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Living History Park is one of North Augusta’s treasures

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The discovery of an old gravestone and quest to place a historical marker were part of the journey leading to the creation of North Augusta’s Living History Park.

The grave marker was found during the construction of Riverview Park more than three decades ago, and it belonged to Samuel Hammond, according to Lynn Thompson, president of the Olde Towne Preservation Association, who has been part of the park since its inception.

Samuel Hammond served in the Revolutionary War, Thompson said, but to have a historical marker put up, more information was needed.

“He had to have local, state and national significance,” said Thompson.

And finding that information took a lot of legwork. It was before the days of the Internet. She couldn’t just Google Samuel Hammond like someone could today.

“I started with the microfilm at The Augusta Chronicle,” she said.

The Grist Mill at the Living History Park. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Not only did she discover his ties to the Revolutionary War, but she learned he served as one of the governors of the Louisiana territory after the Louisiana purchase and served in Georgia’s Senate and House of Representatives as well as South Carolina’s House of Representatives. In addition, he represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives.

With all the necessary paperwork filed, there was the problem of paying for the marker Thompson said.

To cover the cost, trees were sold for $15 each; 182 trees were planted near Riverview Park through the sale.

Once the money was raised for that historical marker, the first Colonial Era reenactment was held in North Augusta as Hammond’s burial was recreated.

“It was a Masonic burial,” she said.

People dressed up in garb from that time period, and the mayor was part of the festivities.

And that started Thompson thinking about retelling the history of the time period. A lot of people were familiar with the fact Civil War battles were waged nearby, but few people Thompson encountered were aware of the area’s ties to the Revolutionary War.

Thompson approached the city about leasing an unsightly spot across the street from Creighton Park.

“I told Charles Martin (then city administrator) about what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to use the lower area.”

Thompson recalls Martin predicting the idea wouldn’t last six months, and she never let him forget his failed prediction.

Located on West Spring Grove Avenue, the Living History Park, which sprung up on the site of an abandoned waterworks took years to get into the shape it is in now. Early on, the spot was overgrown and had been used as a dumping ground, she said.

Teams of volunteers have worked to build and maintain the park which is used for several events during the year as an immersive classroom where people can step back into time and learn what it truly might have been like during the Revolutionary War era.

The site has a chapel, a mercantile with items including a board game especially created for the living history park, a grist mill, a barn, a livery, meeting house and several other buildings.

A new app has been created to provide an audio tour of the park. It was released in December 2021.

Inside the mercantile at the Living History Park. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Thompson said that no new construction is currently underway. Upkeep and repairs on current buildings takes much of her organization’s funds. Replacing the cedar shakes on one of the structures recently cost $22,000 because of the rising costs of cedar.

The longest running event on site is the Colonial Times: A Day to Remember, held each October. Other events include Colonial Times: Under the Crown, usually held in April.

During those events, reenactors come from various states to create that Colonial village. Skirmishes among soldiers are often presented, and people get a sense of what it was like to live about 250 years ago with people who dress and live the part.

While the pandemic has curtailed some of those events, Thompson said she hopes to resume Last Saturday  — a half day history program with historical interpreters on the last Saturday of each month — soon.

To learn more about the Living History Park and the programs there, visit https://colonialtimesus.wordpress.com/

Charmain Z. Brackett is the Managing Editor for The Augusta Press. Reach her at [email protected] 

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