Saturday, April 7, 2018

INTERVIEW: Senoia History Museum's Maureen

The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum (Senoia History Museum) is far more than a collection of the usual artifacts and drab placards. This museum is where Senoia history comes alive on the lips of administrators and visitors alike. The Senoia History Museum is all about its wonderful, lively stories! And they're offered with a generous helping of Southern Hospitality.

Doug and Maureen | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Doug and Maureen | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: Maureen Schuyler (right), Executive Director, and Doug Kolbenschlag (left), President, below an artist's rendition of Princess Senoia (top), and
two rare land lottery deeds with leather State seals.]

Founder, Charter Member, and Executive Director of the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum, Maureen Schuyler graciously made time to give me an interview about the museum and to share some of its stories. Museum President Doug Kolbenschlag joined us for the exciting, engaging conversation.

Already a fan of the museum from a previous visit, meeting and talking with Maureen reinforced what I'd suspected...that the Senoia History Museum is a delightfully special destination, one I'll visit again and again. They've grown exponentially since opening their doors in 2010 and are very much engaged with their local community.

Enjoy the interview, coupled with photographs of some of the artifacts found within...

wanderlust ATLANTA: First and foremost, how does one pronounce Senoia?

Maureen: The only correct answer is anyway you’d like. Longtime residents drop the “a” and pronounce it Suh-noy´. Many county residents and some locals pronounce it Suh-no´-ah, while most visitors pronounce it Suh-noy´-a. Actually we don’t know of any other Senoia in the United States so any way you pronounce it, we’re pretty sure you’re referring to our hometown. I stick with Suh-noy´; it’s hard to beat old school. As long-time resident Jane Hutchinson likes to say, “It’s Senoia ~ rhymes with 'boy'”.

Senoia Coke Bottle | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Senoia Coke Bottle | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: Coca-Cola started producing their signature Coke bottles in 1916 and
for 
a few decades had city names embossed on the bottom of the bottles.
This bottle was was produced at a bottling plant in Senoia.]

wanderlust ATLANTAPlease share with us a little bit about how the museum came to be and how far reaching its collections are. Is there a particular focus?

MaureenIt was always the goal of the charter members of the society to have a permanent location for the collection, preservation and exhibition of Senoia's historical artifacts. To that end, in 1990 the society purchased the historic Carmichael home at 6 Couch Street, which was in disrepair, and spent years restoring it. In 2010, answering the call to establish a proper, functioning history museum, Maureen Schuyler with the guidance of charter member Nancy Roy and a small committee, researched the necessary steps for organization and operation. The museum opened July 2010 and continues to be open every Friday and Saturday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Our mission is to preserve and promote Senoia area's history and all of our artifacts reflect just that ~ the Senoia area.

J.A. McKnight (1852-1924) | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
J.A. McKnight (1852-1924) | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum is housed in the Carmichael
House in Senoia's Historic District. The house was built by J.A.
McKnight circa 1870 and he was the first resident in this now historic home.] 

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat's the most significant/important artifact in the collection? 

MaureenThe 1827 framed land lottery deeds with leather State seals document the beginning of our heritage story and open up a dialog that can reach many aspects of our museum ~ our Indian presence, the land lottery story itself, and how the area grew from that time on.

1898 Map of Senoia | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
1898 Map of Senoia | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: 1898 map of Senoia. Note that the buildings colored in black are
the few that had been built with brick.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat artifact/fact/collection has the strongest Wow! factor?

MaureenVisitors seem particularly drawn to our two military cases of photos of Senoians who served our country. Our two wedding dresses always impress the ladies. The Riverwood Studios movie projector used for daily screenings during filming always elicits Wow! comments by virtue of its size and because the film industry is such an important part of Senoia’s story. And a new acquisition, the 1912 NCR cash register from Sewell’s General Merchandise Store also makes quite a statement. (Oops, that’s more than one item, but so much of our museum is Wow!)

Riverwood Studios Movie Projector | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Riverwood Studios Movie Projector | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: This Riverwood Studios projector was in use from 1959 to 2001.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat's the most unusual/fascinating/weird artifact in the museum?

MaureenWhat seems to be a lowly 12-inch ruler has one of the best stories we tell in the museum. Mail carrier Jim Baggarly used the inscribed ruler, and many more, to thank the people along his route when he retired. The inscription (have I tempted you to come and read it for yourself?) speaks to the character of Mr Baggarly - a sweet story of a direct descendant of one of the town’s founding fathers, Rev. Warren Baggarly. The best part of the telling is when someone who has lived here since the 1970s visits and tells us they still have their ruler!

Jim Baggarly ruler | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Jim Baggarly ruler | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: Upon retiring, Jim Baggarly left a 12-inch ruler with a special message
in the mailbox of everyone on the route he ran for 36 years.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWho are the most fascinating people represented in the museum, with artifacts on display? Who is that person/persons working behind the scenes?

