Lifelong Liberty County resident Meredith Devendorf knows a picture is worth 1,000 words. Recently, she dug up images of damage caused by a massive hurricane that struck the Georgia coast in 1983, pictures of Liberty County during its post-Civil War reconstruction period and snapshots of shark hunts, community gatherings and past Fort Stewart soldiers.
As Devendorf, who helps manage Melon Bluff Nature Preserve and Springfield Plantation, unearthed more than 200 photographs from various sources around the county, she began to organize and categorize her finds. She made notations and added facts about the photos’ origins and, eventually, put together a pictorial history book.
Her book, “Images of America Liberty County” is geared toward those who, like Devendorf, are fascinated with the history of the region.
However, she said, it’s not your average book about Liberty County.
“I have always been interested in the stories of ordinary people,” Devendorf said. “Although there are certainly very famous people featured in the book, it was more important to show the whole spectrum of people who lived here.
“The story of ordinary people, some people displaced at Taylors Creek, the story of ordinary soldiers here in the 1940s, the story of American landowners trying to make it in the late 19th century — these stories were all as important to me as the story of Daniel Stewart, the brigadier general.”
Devendorf said her book stands out from others that depict early, Southern American life partially because of Julia King, a historian during the late 19th century who captured the culture of people who inhabited the land.
After searching through the collection King left behind, Devendorf populated her book with many photos of events and people who weren’t often caught on film.
“They show not just static pictures of people standing in groups having their picture made, but people and places and animals and landscapes that were captured kind of like snapshots,” she said. “She actually was documenting the lives of the people here when nobody else had a camera and nobody else was documenting it.
Devendorf got most of her other photos from the Fort Stewart Museum, past editors of the Liberty Herald and from her family’s own collection.
The author, who is currently getting a PhD in history from the University of South Carolina, said the project means a lot to her on many levels.
“This is where I’m from and where my family is from,” Devendorf said. “This is an emotional thing.”
But her family ties to the area aren’t the only reason she chose to write the book. It’s the retelling and maintenance of history that concerns her most.
“History is everything to us. Otherwise, we have no anchor and no roots and we’re drifting,” she said. “Understanding where you are in history, in that story, not just history, but the story in itself, is very important.”
“Images of America Liberty County,” published by Arcadia Publishing, can be ordered for $21.99 from www.arcadiapublishing.com. Many local retailers are also selling the book.