By Mary Catherine Gaston
You don’t have to dig very deep in Georgia’s sandy southwest corner to find a true treasure: Sumter County. While you may think you know all there is to see and do in the towns of Americus, Andersonville, Leslie and Plains, think again. There’s more to see, learn and do in Sumter County than you probably realize!
Let’s start in the heart of Sumter County with its largest town and county seat, Americus. Everyone knows Americus is home to Habitat for Humanity’s global headquarters and the fascinating Global Village and Discovery Center, but downtown Americus has even more than that to see and do. A stroll through the historic Windsor Hotel, constructed 1890-1892, is like a journey back in time to the opulent Victorian era in which the structure was conceived. While you’re downtown, enjoy lunch at one of the many one-of-a-kind, local restaurants, or relax with a cup of locally roasted coffee at Café Campesino. Downtown Americus is also filled with unique shops offering apparel, gifts, art, antiques and more.
Just up Highway 49 in the northern neck of Sumter County, Andersonville, Georgia, is known for its National Historic Site and Prisoner of War Museum, but this tiny rural community’s commitment to preserving and promoting local history does not stop there. Known as the Civil War Village, Andersonville is home to the Drummer Boy Civil War Museum. Just steps from downtown is Pioneer Farm, a seven-acre living history park where visitors can learn what life was like on a working farm in the mid-nineteenth century.
Leslie, Georgia, population 409, is home to the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum, which houses the largest collection of antique telephones and telephone memorabilia in the world. With exhibits that date back to the 1870s, a recreated Native American village, restored vintage automobiles and more, the little museum off the beaten path is an afternoon’s history lesson waiting to happen. It’s worth a trip to the southern side of Sumter County to stop in and see.
Finally, near the county’s western border lies the sleepy little town of Plains. Here, there is enough history to fill a textbook. Home to yet another National Historic Site, Plains, of course, is also the home of the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. Visitors can tour the school both Carters attended as well as President Carter’s boyhood home and family farm in nearby Archery (also in Sumter County). In addition to these fascinating sites, visitors should make time for a stroll down the historic main street for a souvenir or bite to eat. While you can come and go from the historic Plains depot on the SAM Shortline train*, you will not want to leave Plains without trying the legendary peanut butter ice cream at Bobby Salter’s Plain Peanuts, right by the railroad tracks under the iconic, giant Jimmy Carter sign.
This is just a small sample of all there is to do in rural Sumter County. For even more ideas, visit www.visitamericusga.com.
*A great way to see many of these Sumter County attractions is by hopping on the SAM Shortline passenger train, which makes stops in Archery, Plains, Leslie and Americus.
SAM Shortline photo by Georgia photographer Allan Williams, Jr.