The Stephens Co. Historical Society Office, Currahee Military Museum, and Stephens Co. History Museum are all located in the newly-renovated Train Depot in historical downtown Toccoa, GA, where paratroopers first arrived in town by train before walking to the camp to begin their training.
Once inside the depot, restored to its appearance in 1940, the Chamber and Historical Society have offices and a welcome desk. From here guests enter the Historical Society Museum that is actually divided into two parts by the center display.
Within this section is the story of Toccoa, including its industrial roots, and that of Stephens County, one of the last counties created in Georgia. Largest of the industrial companies to call the city home was Coats and Clarke, a thread company known throughout the world. The museum displays a number of artifacts from the original factory near downtown. Especially interesting was an old fashion switchboard, or manual exchange, common in companies before 1960.
Olympic strongman/power lifter Paul Anderson is also featured in the museum, as is music icon James Brown. Anderson shocked the world when he lifted 402.5 pounds during a Russian competition in 1955 and gained the world record. During the 1956 Olympics Anderson won a gold medal in Melbourne, Australia. Although he could not compete in the 1960 Olympics, when his record was broken by a Russian lifter. The Paul Anderson Youth Home near Vidalia is his lasting legacy.
James Brown, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of Soul,” began his singing career in Toccoa although in later statements he would claim he began in Macon because of that city’s ties to music. Brown, who came out of a local troubled youth facility, worked as a janitor in the local high school and sang on the weekend. The museum has contemporary newspaper articles, advertisements, and pictures of Brown on the singer’s time in the city.
In the center island the spirit of the railroad depot is captured with photographs and artifacts including lanterns, luggage, and an early scale.
Currahee Military Museum
Currahee Military Museum is home to the World War II history of approximately 17,000 soldiers that trained at Camp Toccoa to become paratroopers.
The history of 501st, 506th, 511th and 517th Paratrooper Infantry Regiments are on display for visitors to view seven days a week. This museum houses military history for the area’s local veterans, Civil War, WWI and WWII.
The lives and experiences of the boys who trained for parachute combat missions at Camp Toccoa are faithfully recreated in the Currahee Military Museum in the Toccoa Depot. The museum is introduced with a massive green silk parachute hanging from the ceiling, and used by the men to land behind enemy lines. Landing large airborne forces had only been considered possible for two years when the camp opened in 1942. In 1940 the Germans began using paratroopers in the attack on Norway and in securing The Hague, a city in the Netherlands.
As you first see the parachute a stable-like structure looms behind and beyond the chute. These are the actual barracks used by the troops after they moved to Aldbourne, England. Located on a farm, the owner heard of the museum and offered the barracks to the museum for free. The Historical Society could only afford to transport a portion of the housing.
A featured exhibit is a horse stable, built in Aldbourne, England in 1922 that served as housing for Able and Easy Companies.
When the housing arrived at Toccoa, the people were surprised to find a number of personal items that had been stored in the barracks and not found until they were disassembled. Immediately the Historical Society planned to include at least a portion of these items in the display. Each room in the barrack contains displays about the men who were stationed there, and the missions undertaken by those who trained at Camp Toccoa.