If you’re heading up into the north Georgia’s mountains for some leaf-peeping this fall, take the time to visit the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City (a few miles south of Dillard). It’s definitely worth the stop.
If you look up “foxfire” in the dictionary, you’ll discover that the term refers to a bioluminescent fungus that thrives on rotting wood in humid areas in the South. Far away from a city’s harsh lights, you can see the fungus’s dim blue-green glow cutting through the dark. So when a group of students in Rabun County, Georgia, took it upon themselves to chronicle a vanishing culture in a magazine they’d decided to create, they appropriately dubbed their project Foxfire. Like the incandescent plant that grows in their area and gently lights up the night, their works have illuminated the customs, traditions and folklore of their community.
In 1966, a high school English class in Rabun County ventured into the surrounding Southern Appalachian Mountains and recorded the everyday lives of the people living there. They came back with the methods for fashioning baskets from splits of oak, cooking apple butter from autumn’s harvest, sewing quilts, building log cabins and even making moonshine and wrote instructional articles on the topics. But woven through these “how to” pieces are stories, beliefs, and local secrets that reveal more than how to make soap. The articles also uncover the personalities and heritage of the mountain folk whose knowledge the students had gleaned. They forever preserved in print a way of life that was, and is, disappearing.
Their articles were first published in Foxfire magazine, and the project has continued, class after class, for five decades; Foxfire magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The magazine is still going strong today and is still produced by students, and the wealth of wisdom the students have collected through the years has been put into the Foxfire books, a series currently containing twelve volumes.
There are more than nine million copies of the books in libraries, schools, and homes all over the world. Their popularity speaks to our search for a way back to a simpler time. For all of our progress and advances, there are some things we left behind that might serve us well in our modern society: sustainable living practices, real self-sufficiency, and a commitment to our neighbors. These are the things embodied in the Foxfire philosophy.
You can share in the Foxfire experience with a visit to the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City, Georgia, where more than twenty historic log cabins and replicas of traditional log construction designs containing artifacts and crafts await, as does a gift shop filled with unique, locally handcrafted items like pottery, woven scarves, and fruit ciders. The Foxfire Museum invites you to imagine a time before electricity, hot-and-cold running water—a time when most of what you owned was made by you—and to re-create the days of southern Appalachian people. By encountering residents’ firsthand stories and the tools and tangible remnants of those early days, you can begin to understand the “real” Appalachia and realize the appeal yesterday still holds.
SEE MORE FOXFIRE MUSEUM PHOTOS HERE