By Tom Poland
The Southern Studies Showcase
The beautiful Edgefield pottery piece you see is a gift. I received it for speaking at the Southern Studies Showcase held this past weekend in Edgefield. It makes for a symbolic gift. Edgefield and pottery go hand in hand with history. From Friday, September 20 through Saturday, September 21, the Southern Studies Showcase hosted fourteen speakers and people from near and far, and history ran strong for two days.
This year’s speakers covered topics that range from proving identity and kinship using the Genealogical Proof Standard, and discovering Scottish heritage through DNA and genealogical research. Topics ranged widely and included a presentation on the first code talkers, the Choctaws. Other presentations focused on South Carolina’s “lost 100 years,” a film and presentation on the 100-year journey of a 1926 company store built for a lumber mill in the swamps of Barnwell County and its repurposed use today. Military history, the back roads of South Carolina, the untold stories of an African-American family, and minorities in the Confederate military shed light on topics often overlooked. Still other topics including writing and publishing your family history, African-Americans’ contributions to United States war efforts, and the South Carolina Liberty Trail.
I’ve spoken three times now at this two-day festival of history. Each year the speakers and topics vary. If you are interested in genealogy and history make sure you attend the next showcase. A reception and a block party add social zest to the great presentations, and Edgefield itself is a treat. The home of Ten Governors and peach orchards features a beautiful town square featuring locally owned restaurants, a general store, Carolina Moon Distillery, and the Tompkins Memorial Library and Edgefield County Archives where many people come to unravel their family history. Old Edgefield Pottery, the National Wild Turkey Federation Museum and Outdoor Education Center and historic cemeteries offer much to do and see as well.
Tonya Browder, the Edgefield Historical Society, and fellow Edgefield friends do a wonderful job planning and overseeing the two-day showcase. And the lovely pottery piece? Master potter Justin Guy, an Edgefield native, created these beautiful pieces. Guy operates Old Edgefield Pottery.
South Carolina’s oldest newspaper, The Edgefield Advertiser, sits on the square. The newspaper hasn’t hurt for great stories. Deep in history, the town and county are rich with tales and legends that span politics, peaches, and pottery. Consider Edgefield a writer’s paradise.
Edgefield and genealogical research are synonymous. Thousands of visitors from every state come to Edgefield to research their family roots. This genealogy “tourism” provides a sound background for the Southern Studies Showcase.
While many towns hold lighthearted festivals that give people a chance to strut and stomp and drink beer and eat various foods, the Southern Studies Showcase gives you much more. It gives you an opportunity to better understand the South thanks to great speakers and interesting subjects. If that interests you, and I think it does, keep an eye on the 2020 calendar as next September nears. And don’t forget that Edgefield puts on a fine camellia tea in March at Magnolia Dale, a historic and beautiful home that’s the headquarters of the Edgefield Historic Society.
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