|Local History – The Missing
By Candice Lynn Buchanan
I read recently that the best way to prevent cemetery vandalism is through education. The younger one can start the better. The idea being that actual knowledge, rather than myths and misconceptions about the subject at hand, can invoke a sense of respect, and perhaps even interest, that will lead to preservation instead of damage.
Graveyards can be classrooms for history, sociology and art, to name just a few. Cemeteries should be respected for the memories that they honor, but they also tell us so much more than that. Consider one section of tombstones – dates can provide average life span or indicate epidemics; language choice can specify nationality and be a sign of immigration; words, designs, shapes and materials chosen can display culture and economy. A tour guide who knows stories from local or family history is the icing on the cake. Benefit number one, hands-on history, now also becomes personal, creating a more memorable bond for the student who can begin to relate to the subject in his or her own terms.
I believe this concept applies to all local history sites and subjects.
I have seen kids, as well as adults, who had little interest in history in its broad sense, become suddenly fascinated when that history was brought home to places and people they recognized. Local history is the connection that bridges a student’s personal world to the bigger picture.
Greene County is full of substantial connections to American history and with a little research a link between local and national history can be found to fit practically any topic.
One recently spotlighted example is the George Wisecarver tombstone restored lately by William Van Druff. George Wisecarver who resided and was subsequently buried in Whiteley Township, knew George Washington and served as his wagon master during the American Revolution.
Soldiers like him representing every war from the American Revolution forward, have come out of Greene County, wherein they left a trail of physical history: the houses they lived in; the churches and schools they attended; the records that noted their land, taxes, family; and finally the cemeteries where they were laid to rest. Like other individuals who lived and died in Greene County, the details that turn these lives into relatable stories are all around us just waiting to be found.
Businesses such as Greensboro Pottery, and the use of the Monongahela River through Greene County in general, were supported by Thomas Jefferson in his effort to improve commerce.
The Underground Railroad is widely believed to have had a stop at the Thomas Hughes house in Jefferson.
Famous historical figures like Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William H. Taft, and Henry Ford made visits to Greene County.
The list goes on and on.
History, like any other subject, is much more interesting when it can be applied and understood on a personal level. I consider genealogy to be personalized history – examining each individual life and seeing how each single person played a role in the events of their time. Local history has the same effect accounting for both people and places in a specific way.
The Whiskey Rebellion takes on a whole new meaning when you learn that a great-great-granduncle was one of the farmers who actively fought the government tax. You may look at your house or school a little differently when you discover the roles previous residents and students played in their own time. Whose blood flows through your veins? Whose footsteps are you following in at the places you visit every day? These details add an individualized dimension to history that put it into perspective and make it more exciting to study.
The interested student can realize the true intrigue of history by learning more about the past of his or her own surroundings. Records, buildings, homes, graves, and often descendants are right here – local history is a true hands-on approach to understanding and personalizing what may otherwise be a distant and generalized subject, demonstrating history as the truly fascinating study that it is.
All material within this
web site has been compiled by Candice Buchanan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(63 W. