Tom and I recently visited the Midway Museum in Midway, Georgia. This is our sixth year on St. Simons Island, and I was looking for someplace new to go. Volunteer Linda Usrey suggested the Midway Museum to me last year, but it took a while for us to get up there. We went to the Midway Museum on the same day we visited Fort McAllister and Fort Morris.
When I think about a museum, I expect that it is a place where I will be able to walk around on my own and check out the articles on display. I went the Midway Museum expecting to be able to wander around and learn about Midway. Our first clue that the Midway Museum was different was the sign on the front door that told us to knock in order to be admitted. When the docent answered the door, she expected us to pay a fee before she started the tour. I was surprised that we had to be toured around the museum and wasn’t sure I wanted to stay. Before I paid the $8 per person fee, I wanted to find out a little more information.
I asked the docent, “Who lived here?” She answered “Nobody.” I thought she was being snarky and was ready to leave, but then decided that I had started it by refusing to pay the entry fee. I forked over the money and she started the tour.
It turns out the docent wasn’t being snarky, she was telling the truth. The museum is designed as a typical home of the late 18th century but no one ever lived in it. It is set up with artifacts, antique furnishings, and historical documents from the 1770’s through the Civil War. The museum was built in the Plantation Plain style in 1959 to help interpret the history of Midway and the neighboring Midway Church.
The docent gave us way more history of the area than my brain could absorb. I had a hard time keeping up with all of the families that she talked about as we moved around from room to room. The Midway Church was founded in 1752 by Congregationalist plantation owners who settled in the area from South Carolina. The Midway Church Society was an early and fervent supporter of the American Revolution and was the first in Georgia to send a delegate, Dr. Lyman Hall, to the Continental Congress. After he returned, the Society voted to join the new county, and all three Georgians who signed the new Declaration of Independence — Dr. Hall, Button Gwinnett, and George Walton from Augusta — had associations with the Midway Church Society.
The original church was burned by British troops during the Revolutionary War. The Church was rebuilt in 1792 but was used by Union troops as a butcher shop toward the end of the the Civil War. After that, the founding families, which had all moved away from the area, agreed that it was desecrated and would not longer be used for worship. They have a reunion and memorial service in the church once a year in April and descendants of the founders come from all over the United States. Those same descendants still pay for the preservation of the church building.
Our docent did answer the question of why it was called Midway. It was midway between Savannah and Darien, the two largest ports in Georgia at the time.
After Tom and I completed our tour of the museum, we walked next door to see the Midway Church. The Midway Cemetery is across the street and has the graves of many famous Georgia colonists, including two Revolutionary War generals.
Today the town of Midway only has about 1,000 residents. Tom and I were surprised that it is so small, given its famous background. But the area has always been primarily rural and it continues to be so.
Although I’m not sure I would recommend the museum to anyone, our docent did a nice job with our tour and with the history of the area. It was interesting to pick up immediately after where Fort Frederica’s history stops. Midway Museum bills itself as Georgia’s only colonial museum.