What's in a name: history By Jack...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

October 21, 2001|By Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

What's in a name: history

By Jack Winder

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Looking at a road map of the area around Atlanta, my wife and I were surprised to find a city with my surname. The city of Winder, Ga., is about 30 miles from the Atlanta city limits. I've heard of Smithfield, Jonesboro and Brownsville, but a city named Winder was an oddity. We took a detour to satisfy our curiosity.

When we I arrived in Winder, we stopped by City Hall and met with a city official, who after hearing the reasons for our visit, rolled out the red carpet. Winder coffee mugs, golf hats and other mementos were heaped upon us, along with copied pages from historical archives that detailed all the information we sought.

Originally the town was called "Jug Tavern" and later "Brandon" before it was changed in 1893 to honor John H. Winder, an executive for the Seaboard Railroad. Winder was responsible for rerouting the rail line through the center of town, which put the town on the map.

We were surprised to learn that this railroad manager had lived and died in Baltimore, where I was born and raised. Research of my family origins suggested some distant possibilities linking me and John H. Winder, but there was nothing definitive.

From Winder we headed to the ruins of the infamous Civil War prison camp at Andersonville, about 100 miles away. A staggering number of Union prisoners died here from starvation, disease and neglect. The prisoner population was sometimes double and triple its design capacity. At one point, there was an average of more than 100 deaths daily.

The responsibility for this abomination, and other Southern prisoner-of-war camps, lies with Brig. Gen. John H. Winder, who later became known as "The Beast of Andersonville." The general died of a possible heart attack before the war was over. Many claimed he would have been tried for war crimes if he had lived -- and most likely would have been hanged. Although he and the other John H. Winder bore the same name, they were a million miles apart in their destinies.

Today, the Andersonville site contains memorials and cemeteries dedicated to all war prisoners who died in captivity. The complex includes a visitor's center along with the original camp area, which depicts the prisoners' awful living conditions.

A park ranger at the camp gave me a strange look when I told him my name. He whispered, "I wouldn't say that name too loud. It's not very popular in these parts." I think he was pulling my leg, but I didn't take any chances.

I have seen my name honored in one part of Georgia and besmirched in another. Sometimes it doesn't pay to shake your ancestral tree too hard. You may be surprised to see what falls out.

Jack Winder lives in Westminster.

MY BEST SHOT

Autumn's undulations

By Neil S. Gittings, Baltimore

When I arrived at this Ocean City, Md., beach on a fall afternoon, the wavelike shadows cast by the dune fencing sent me quickly back to our apartment for my camera.

READERS RESPOND

What's the most impressive museum you have ever visited?

"The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. When you see the outside of the building, it is hard to believe that inside there are so many floors with great artwork. We were on a tour and could not stay as long as we wanted, but what we saw was unbelievable."

Dorothy Fleming, Baltimore

"In my lifetime I have visited many beautiful art museums, but none has impressed me more than the mansion that houses Toulouse-Lautrec's work in Albi, in southern France. I have always been drawn to the verve and style of the artist's work, but seeing the real thing was almost a religious experience. Now, when I look at one of his prints in a book, in my mind I am back in Albi, awe-struck by a stroke of pastel green or blue, one actually placed there by the master's hand."

Donna Fink, Pasadena

"The Egyptian museum in Cairo is the most impressive museum I've visited. A few extra Egyptian pounds buy admission into the mummy room, where you can view the small, shriveled but well-preserved bodies of past Egyptian rulers. One of the most fascinating sections of the museum contains treasures from King Tut's tomb."

Sharon Katkow, Columbia

"Thomas Edison's Winter Home and Museum in Fort Myers, Fla., is the most impressive museum I have visited. Edison invented more than 1,000 useful items, and he didn't charge for his medical inventions."

Susan Frizell, Mount Airy

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