Exploring American Author, Flannery O’Connor’s Hometown Milledgeville, Georgia.
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I recently made a pilgrimage to the hometown of one of my favorite American authors – Flannery O’Connor. I’ve been a fan of her work since my freshman year of college when I spent an entire semester studying her short stories in my American Literature class.
This past year, I read The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor and decided I wanted to visit the place where Flannery lived – to follow in her footsteps for a day.
Through Flannery’s stories, her books, and my trip to Milledgeville, I gained new insight and admiration for this incredible southern writer.
My husband and I began the day at Andalusia, the home where O’Connor wrote the majority of her stories. It was a chilly spring weekday, and we were the first ones to arrive for the first tour at 10 am. This proved to be a blessing because we had our own private tour of the home and were able to ask our tour guide lots of questions.
Andalusia Farm was a cotton plantation built in 1814 and is listed as a point of interest on the Georgia Antebellum Trail. Flannery’s uncle purchased the farm in 1931. After O’Connor’s father died, her mother took over running the farm for her uncle. When Flannery became ill in 1950 and was diagnosed with lupus at the young age of 26, she moved back to live with her mother at Andalusia Farm. She remained there until her death 13 years later at the age of 39.
Andalusia was gifted to Georgia State College and University in June 2017. The university is currently restoring the home and outbuildings to represent what the working farm was like during Flannery’s stay there.
The tour took us through the downstairs areas of the home – Regina O’Connor’s (Flannery’s mother’s) office, the kitchen, the dining room, and Flannery’s bedroom. These rooms are filled with original items that were in the home during the time Flannery and her mother lived there. There is the original furniture, the draperies Regina sewed, the refrigerator O’Connor purchased for her mother with the proceeds from the sale of the movie rights to one of her stories, and even Flannery’s crutches are propped up against her desk.
After the tour, we were able to sit in rockers on the front porch and imagine what Flannery must have seen from this viewpoint. We were also able to walk around the grounds, see peacocks on display like the ones she cared for, visit the Hill house and see the various outbuildings of the farm. These places were the inspiration for many scenes in her stories and it gave us a glimpse of Flannery O’Connor’s life and work.
Flannery O’Connor’s Hometown, Milledgeville, Georgia
After visiting Andalusia, we drove into Milledgeville and stopped at the Milledgeville Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau. There we picked up the Historic Walking Tour brochure. Milledgeville is a beautiful town filled with Antebellum houses and rich in history. We quickly realized one day isn’t enough time to visit everything and so we concentrated our trip on only things related to Flannery O’Connor.
From the visitor’s center, we walked to 311 West Green Street, the Cline-O’Connor-Florencourt house. This is the home that Flannery lived in after her father became ill with lupus and her family had to move in with her Uncle’s family. Her father died a few weeks before Flannery’s 16th birthday.
The Flannery O’Connor Room
The home is currently a private residence, so we took a few pictures from the sidewalk and continued on our way to our next stop, the Flannery O’Connor Room in the Georgia Special Collections Galleries at the library of the Georgia State College and University.
Here we found a small collection of memorabilia and more information on the life of one of the greatest short story authors of the 20th century. O’Connor graduated from Georgia State College for Women which is now Georgia State College and University in 1945.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Our next stop was the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Milledgeville. Here is where Flannery spent most mornings attending early mass before beginning her writing regimen.
As we were leaving the church grounds, I captured this picture with the sun illuminating the steeple of this beautiful small church.
Flannery O’connor’s Grave
From the church, we drove a few blocks to Memory Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of Mary Flannery O’Connor. There is a gazebo at the entrance of the cemetery with brochures for a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery. Memory Hill Cemetery is huge! It sits on thirty acres and has over 7700 marked graves dating from 1810 to present. The cemetery contains the graves of soldiers, statesmen, a notorious stagecoach and train robber, and an assortment of other people with fascinating life stories. Shady moss laden oak trees, blooming camelias, beautiful monuments and headstones created a beautiful, tranquil scene. We could have spent half the day exploring this cemetery.
But we were here to see Flannery O’Connor’s resting place. And we found it: # 1 East Section, Row A on the Self-guided walking tour. She is buried beside the mother she spent most of her life with and the father she lost when she was a teenager.
What I learned About Flannery:
Flannery O’Connor spent only 39 years on this earth. Her writing career spanned less than 20 years, yet the work she accomplished during that short time is amazing. Our day spent following in Flannery’s footsteps was inspiring for me. Here is a young woman who at the age of 25 is filled with dreams of becoming a successful writer. Just as she begins to establish her career and enjoy her newfound freedom and independence – tragedy strikes. She is diagnosed with the same disease that took the life of her father. With no other option, She moves back in with her mother and lives a life of illness and dependence.
Yet through everything, with grace and fortitude, she perseveres. She relies on her deep faith in God and as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11-13, learned to be content in her circumstances.
With strength and character, she established a strict daily schedule which she faithfully adhered to. She began each day by attending early mass and then wrote from 9am-11am. Then if her health and energy allowed, she would go out with friends for lunch, spend afternoons entertaining guests at home, care for her peafowls, or write letters to friends. She made the most of her circumstances and left her mark on this world.
So, would you like to follow in Flannery’s footsteps for a day?
First, if you’ve never read her stories, or it has been a while, consider reading some again before you go. It improves the experience. Here are some books and a DVD that I feel are well worth reading/watching before you go.
Uncommon Grace – The Life of Flannery O’Connor: This is an
The Complete Stories: This book has all thirty-one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.
A Prayer Journal – Published in 2013, this beautiful personal prayer journal was written by Flannery when she in college. At 112 pages, it is a short read but shows the depth of her desire to write and to be faithful to God.
The Habit of Being – This book is a compilation of Flannery O’Connor’s correspondence through the years.
Check out these websites for more information about the places listed in this post:
Milledgeville-Baldwin County Convention and Visitors Bureau – https://www.visitmilledgeville.org/things-to-do/attractions/
Andalusia – https://www.gcsu.edu/andalusia
Memory Hill Cemetery – http://friendsofcems.org/MemoryHill/index.php