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Pharris Johnson, Janisse Ray give update on Tattnall Archives
Janisse Ray and Pharris Johnson
Janisse Ray and Pharris Johnson

Pharris Johnson, who serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Tattnall County Archives, gave an update to the Tattnall County Commissioners at their October 3, 2022, meeting on the activities of the Archives during the past year. He was accompanied by Janisse Ray, Director of the Tattnall Archives.

Johnson began by thanking the commissioners for their support in helping the Archives staff and volunteers collect, preserve, and protect the county's historical documents.

"We provide these records to the general public, historians, and genealogists.  Our Archives location, in the old jail behind the Courthouse, is open on Fridays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.  We encourage anyone to visit and peruse our collection of old records," Johnson said. “You may also call (912) 557-6049 to arrange another time.”

Tattnall County was formed in 1801 and is fortunate that its courthouses were never burned, which happened to many other courthouses.  Also, many individuals saved old records, but many of these historic records have been in very poor condition and were not catalogued.

"We have made considerable progress in the cleaning, sorting, organization, and repair of many books and files so that our citizens can benefit from them," Johnson said. "We are proud of the recognitions of excellence received from the Georgia Historical Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Georgia Historical Records Council. In addition, we have been awarded several grants.”

He commented that the Tattnall County Archives contains some fascinating glimpses of history, such as an 1862 hand-drawn Civil War map; hand-colored land grant plats from the early 1800s; and even a few transcripts of trials of cow-stealing, disrupting the Sunday peace, murder, moonshining, and other mayhem that date back to 1802.

"Building on the efforts of the past, our accomplishments include establishing a digital genealogy index with over 40,000 entries, increasing our book collection to more than 300 volumes, and hosting three well-attended History in the Wiregrass Conferences," he said.

Johnson noted other enhancements as well. These include: rearranging the Archives reading room and procuring attractive maps and paintings for the walls; processing of Superior Court documents and loose papers of the 1800s into the 1900s and filing these documents in acid-free archival folders and boxes; maintaining an Archives Facebook page and website; and replacing flooring in the reading rooms while also upgrading building lighting and stair railing, among other improvements.

He thanked the commissioners for their support and backing in reaching their mission, and Johnson asked that the next-door building to the Archives now occupied by the Criminal Investigation Division, but that will become vacant, be considered for needed room for the Archives.

Ray also expressed her appreciation for allowing the board and volunteers to provide for those visiting the Archives to leave as changed persons. Visitors to the Archives often touch a document that makes history come alive for them; they find information on an ancestor; or they discover details on members of their family now deceased for over a century.

In addition to Johnson and Ray, other Tattnall Archives Board members are Ola Faye Rumpf, Mark Baxter of Macon, and John Rabun of Atlanta. Staff archivist is Sandra Wingate, and Steve Anderson and Joey Singleton are volunteers.