Staff Photo: John Bohn An historical road maker tells the story of the historical Elisha Winn House, as the home celebrates a 200th anniversary this year. A celebratory fair will be held this weekend at the home's historical site in Dacula.
IF YOU GO
• What: Elisha Winn Fair
• When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
• Where: Elisha Winn House, 908 Dacula Road, Dacula
• Cost: $3, children 12 and under are free
• For more information: Visit www.gwinnetths.org
DACULA -- In the past 200 years, the Elisha Winn House and its property have seen changes in its structure with the change in the times.
The building has been home to seven different families, the porch was re-built, squirrels have chewed on the schoolhouse windows, the school's bell was stolen (the post had a clean cut where someone had used a saw) and termites demolished one side of the jail, but the Gwinnett Historical Society keeps the integrity of the structures intact year after year.
"It's important because the county was formed here in this house," said Richard Lux of GHS. "The early elections, first elections were held here in this house. The courts took place in the house and (Winn) was a judge. This is considered the first courthouse in the county."
A majority of the items in the house aren't actually Winn's, because he and his family moved to Lawrenceville in 1824.
"We don't try to represent the life Elisha lived, but more the life during the time period," Lux said.
Most of the furniture and antiques are donated or on loan to the house from private citizens.
In the "museum," there are photos, Civil War letters, pieces of broken pottery, porcelain dolls and animals, a Native American bead found near the creek and rusting farm equipment all retrieved from around the property and out of the dried well.
"We've turned this into a museum of all of the occupants who have lived in the house starting with the Winn family and ending with Amos Hutchins and his family," Lux said. "(Hutchins') descendants and children still come to the fair because they grew up in the house."
And after all these years, there have been no reports of paranormal activity.
"If you want there to be ghosts, there are," said Winn Fair Committee Chair Harriett Nicholls with a laugh. "People always ask, especially children, because it's such an old house."
Lux added, "You think with of all of the families that have lived here ... children who didn't make it, there would be something but there isn't any that we know -- but we've never spent the night here either."
Saturday kicks off the first day of the 34th annual Elisha Winn Fair at the property. It's not the typical fair with carnival rides and inflatable houses -- its about preserving Gwinnett's history.
"I think the public gets a real sense of history," Lux said. "People say that children today don't know where their food comes from and (the fair) let's them see what life was really like."
Nicholls is especially passionate about the preservation because she talks to younger people and some of them don't know what life was actually like before electricity, running water or paved roads.
"I was talking to a young man who graduated from Peachtree Ridge and got a football scholarship to LSU," she said. "We somehow started talking about the house and he said, 'What high schools were up there then (in 1812)?' Did you know he's working on his masters in education? I couldn't believe it. They didn't have a high school education. They were working on the farm."
Attendees can take tours of the house and its grounds, listen to actors talk about the 1875 school house made of one room and enjoy a countywide quilt show, plus partake in traditional festival fares with live music, fresh food and loud cannon fire from the Civil War re-enactors camping out on the yard.
The highlight for some will be the double-seater outhouse with the sign "This is not a working outhouse," so don't try to use it.
"It allows them to see how hard life was," Lux said. "Most have never seen an outhouse. Telling kids that they had to go outside to use the bathroom or to fetch water is crazy to them."
All proceeds go back into the Gwinnett History Society's mission for the continued restoration of the house and property.