Exploring Northeast Georgia Cigar Box Guitars By Kitty Stratton

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I wasn’t expecting a March snow storm on the evening I drove over to meet Mike & Annette Boswell. Their warm and welcoming home was a pleasant contrast to the cold and blowing snow outsi…

Source: Exploring Northeast Georgia Cigar Box Guitars By Kitty Stratton

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Exploring Northeast Georgia Cigar Box Guitars By Kitty Stratton

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I wasn’t expecting a March snow storm on the evening I drove over to meet Mike & Annette Boswell. Their warm and welcoming home was a pleasant contrast to the cold and blowing snow outside. Mike is tall and friendly and his wife Annette is someone you feel you’ve known all your life. Annette is related to the Meaders family of White County and the story of generations of her family’s pottery making is a story for another time.

I was instantly fascinated by the selection of handmade cigar box guitars that were lining the couch in the living room. Each guitar is different and many have stories to tell. Mike does not claim to be a musician but he does know how to build a cigar box guitar.

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He started making these individualized guitars back in 2014 after he had seen some examples on Pinterest. Cigar boxes and boxes in general are something Mike likes to collect and he and Annette enjoy “yard sale-ing” together when they get the opportunity.

Mike generously took the time to show me each guitar individually and to point out different materials he had used for each one. It would be hard to say which was my favorite but I definitely fell for the slide guitar mounted on an old ironing board. He even took the time to play a You Tube video for me, of their friend, playing Amazing Grace on this particular guitar. I had never heard Amazing Grace played quite like that and it was beautiful.

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I asked Mike about the history of cigar box guitars and he told me he had seen very old etchings with the guitars in them. They may have originated from the Mississippi delta where music was a way of life and an escape from the pain of poverty. Musicians would create a guitar from whatever they could find, a cigar box, broom handle and some wire could make a makeshift guitar.

It would be hard to include every photo of every guitar that Mike had to show me. Each one was unique in its own way and they are for sale, starting at around $150. Mike puts an average of six hours into making each guitar and the only things he orders are the pegs and strings. The selection of guitars is wide and varied, from guitars made with mule hangs, to sling blades and hat molds, Mike’s ingenuity and creativity seems to have no limits. Twenty-two rifle shells for fret markers and nails for bridges, are some of the ideas that make Mike’s cigar box guitars so unique. I was amazed at the guitars made from bed pans, especially when he plucked a few strings so I could hear the deeper sound of the notes coming from this most unusual instrument!

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Mike likes to call his art a Cigar Box Ministry. He and Annette shared with me that they have shared his guitars in outreach programs to help troubled youth. If you want more information or would like to buy a cigar box guitar you can call Mike Boswell at 706 878 9279.

Exploring Northeast Georgia Fort Hollingsworth White House By Kitty Stratton

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To describe Fort Hollingsworth White House as anything but a Georgia state treasure and national treasure would be wrong. This building has stood the test of time since 1793 and Willette White Mote who was my guide for part of an afternoon certainly agrees that this property should be cared for and protected for many generations to come.

Not only was Willette my guide but she is also one of many generations of the White family who still own and lived most of their lives on this beautiful North Banks County property. Wilette’s great grandfather, Joshua White was the first member of her family to purchase the property and create additions in the 1860’s. One of my first questions was to ask her why the property was named Fort Hollingsworth White House. She explained that Joshua White had added a dog trot or covered walkway to the property and rooms off to the side of the original fort. While walking through the dog trot I was fascinated to see the original logs with axe marks still visible and the white chinking between the logs was the original white clay used from the creek across the road.

 

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Fort Hollingsworth White House

With Dog Trot to the left and original fort to the right.

Jacob Hollingsworth was the original builder of the fort in 1793. He was a pioneer from North Carolina, who was granted land in North Georgia after the revolutionary war. Unfortunately after they settled into the fort they found out they were across the line, agreed upon in a treaty with the Cherokees. The Cherokee people in the area did not appreciate this disregard to the terms of the treaty and Hollingsworth and other families found themselves in a position of having to defend themselves.

The original fort had no windows downstairs except for a small one next to the chimney built from local field stone. Families in the area would seek protection in the fort during troubling times. By about 1796, conflicts with local Indian tribes were no longer a concern and the string of frontier forts were no longer necessary. The forts soon became log farmhouses. The “Four Mile Purchase” of 1804 was created when the Cherokees ceded a strip of land four miles wide (from the Habersham – Banks County line on Baldwin Mountain, to Line Baptist Church on old Hwy. 441) and 23 miles long extending from Currahee Mountain to the head waters of the South Oconee River. A line of felled trees twenty-feet wide marked the line, which became a “no man’s land.” The United States agreed to pay the Cherokees $5,000 and $1,000 per annum for the property rights.

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Fort Hollingsworth original fireplace.

In the time period between Hollingsworth and the White family John Lane was an early owner of the fort. He was killed in the civil war not long after purchasing the property. The property was divided between John Lane’s sisters and so the story comes round to Joshua White, whose wife was a sister of John Lane. Although John Lane was killed and buried in Tennessee there is a memorial to him on the grounds of the property.

Fort Hollingsworth White House is located off of Highway 441 between Baldwin and Homer. The address is 2307 Wynn Lake Road, Alto, Ga. 30510. For more information you can visit the website at www.forthollingsworth-whitehouse.com.  Although the property is not open on specific days you can email to fort@forthollingsworth-whitehouse.com  or call either 706 244 1239 or 706 499 8579 for more information or to arrange a tour.  Fort Hollingsworth-White House looks very much today as it did in the 1860’s. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.