Friday, September 20, 2013

An Afternoon at the Museum

This column first appeared in the Douglas County Sentinel on May 5, 2013.

I took a little time Tuesday to visit the Old Courthouse Museum for the “Keep Calm and Shop Local” Networking event.  All of the museum rooms were open for browsing, and I wanted to make sure I checked out the new and improved exhibit regarding town father Ephraim Pray. 
Ephraim Pray is one of Douglas County’s earliest settlers arriving in the area as early as 1828.  Along with a few other early settlers he holds the distinction of being a man who lived in three different counties – Carroll, Campbell and Douglas – without having to move even one stick of furniture.  County borders shifted twice during his lifetime.

When Pray moved to this area he purchased nine land lots on both sides of today’s Highway 5 at the Dog River Bridge.  He cleared the land himself and built a cabin.  He dammed the Trout Creek/Dog River and using the water power from the river he operated a flour and grist mill as well as a saw mill.  He also farmed, and the second floor of his mill was used by two male slaves, as well as by Pray himself, to make furniture.
Pray donated twelve acres for the purpose of building a church that would become Pray's Mill Baptist Church. His only stipulation was the church had to remain Baptist or the land would revert back to the Pray family. The new congregation wanted to name the new church for Pray, but he refused. Of course, they ended up naming the church for his mill instead.  Pray become a constituent member of the church and attended there until he passed away.

During Reconstruction, Ephraim Pray was one of several men who were tired of having to travel so far to Campbellton to conduct business. They wanted a new county.  In 1870, Pray traveled to Atlanta to listen to the state legislature approve the act for Douglas County. He was named one of the first county commissioners by the Georgia General Assembly, and he is one of the few charter citizens of Douglas County.
The new museum exhibit contains dozens of artifacts evidencing Mr. Pray’s life donated by Pray family member Joe Phillips. There are pictures, farm equipment, furniture Mr. Pray made, and more personal items such as pipes and a fiddle evidencing a man who lived during the Nineteenth century.

Museum volunteers have spent the last few months organizing the artifacts into an entertaining and educational exhibit. I encourage everyone to visit the Old Courthouse Museum at 6754 Broad Street in the historic downtown district. They are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Stop by and see what they have to offer.  You won’t be disappointed!

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