MaureenIn a move that changed the destiny of Senoia, Frank Hollberg was responsible for the Atlanta-Birmingham-Coast (ABC) Railroad coming through and stopping in Senoia. When he learned that the ABC Railroad was planned for this area with a depot in neighboring Fayetteville, he set on a campaign to change the destination to Senoia, changing the very face and fabric of the town. At that time, Senoia had no paved roads and he realized, correctly, that a depot would make Senoia prosperous.

Behind the scenes, throughout our history, would have to be Princess SenoiaSenoyah Heneha, mother of Chief William McIntosh and member of the Wind Clan of the Lower Creeks, is the namesake of our town. In the 1980’s, the historical society commissioned a representative portrait of her by local artist Jo Ellen Macon and that image is our branding and our inspiration.

Not many historical society members know that Kathryn Welden has been a benefactor since the first time she visited the museum in 2011. Ms. Welden grew up in Senoia, now lives in North Atlanta, and still has family living in town. Her financial assistance and her enthusiastic support has helped us move forward in so many ways.

Night Watchman's Clock | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Night Watchman's Clock | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: This clock was used by a Senoian Night Watchman to verify that he was indeed making his rounds through downtown Senoia while her citizens were asleep.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat's been the most challenging episode/struggle/event in the museum's history? 

MaureenBecause we are located a few blocks from downtown, we struggle with community and visitor awareness. The Senoia Welcome Center certainly promotes us, we receive press coverage for all our events, we have a Facebook page and a website, but we still hear over and over, “We had no idea you were even here."

Raye's Embroidered Blouse | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Raye's Embroidered Blouse | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: In 1939, Raye Gray was challenged by her mother—as motivation to take up the art of embroidery—to have a blouse signed by friends and then embroider those names. Raye collected more than 120 signatures and embroidered each of them over a three year period. One of the names, coincidentally, belonged to her future husband.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat makes the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum a MUST-SEE for visitors and locals alike? Particularly, why should Atlantans make the drive to visit the museum?

MaureenI like to think of Senoia as a small town with a lot of history. Our long-time residents help us create the history, our new residents can learn all they need to know about their new hometown, and visitors can experience the rich heritage of one of Georgia’s most charming cities. Our town has lovely shops and excellent restaurants, but if you don’t visit the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum, you’ve missed the story of Senoia – that’s the special part.

Quilt Teddy Bear | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Quilt Teddy Bear | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: Wanda Glazier Jones made this Teddy Bear from quilts that her
grandmother and great grandmother made. The toddler chair, from the early 1900s,
was also donated by Wanda.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat was Senoia pre-establishment of Georgia? What Indian tribe lived here? Are they represented in the museum?

MaureenWe have a definite presence of Lower Creek Indian history, most documentation supplied by Chief Dode McIntosh, a direct descendant of Chief William McIntosh, one of the chiefs who signed the Treaty of Indian Springs (1825) ceding the land. Chief Dode was the honored guest at a number of events hosted by the historical society in the 1990s.

WWI Chaplain Hat | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
WWI Chaplain Hat | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: World War I Chaplain hat that belonged to Senoia native Walter P.
Carmichael, Sr., the namesake for the historic home now serving as the
Senoia Area Historical Society Museum and where Carmichael grew up.]

wanderlust ATLANTAFor visitors who are as impressed as I am with the museum, what can they do to support the efforts of the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum?

MaureenMembership is an annual vote of support and a way to stay in touch with our progress, and we have various levels of commitment. Donations can always be made in-person, to our post office box, or on-line from our website. We are always interested in acquiring Senoia-area historical artifacts. And of course, just sharing the fact with families and friends that we are here in town, we offer an authentic experience in a historical setting, and we are the friendliest docents you could ever find...that would definitely help us gain awareness.

Telegraph | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Telegraph | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: In 1898, Senoia was home to the only Telegraph School in the South.]

I originally visited the museum last year, when Dub Pearman was serving as President. His remarkable knowledge of Senoia and the museum, and in particular his hospitality, were significant contributors to me wanting to make a return visit.

When I returned recently, Maureen showed me the same hospitality and I may have never before seen such enthusiasm for a museum as that which is self-evident in Maureen for the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum. We had such a lovely visit. I hope you too have the opportunity to have her as our tour guide when you visit.

On my second visit to Senoia, again for a Big Zombie Tour with Atlanta Movie Tours, I enjoyed a post-tour lunch at Nic and Norman's—owned by Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead) and Greg Nicotero (TWD Executive Producer, Director, Special Effects)—and then went exploring.

I stopped into the Senoia Welcome Center and they, who were very friendly, told me about the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum. I immediately walked there and the rest is history. On this most recent visit, I drove to Senoia just to go to the museum and was there for a splendid two hours talking with Maureen and further exploring the museum.

Of course, afterward, I went into downtown and enjoyed some ice cream, shopping, and people watching before heading back to Atlanta.

The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum is a mere two blocks from the center of Historic Downtown Senoia at 6 Couch Street, Senoia, GA 30276, easily walkable, but they do have a parking area. They're open every Friday and Saturday 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Ask for a guided tour! Now, go, enjoy some wonderful storytelling and Southern Hospitality at the Senoia History Museum!

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