Friday, September 04, 2015

The Red Hills: From Cotton to Quail

Georgia Game and Fish Magazine, Fall 1954.
John James Flynt, Jr. Papers, Russell Library
Over the past two summers Russell Library intern Kaylynn Washnock assisted in curating the new exhibit, “Seeing Georgia: Changing Visions of Tourism in the Modern South” opening September 18th in the Russell Library’s Harrison Feature Gallery. The exhibit investigates how the state transformed itself from a way station along the route to Florida into a tourist destination during the twentieth century. It addition to highlighting six popular destinations in Georgia the exhibit considers questions of access, preservation, and economics – who could go, how they got there, and what motivated them to visit different attractions. The exhibit also explores the professionalization of the tourism industry and the roles of modern amenities in shaping the modern tourist experience. This post is one in a series where Kaylynn offers a preview of the exhibition.   

Courtesy of Gary Doster
The region of Southwest Georgia in the Flint River basin near Albany encompassing Thomas and Grady Counties is known as the Red Hills. In the 1874, local Thomas County physician Dr. Thomas Spalding Hopkins touted the benefits of the high elevation and dry climate for improving respiratory ailments. Soon thereafter, the New England Journal of Medicine even promoted South Georgia—particularly Thomasville—as the ideal sanctuary for those suffering from consumption. As a 1890s trade card noted, “why not spend the winter in Thomasville?" With convenient railway access, pleasant surroundings, and a dry climate, northerners flocking to the Red Hills during the winters of the late nineteenth century more than doubled the local population. Depressed cotton prices in the post-Reconstruction Era dropped property values, and soon visitors began buying up defunct cotton plantations and converting them into private hunting resorts. These exclusive seasonal visitors, many whose families still enjoy the region, came for the climate, opportunity to socialize with fellow elites, and the pleasure of hunting in the longleaf pine forests.  

Georgia Room Collection
Hargrett Library
Many of South Georgia’s quail hunting plantations served as the nation’s first outdoor laboratories for wildlife management and forestry research. In the early twentieth century, scientists like Herbert Stoddard (1889-1970) and Eugene Odom (1913-2002) came to the Red Hills to conduct research. By the 1950s, the Cooperative Quail Study Association was established at Robert Woodruff’s Ichauway Plantation, which continues as the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center.  As of 2013, more than 650,000 acres in the Red Hills serve as quail hunting preserves and over 165,000 acres are permanently protected.  In 2012, Red Hills hunting plantations generated $147.1 million per year and employed over 1,400 locals full-time. In that same year Georgia ranked number one in the nation for attracting out-of-state hunters.

Want to find out more about Georgia Tourism? Visit Seeing Georgia: Changing Visions of Tourism in the New South on display in the Harrison Feature Gallery in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries from September 18, 2015 through July 30, 2016. The Russell Library gallery is free and open to the public weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. For more information, email or call 706-542-5788

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