African-American Heritage Trail takes center stage at Euharlee Historical Society's annual meeting July 13

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With the city featuring two sites on the driving tour, Euharlee Historical Society's annual meeting will highlight the Bartow County African-American Heritage Trail July 13. The gathering will feature a presentation by Keep Bartow Beautiful Executive Director Sheri Henshaw on the project's development.

“Sheri Henshaw and Missy Phillips have been working diligently for years with Justice [Robert] Benham, the Bartow County government and other organizations to preserve these crucial historical sites,” said Katie Gobbi, director of the Euharlee Welcome Center & History Museum. “For many years, some of the sites have not been kept up and this project has focused a new attention on all of them.

“Particularly in Euharlee, we have two sites — the covered bridge and the Black Pioneers Cemetery. Maintenance of any historic site can be difficult, but cemeteries are in need a constant, consistent attention. We are excited to share the progress that has been made over the last six months with the public. We hope that those in attendance will be motivated by Sheri’s presentation to continue supporting this project. The project has helped build bridges between the various historic sites and organizations that we hope will ultimately keep our programs more sustainable and keep up the momentum that has been generated.”

Open to the public, the 10 a.m. complimentary gathering will be presented at the Euharlee Welcome Center & History Museum, 33 Covered Bridge Road.

During Henshaw’s address, attendees will learn about how many of the trail sites are receiving significant renovations. Funding for upgrades at seven locations was secured through a Memorandum of Agreement in April 2018 between the Federal Communication Commission, the Georgia State Historic Preservation Officers, Bartow County government, the Bartow County Community Development Department and the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau in regards to four public safety towers.

“Most projects of this nature are historically underfunded, so being able to repair and repaint the entire exterior of Noble Hill, for instance, or build a trail through the Black Pioneers Cemetery in Euharlee, was a great opportunity,” Henshaw said. “We are in the middle of a three year time frame for completing seven specific projects along the trail, with the guidance and direction of the State Historic Preservation Office and a consultant, archeologist Steve Webb, of R.S. Webb and Associates. It has been a project that took two years just to get approval.”

Comprised of 10 sites, Bartow’s African-American Heritage Trail consists of various locations in downtown Cartersville, such as Gassett’s Grocery and Conyer’s Alley; George Washington Carver Park and Camp Pine Acres in Acworth; Summer Hill Heritage Foundation and Masonic Lodge in Cartersville; Euharlee Covered Bridge and Black Pioneers Cemetery in Euharlee; St. James AME Church and Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center in Cassville; Melvinia "Mattie" Shields McGruder's gravesite in Kingston; and Adairsville Depot Museum in Adairsville. Produced by the Cartersville-Bartow County CVB, the “African American Heritage Trail” brochure is available at each trail site, the Euharlee Welcome Center & History Museum and the welcome centers inside the Adairsville and Cartersville depots and Clarence Brown Conference Center.

“While we have had a couple of tours so far, we hope that as we get each site more ‘visitor ready,’ with work on these specific projects and related interpretive signage to go along with the brochure and programming provided at each site, that it will grow and become a popular resource for the community and for visitors to our region,” Henshaw said. “I am looking forward to sharing specifics with the Euharlee Historical Society, as they have been a part of this vision from the beginning.

“What I want visitors to take away from this is that there are many aspects to history that don't always show up in the textbooks written mostly by white men about people and things they considered important. These sites collectively tell a moving story of the African-American experience from slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation through Civil Rights battles and integration. I can't say enough about what is happening with this, it has taken on a life of its own now.”

As Henshaw noted, numerous trail sites are receiving enhancements, including those in Euharlee.

“In 2016, the city of Euharlee placed interpretive panels in front of 10 of our historic sites, including the two that are part of this trail,” Gobbi said. “[This] helps fulfill the intent of the trail to make the sites accessible to automobile and foot traffic, any time. The bridge, being one of the more well-known landmarks in Bartow County, has been preserved and documented.

“The Euharlee Black Pioneers Cemetery has not always been known to the wider public and is in need of more work to make it fully accessible to the public. Through funds received as part of a mitigation grant, we are developing a trail system to make the whole cemetery accessible. We have completed an initial clearing, with the help of the Citizens of Georgia Power group from Plant Bowen, ground-penetrating radar and GPS marking of the new trail.”

Dating back to 1830, the Black Pioneers Cemetery features more than 300 burials, three of whom have been identified. Operated by the city of Euharlee, the 1-acre cemetery on Covered Bridge Road is nestled between the former Euharlee Presbyterian Church — now owned by the city of Euharlee — and Euharlee Baptist.

“We are honored to have two of these important heritage sites included on this trail,” Gobbi said. “They help tell a larger story of the African-American experience in Euharlee — Bartow — and the wider South. We want to be good stewards of these sites and make sure that they are preserved for the community, now and in the future.

“People visit from all over the state and beyond to see bridges built by Washington King and his father and brothers. Now, we hope we can bring similar attention to the significance of the cemetery and those buried there.”

For more information about the upcoming meeting, contact Gobbi at 770-607-2017 or visit Facebook.com/EuharleeHistoryMuseum.