CLAXTON — Besides celebrating their county’s 99th birthday with cake and a hotdog lunch, Evans County residents lined up to purchase little wooden replicas of the courthouse, which was a backdrop to the celebration.
The event Friday on the courthouse lawn in Claxton served as a launch party for the county’s 100th year. For 2014, a Centennial Steering Committee appointed by the county commissioners is planning monthly events from January through November. Probate Judge Darin McCoy is one of nine committee members.
“We have been working for about three years trying to perfect this centennial celebration because this is a once-in-a-lifetime event in our county, and we want to leave a very good mark in history,” McCoy said.
The courthouse replicas, created by a Charleston, S.C., company known as Sheila’s (now Custom Wood Gifts), are the first commemorative objects unveiled for the Evans County centennial.
“They got their start doing historic buildings in Charleston, and they branched out and have done wooden replicas of buildings all over the United States,” McCoy said. “We contacted them, and they were very eager and willing to work with us to do a three-dimensional wooden replica of our historic courthouse.”
The Georgia General Assembly passed an amendment Aug. 11, 1914, creating Evans County. Georgia voters then ratified the amendment on Nov. 23, but the August date is the one traditionally observed for county birthday celebrations.
Both August and November will bring celebrations in 2014. But the committee released a tentative calendar Friday suggesting an 11-month series of events.
“We have an event planned every month next year … not necessarily a new event, but we’re piggybacking with already existing events to celebrate Evans County’s birthday,” said Tammi Hall, the executive director of the Claxton-Evans County Chamber of Commerce and a steering committee member.
The centennial calendar begins with a “Salute to Businesses Past and Present” at the Chamber of Commerce banquet in January. The committee is working with the Evans County Community Center for an added focus on local African-American history during February, which is Black History Month. County history will be spotlighted again March 8 during Evans County’s largest annual festival, the Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival.
Evans County’s four towns will each host a day tied to the county centennial series. Claxton will host “Dancing through the Decades” in April, when a tour of homes is also scheduled. Daisy holds its annual Daisy Days celebration May 17. Bellville, with its well-preserved railroad depot, may host excursions of the Sam Shortline Railway in June. Hagan is slated host an event in September.
August 2014 will bring “the premier centennial event,” as Hall called it. A program called a Tribute to Evans County’s First 100 Years will be held Aug. 10 in the Joyce NeSmith Auditorium in the historic school building that was most recently Claxton Middle School, followed by a celebration at the courthouse with invited state officials. A centennial parade will be held Saturday, Aug. 16.
The autumn will bring a focus on local history, religion and agriculture. Closing ceremonies and burial of a time capsule are proposed for a yet-to-be-announced date in November 2014.
Organizers hope visitors from other counties will attend at least some of these events. They plan to publicize the celebration far outside Evans County to reach people who grew up there or have ancestral ties.
“We certainly hope that we’ll have a good turnout for the tribute in August, and of course the parade, we’re looking for a big turnout for that. Everybody loves a parade,” Hall said.
Sales of items such as the courthouse replica may raise some additional money, but the county government is funding the centennial. Beginning in 2011, the commissioners have budgeted $10,000 each year, building to a $40,000 cumulative budget in 2014.
By the end of the day, 50 of the first 200 courthouse replicas had sold. They are available at the Claxton-Evans County Chamber office and other locations. A brief history of the county and courthouse is engraved on the back of each replica.
Evans County was formed from portions of Bulloch and Tattnall counties. Its name honors Clement Anselm Evans, a Confederate brigadier general, Methodist minister, state senator and author who died in 1911.
Neighboring Candler County was also founded in 1914 and named for Allen D. Candler, the former governor who died in 1910. As noted in the New Georgia Encyclopedia at www.georgiaencyclopedia.org, Allen Candler and Clement Evans together authored the original Georgia Cyclopedia, published in 1906.