1856 - Real estate and chattel goods

Westville - Georgia's everyday 1850's town






What was life like for average Georgians before the Civil War? One portrayal is provided by Westville, near Lumpkin, Georgia, three hours due south of Haralson County. This is not the glamorous world of giant plantation mansions portrayed in Gone With The Wind, but a pedestrian town of 34 furnished pre-Civil War buildings with period-dressed interpreters and craftsmen at work in their shops.

Nearly all of the many structures in Westville are period-built, constructed in the Old South over the time interval 1836-1859. The buildings represent a wide range of types, from mean log cabins built before the Indian removal in 1836 to a prosperous merchant-planter's graceful home with formal gardens.

The entire village covers 25 acres and includes the following structures: two churches, a schoolhouse, a courthouse, a lawyer-office, a doctor-office, three log cabins, a log farmhouse, a converted log house, seven middle-class houses, a merchant-planter's house, five formal antebellum gardens, a country store, a shoemaker shop, a cabinet shop, a pottery shop, a blacksmith shop, a mule driven cotton gin and a wooden screw press, a cane mill and syrup kettle, and a populated carriage house.

Life before the Civil War depended on animal power and the genius of the human hand. Westville exhibits the pre-industrial skills of blacksmithing, salt-glazed pottery-making, basket-making, spinning and weaving, quilting, farmhouse cooking, leather working, planting and harvesting... Experience the smells, sounds and sights of a world now gone by making a visit.

Take a virtual tour of Westville here.



See also:

Daily Life in the 1850's

(student project, Assumption College)

Contemporary "1850s-style" menu at the Eagle Tavern in Greenfield Village museum

("This menu reflects both the seasonal nature and availability of foods in mid-19th-century Michigan".)

Dining with the 1850s London poor

(Digest of the original work, London Labour and the London Poor... by Henry Mayhew (1861) )


Everyday items lost on a trek west

When it was built in 1853 at a cost of $2,300, the Arabia was classified as a fine and handsome steamer. A side-wheeler built to haul hundreds of tons of freight, supplies and passengers, it headed for the Western frontier. On September 6, 1856, The Kansas City Enterprise reported:
The steamer Arabia bound for Council Bluffs struck a snag about a mile below Parville and sunk to the boiler deck--Boat and cargo a total loss.
The misadventure cost no lives and an unwitting time capsule was submerged. Some 132 years later, the Arabia was found 45 feet beneath the surface of solid ground in Kansas, the river having meandered over the decades to run a new course a half-mile away. More than 200 tons of buried treasure - the world's largest collection of steamboat cargo and artifacts - is today showcased in the Steamboat Arabia Museum, in Kansas City, MO, which has received over a million visitors since its 1991 opening. Crates of frontier merchandise held both the necessities and the luxuries available in 1856: castor oil and cognac, needles and nutmegs, window panes and wedding bands, eyeglasses and earrings, underwear and umbrellas. From carpenter's tools to porcelain figurines, and patched trousers to marbles, these items tell the story of the people heading west, facing an uncertain future on the frontier.

View a gallery of these goods and other exhibit items from the museum here.