Sharing Columbus History in “Early Columbus Georgia” Facebook Group

Back at the end of April, during the early days of self-isolating (coronavirus pandemic), I was following a writer on a Facebook group called “Nostalgic Nawlins Memories.” Every day, this person, Derby Gisclair, posts a New Orleans-related photograph from the past – with a short commentary. As I was trying to think of something I could do to “help” during these trying times, I was inspired by Mr. Gisclair. I thought: I can write, I do genealogy, I love local history (Columbus, Georgia), and I like research (retired Columbus State University librarian). I got the idea to post something every day on the “Early Columbus Georgia” Facebook group I belong to. However, instead of using photographs, I realized I would use historic Columbus newspapers – available to all from the Georgia Historic Newspapers site. And that’s what I have done – starting on April 28, 2020, I began posting a “Today in Columbus History” piece on the Facebook group. 

May 1, 1856 – Ad for daguerreotypes by A.J. (Andrew Jackson) Riddle
May 1, 1856 – Ad for daguerreotypes by A.J. (Andrew Jackson) Riddle

 Every day I search the Georgia Historic Newspapers database for papers published on the date (month and day) I’m working with – no matter the year. I usually do a “Browse” search by “City” and randomly go through the titles; then I search the “Calendar” view. When I find an issue for the right date, I pull it up. 

 Usually, there are four pages. I have the best luck finding articles and ads on pages 3 and 4. Early nineteenthcentury Columbus newspapers basically had 4 pages. Page 1 would usually include a lot of ads and national news. Page 2 would usually be comprised of politics and reported news from other places. Pages 3 and 4 would have more local stuff – as well as ads and legal notices. 

 I try to find a piece that I know a little bit about. I have to remind myself I am just writing a short blurb – I’m not writing a paper for publication. I try not to spend over an hour on each piece – although sometimes I do. Footnotes are not required (although I do try to cite my sources – particularly for the pictures I use).  I also try to keep the commentary to one or two paragraphs. Sometimes I go over. And I usually include a couple of photos along with the newspaper clipping. 

 Subjects I have written about run the gamut: from sweet potato pudding recipes to the hiring of enslaved people to build a railroad, to picnics in the country, to the death of a little child.  I have used ads for sewing machines, fine silver, guano, and sheet music.  There is a lot to choose from! 

May 6, 1888 – Death of Mrs. Lucy McNorton due to ice cream poisoning
May 6, 1888 – Death of Mrs. Lucy McNorton due to ice cream poisoning

So far, the response to these posts has been good. I get a lot of “likes.” The number of comments may vary from five or six to forty!  There are many people in Columbus who have a much deeper and broader knowledge of Columbus history than I do. I love it when they add more to my short piece! 

I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up. It is time-consuming, but, nerd that I am, I enjoy it (the tedious research part).  Plus, what else do I have to do? Well, I could always be vacuuming or cleaning out closets or watching “Midsomer Murders” or talking on the phone or cooking up a fabulous dish or… 

–Callie McGinnis
former Dean of Libraries (now retired) 
Columbus State University

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One Reply to “Sharing Columbus History in “Early Columbus Georgia” Facebook Group”

  1. Callie, what a wonderful service you are performing. There are I’m sure, many people who want to know more about the history and culture of Columbus, but don’t know how to go about finding information, or don’t have the time to research. Your personal touches, including recipes, the death of a child, are the “stuff” we can all identify with, and give an added dimension to history. These time capsules of information would be a welcome feature in our local newspaper.

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