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Rural Georgia Reader: Lake Country Legends

Increase your Georgia book smarts by stepping into the worlds of three American literary giants—all within a few miles of downtown Eatonton.

The state of Georgia has contributed more than its fair share to the American literary canon. While numerous great works have come from writers with ties to the state’s metropolitan areas, three of Georgia’s—and America’s—most famous authors have made their homes within the area now known as Lake Country, making a visit to the area a must for every fan of Georgia-grown prose.

An appreciation for the wealth of literary genius that has haled from the Peach State begins in the heart of downtown Eatonton at the Georgia Writers Museum. Located just across the street from the Putnam County courthouse, the museum celebrates Georgia writers through exhibits, a book and gift shop featuring their works, and events for writers and readers throughout the year. Created by volunteers and opened in ????, the museum also features a display dedicated to Georgia Writers Hall of Fame inductees.

Just next door to and accessible from inside the museum is Sylvia’s Coffee. Featuring freshly brewed coffees from Oconee Coffee Roasters of Madison, and sweets baked by Coasties Bakery of Milledgeville, Sylvia’s is the perfect place to relax with a good read from the GWM shop. It’s also a peaceful place to plan which route to take to the next three must-see literary locales Eatonton has to offer.

The planning part is made easy for you by GWM’s turn-by-turn driving tour directions, which can be accessed from wherever you may be via your mobile device. As mentioned above, three of America’s most famous writers lived and wrote within a few miles of the museum, and two of those, Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker, are featured in the museum’s driving tours.

The Harris tour is a great way to take in lovely downtown Eatonton while also learning about this prolific nineteenth-century writer. Famous for putting the Brer Rabbit tales in print, Harris was born and raised in Eatonton. Therefore, most of the stops on this tour can be reached on foot from the GWM, including the Uncle Remus Museum. Only the last, Turnwold Plantation, where Harris first worked in the printing business, will require a short drive.

For a glimpse into the early life of Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, the museum’s tour guide is equally helpful. And while several of the Color Purple author’s tour stops can also be reached on foot, the Walker enthusiast will want to drive to take in the author’s birthplace, childhood home and church, all of which are located just east of Eatonton. Though Walker left the area after high school, experiencing her childhood haunts offers insight into the making of one of the most powerful voices of the past century.

From the Ward’s Chapel AME Church and cemetery where Walker’s parents are interred, a half-hour’s drive will land you at the award-winning interpretive center at Flannery O’Connor’s Andalusia Farm. Located in neighboring Baldwin County just outside Milledgeville, Andalusia was home to O’Connor and her mother for the last 13 years of the writer’s life. During her residence there, the younger O’Connor completed two novels and 32 short stories, many of which drew inspiration from the farm and surrounding community. Other O’Connor sites to see are included in this list from the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

If you hope to take in the GWM and walk in all three authors’ footsteps, it would be wise to plan to spend more than a day in the Eatonton/Milledgeville area. To plan your rural retreat, make use of all the helpful info provided at the Visit Eatonton and Visit Milledgeville websites along with the other links in this post.

Images from top to bottom:

Downtown Eatonton mural by M.C. Gaston

Georgia Writers Museum provided by GWM

Uncle Remus Museum by M.C. Gaston

Flannery O’Connor’s Andalusia by M.C. Gaston


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