Living Columns & Blogs

Retracing the steps of Native Americans

Katherine Walden
Katherine Walden

According to his students at Middle Georgia State University, Matthew Jennings talks funny. Having grown up in a Chicago suburb, his Midwestern brogue makes sense despite his definite Southern sensibility. He was enamored with Macon on his first visit, in 2000, and thrilled that the college hired him upon completion of his doctoral degree at the University of Illinois in 2007.

Jennings has immersed himself in early Southern history, particularly that pertaining to Native Americans and African-Americans. Beginning in 2011, with his first “Images of America” series, “New Worlds of Violence: Cultures and Conquests in the Early American Southeast,” he has chronicled the struggles and accomplishments of two cultures marginalized by circumstances beyond their control.

On April 12, Jennings briefed the audience on his most recent publication in the Images series, “Ocmulgee National Monument,” at Historic Macon Foundation’s Sidney’s Salon, held at Historic Macon’s High Street headquarters.

With diffident humor, Jennings spoke of the term, “Native Americans,” as one coined by the first European settlers that named them, when archaeological, prehistorical research proves that the area was continuously inhabited for 17,000 years. The author plumbs the historical data of the settlement, documented and confirmed by repeated exploration in a broader research area than originally granted by the National Park Service in 1936.

Angela Bates, park ranger at the Ocmulgee National Monument, joined Jennings to discuss future plans for the park. She praised the efforts of Georgia’s representatives to Congress, Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott, for sponsoring the Boundary Revision Act to re-name the site Ocmulgee Mounds National Park, a change park superintendent Jim David acknowledges will be more familiar to people who refer to it as the “Indian Mounds.”

Jennings’ visit to Sidney’s Salon followed a presentation by the park superintendent to the Macon Rotary Club, in celebration of three anniversaries — 100 years for the National Park Service; 1,000 years for the ceremonial seat of the Earth Mound; and 80 years for the Ocmulgee National Monument.

The Burke Mansion experience

When Don Bivings and Pino Mauro closed Market City Café on Cherry Street, fear was that they were leaving town and taking all of those tasty recipes with them or, worse yet, abandoning the historic Burke house they had purchased on Georgia Avenue, for big city life. Not to worry — they are still here and are showing off their talents for managing an elegant B&B, which has already captured the hearts of travelers up and down the East Coast.

The Burke Mansion was conceived as an “experience, not just a place to spend the night,” according to the owners. On April 14, the hosts opened the Georgia Avenue house to local visitors for a tour of the guest rooms and amenities that appear frozen in19th century opulence — with modern conveniences of course. The guest book is filling up quickly with snowbirds returning home from a Florida winter, and with Yankees and Canadians who are curious about the historic center of the South.

The first European guests arrived last weekend, after seeing the Burke Mansion on several B&B websites, many of which originate in Europe, according to Bivings. With concierge service and amenities more often associated with homeowners who share their fine antique collections only with friends, being a fly on the wall to hear the guests’ reactions would have been priceless. Bivings said that one visitor told him he felt as if he had been treated to breakfast at Downton Abbey, so unique was the experience.

To take a virtual tour of Macon’s new B&B, visit the Burke Mansion website at

Fired Works gains national attention

Fired Works began 11 years ago to exhibit the talent of Middle Georgia ceramicists, but has grown to attract potters from throughout the Southeast and visitors from as far away as New Mexico.

While Steve Moretti, co-founder of the Macon Pops, entertained the crowd with his jazz trio at the preview party on April 15, Andre Davis, part of the Moonhanger staff that catered the event, indulged guests who came back for seconds of the fried chicken garnished with bacon jam.

The annual exhibition is the largest pottery show and sale in Georgia; it is also the best — invitations are extended only to the masters of their craft. The decorative pieces from Clark House Pottery, a studio in Greenville, South Carolina, intricately formed by hand, intrigued Jean Bragg, owner of Travis Jean Gallery, who plans to exhibit and sell the singular creations in her studio.

The exhibition, located in the Round Building in Central City Park, closes today at 4 p.m., so don’t miss it.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or