to pick up a few things. It is quaint but they didn’t carry some of the fresh vegetables we needed. Here are a few pictures of Frontier Village, originally built in 1836.
We checked out the dam and learn more about the nature of the lake and why the USACE invested in the campground. Apparently, this area is a fisherman’s paradise! .
The next day, we decided to go over to Eufaula, Alabama to tour the Shorter Mansion and Museum. It was interesting going back over the river and back into the Central Time Zone. We forgot about it on our way home and arrived an hour later than we thought – but our stomachs sure reminded us it was past dinner time!
Founded on the site of earlier Creek Indian villages, the historic city of Eufaula, Alabama, is a national treasure. Eufaula and the surrounding area is home to more than 20 structures and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the city’s annual Spring Pilgrimage is one of the finest such events in the South.”
This quaint town has a mixed history of tragedy and opulence. We didn’t really delve much into the history of the town, learned more about the opulent mansion, the people and culture along with some local history of the area. We think we could easily come back and do more exploring! Of course, I was most intrigued by the owners, Eli Sims Shorter II and his wife, Wileyna Lamar Shorter – what a love story with a tragic ending. For him, it was love at first sight. For her, she never felt pretty enough (her portraits are always of her profile), but she was heir to a fortune so maybe that helped them build this more fascinating mansion! Her father was one of the three founders of the S.S.S. Company:
Chances are the year 1826 doesn’t strike a deep historical chord in most Americans. But to the people at the S.S.S. Company, it’s one of the most significant dates in history. For it was in 1826 that the mighty Creek Indians bequeathed a treasured remedy of theirs, now known as S.S.S. Tonic, to Captain Irwin Dennard of Perry, Georgia as a reward for having saved the life of one of their Chieftains. Captain Dennard sold the formula to Colonel Charles T. Swift who also lived in Perry, Georgia. Colonel Swift formed a partnership with Colonel H.J. Lamar of Macon, Georgia to bottle and sell the Tonic. In 1873, Colonel H.J. Lamar, foreseeing Atlanta as the Metropolis of the south, the manufacturer of S.S.S. Tonic was moved to Atlanta. According to the Companys’ History, the S.S.S. stood for Swift’s Southern Specific in the earlier years.
From this storybook-like beginning, The S.S.S. Company was born. Now it’s the oldest non-prescription drug manufacturer in the country. After operating for more than one hundred plus years with only one product, S.S.S. Tonic, the company became diversified. Today, S.S.S. Company and its’ wholly owned subsidiary, Pfeiffer Pharmaceuticals, Inc., markets over one hundred products. The company will continue to develop and promote new products to meet health care needs of people as their desires change.” (copied from SSS Pharmaceuticals site.)
Affectionately described as ‘Eli’s Folly’ or ‘The House S.S.S. Tonic Built,’ the 8,700-square-foot home is situated on land purchased by Eli Shorter II from his neighbor in 1901. The Neoclassical Revival mansion took five years to complete, with expert craftsmen creating its six-layer moldings, hand-carved wall sculptures, inset mirrors over fireplaces, and elaborate interior and exterior Corinthian columns. Hand-cut parquet wooden floors on the first floor were constructed from planks of mahogany, oak, and walnut and laid in three different patterns: chevron, hexagonal tiling, and interlaced ribbons.” (copied from Encyclopedia of Alabama.)
So the tragedy is that Eli died at the age of 50 from pneumonia, while his wife is heir to this allegedly life saving tonic. It just seemed so ironic as he was only able to live in this beautiful mansion a few years before his death in 1908. His wife was able to enjoy a long life and lived in it until her death in 1927. The historical records are sketchy one their full lives, but I was fascinated none the less!
We had to rush home as we spent longer in the mansion and museum than we realized. We decided we would return on Saturday and visit the other mansion open for tours, Fendall Hall, the Young-Dent Home renovated in the 1856-1860.
While walking around this huge campground and decided when we return to this campground, we would like to stay in the Pine Island loop. We now had that opportunity since we had to extend our stay one day. While the sunsets were fabulous, we could easily see it from our site, but because of the weather system, we also had lots and lots of wind all night. At least no rain and thunderstorms! The site pad was not as nice as in Old Mill Road Loop. I’m not sure where we’ll stay next time since the best lots in this loop are walk ups. We have marked some places on our map. Of course, I didn’t get a picture of the beautiful sunset from this second site….😞 Much of our focus this winter has been learning new areas, which we have done, and to focus on Bill’s new lifestyle for his health. The COEs provided plenty of opportunity for us to exercise/walk/hike. Due to rain/mud, I had to do a lot of walking on the road – it doesn’t bother Bill. But my knees acted up while here. This park has a nice little nature trail, just under a mile long. So while I went around it twice, Bill got in his 3-5 miles walking around the entire park. Our time here was shorter since we didn’t have sewer hook ups. That is our downside, we’ll only stay 5 days or less without the hook up.
And finally, while in the Shorter Mansion and Museum, we talked with a woman who asked where we were staying. We said Cotton Hill. She then invited us to her church which was near the campground! What an amazing and sweet church it was! But when we got home Saturday, there was a flyer in our door advertising church at the campground, but in an outdoor pavilion. We said we’d decide which one to attend when we woke. And good thing we had the Shiloh Baptist Church as our back up! It was cold, windy and rainy. We didn’t think we could sit in that weather and hear the sermon or enjoy the worship!
As we study history, we see there we so many tragedies and disputes that started over land ownership and for political reasons. The sermon and church bulletin really helped our time here end on a positive reminder:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44
Our winter travels are nearly done. What’s left to post about: Final post on the COEs, time in Eastbank, Bainbridge, Georgia; a stop over in Jellystone RV Park, Madison, Florida; a glorious week in Hannah County Park, Jacksonville, Florida; and ending with 5 days in Myrtle Beach.
I enjoy reading about your adventures. Thanks for sharing!
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Thank you! That post was a bit long and photo intensive-but we will come back to it in a few years to remember all we did! Lol
We have always found COE parks to be pretty consistently nice. We had good friends recommend Cotton Hill to us several years ago. Now with your post and it being only a little over an hour away we will have to pay a visit.
Your post gives such great information about the area….thanks!!
That church looks so sweet!!
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We enjoyed it. The camp hosts are very special, too! I left that out. There really wasn’t anything else in the area! Rural Georgia at its best!
Yes, COEs are consistently nice. But Gunter Hill was our favorite so far-has sewer, too!