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Past certainly can be our future

Twenty-five years before our county of Screven got its first talking device known as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone the newspaper you have in your hands began publication. The Sylvania Telephone’s first issue was in 1879.
That was 132 years ago. For those families with a strong local lineage, the Telephone was your parents, grandparents and great grandparents’ newspaper.
One hundred thirty-two years is a long time.
It, however, still is 100 years younger than the Revoluntary War’s Battle of Brier Creek that was fought in the swampy lands near what is now the Tuckahoe Management Area.
Back in 1779, the British positioned into a circle around the Patriots, utilized a decoy and surprised the Patriots’ camp to ensure a win for the British. The loss of the Patriots re-established Georgia as a Royal Colony – the lone American colony to do so – until the British were forced to evacuate in 1782.
Col. Samuel Elbert, commanding Georgia Continentals and Georgia Militia, made a stand against difficult odds during the Revolutionary War. After Patriot Gen. Ashe’s militia was handily defeated, Elbert, with his back to Brier Creek and surrounded on the other sides, tried to fight his way through the British lines. After British reserves came to assist, Elbert surrendered his remaining command. Of the at least 150 Americans who lost their lives at the Battle of Brier Creek, more than half were Elbert’s men. Elbert was not killed, but was captured and imprisoned for two years.
Elbert later took part in the Battle of Yorktown where he was promoted to the rank of general. After the Revolutionary War in 1785, Elbert was elected as Georgia’s governor.
For 232 years, the 150 who perished at the Battle of Brier Creek have never had a proper burial and the site of their graves has not been marked.
At the May 23 Memorial Day Observance in Sylvania, State Sen. Jesse Stone announced that a $100,000 grant had been awarded to pinpoint the official location of the bodies. As part of the grant agreement, the city of Sylvania will add $25,000 for a total of $125,000 in available funding for the project.
What researchers will find during their exploration could offer a wide range of senerios to the soldiers’ final hours. The probability of isolating an area where all or a majority of the bodies were buried is minimal. A mass burial for the continentals and militia in a spot that would still remain today through years of weathering is unlikely. Burials in shallow graves that would not stand the test of time is more probable.
While we will have to wait on the results to know more about the Revolutionary War battle on Screven County soil, we do know that officially documenting the location as a national site will bring visitors to our county that may have never had reason to come before.
The Battle of Brier Creek spot will join the already established locations of the nation’s oldest operational state welcome center and the Boy Scouts of America camp of the Black Creek Reservation as local invites to travelers. The county’s recreational department complex also brings in Georgia teams for youth district and state tournaments.
Least we not forget the outside popularity of the annual Screven County Livestock Festival and Sylvania Sampler. A bicycle ride scheduled in October to benefit the local United Way has the potential to join the ranks of these people-drawing events.
To believe the Battle of Brier Creek will entice travelers much the same as Revoluntary War counterpart Williamsburg, Pa., or Civil War’s Gettysburg. Va., is relatively unlikely, but one aspect is certain.
Ones who venture to Brier Creek – incidentally the site of a Civil War battle too – will be able to sense the goosebumps up and down their arms in remembrance of the brave souls who gave all to help bring freedom to the early-day colonies.   
Bobby E. Parham, the 12th District congressional board member for the Georgia Department of Transportation, had an opportunity to personally inspect the Battle of Brier Creek location in February. Parham reiterated that the local committee was “fired up” about the possibility of receiving a grant that would aid in the designation of the battle as a national site. The grant is the start to what can become an extended project.
Other funding sources, he said, are available if you do your homework.
The eight-member committee definitely has done its homework thus far and earned an A-plus on the first major test. Here’s to more “exams” in the future as success will depend on the assistance of the entire community not just a limited few.