Right now, the future Long Mountain Living History Center is several acres of Dahlonega forest, a blacksmith shop, two headstrong oxen named Duke and Dan, and a man with a big plan.
Wind Chapman has dreamed of opening his own living history center for 20 years. The 51-year-old is building — largely by hand — re-creations of an 18th-century New England farm and the town of Bedford, New Hampshire, circa 1774.
Chapman discovered his love of living history while teaching at Salem-Teikyo University in West Virginia. As Chapman searched for a place to live in 1998, a campus security guard told him about a defunct museum studies program and the log cabins, museum and blacksmith shop that had been part of it.
“They were looking for someone to stay there at night to keep the young, over-interested vandal types away, but they couldn’t find anyone because there was no running water or electricity,” Chapman said. “It was circa 1830, and I had no problem living like that at all.”
He relaunched the museum studies program and operated it for several years. In 2008, the Georgia native relocated to Dahlonega, purchased a home with 10 acres of land and set aside 4.5 acres to develop his own living history center. The Long Mountain Living History Center was officially incorporated in March 2016.
The site’s focus on New England is part of Chapman’s larger goal: to show how the events before, during and after French and Indian War (1754-1763) affected the South.
Telling the stories of the average person — “the ones that didn’t make the history books” — during the mid-to-late 1700s is a key aspect of Chapman’s mission. “They’re very important and the more human, the more the average person can relate to them, the more the history is going to make sense to them,” he said.
Take, for example, “Matthew Patten, the Scottish-Irish immigrant, who kept a diary every day for 40 years and lost a son in the Battle of North Bridge,” Chapman said. “These are the stories that will be told at the museum.”
Phase one of the center’s development will include a typical New England farmhouse, circa 1750, along with a barn, a small workshop and historically accurate fields dotted with beans, corn and squash.
Phase two, the recreation of Bedford, will include the Matthew Patten house, a wood and tin shop, a general store and other buildings. Eventually, Chapman wants to add several more buildings, among them a visitor center, gift shop and multipurpose hall.
Chapman has working partnerships with Hardman Farm State Park and the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center, as well as training and professional support from the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.
Most of the challenges Chapman faces come down to labor and money. He has grant applications in the works and the support of private donors. He’s looking for volunteers in all areas of museum development on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Contact Chapman via the center’s website for details.)
Meanwhile, an outreach program will bring a portable version of the museum to children in elementary school. And Chapman is hosting workshops this spring to teach frontier skills to the public.
“The Long Mountain Living History Center has been made possible through sheer determination,” Chapman said. “Watch us grow.”