Tour shows off Gwinnett's treasures

LAWRENCEVILLE - Stelva Dobbins lived in Gwinnett for 25 years, but she had no idea there was a historic farm nestled around the corner from Gwinnett Place Mall.

"It's amazing to know this is planted right here," Dobbins said as she walked through McDaniel Farm Park, a former cotton farm preserved in the Duluth area.

Dobbins signed up for a historic tour Friday, the first ever sponsored by the Gwinnett History Museum, to try to introduce her mother to the county. Lila Hughes recently moved from Marietta, she said.

But instead, Dobbins said she ended up learning a lot about the place she called home for decades.

"It's sad, you live in a place for so many years and don't know that much about it," she said, but she promised to bring her husband, a history buff, to the park.

About 40 people set out for the tour, which wound through Lawrenceville and to historic sites in Duluth, Dacula and Buford. While a few county natives rode the large passenger bus, the seats were filled with Gwinnett newcomers who wanted to learn about their new community.

"We have to learn about this because this is going to be home," said Theresa Willis, who moved here from New York.

"It sounded like fun," George Sapsford said, as he toured with his wife Sheila. "This is amazing."

Jennifer Collins, who helped organize the event as part of Gwinnett's History and Preservation staff, said she was encouraged by the response, which netted a waiting list of participants. She took notes as to how to plan future tours, which she hopes can be made monthly.

"It's refreshing to know this many people care about our heritage," said Ben Satterfield, a member of the county's History and Preservation Board.

Janet Gibson said she had hoped to see some more young faces in the crowd of mostly seniors, but she added that the tour gave her a new insight into her neighborhood.

"I had no idea there was a historic home on my street," she said after the tour passed an 1821 relic built by Robert Craig. The homestead was one of the most successful farms in the county and became known as "Little Egypt" because people would come from all over the state to buy seeds there.

The historic home on Five Forks Trickum Road is now surrounded by new development, like many of the other historic sites in Gwinnett.

As Elaine Powell described McDaniel Farm Park, it's "a perfect example of old rural Gwinnett with new industrial Gwinnett."

Officials have not scheduled the next historic bus tour, but people can call 770-822-5178 for information.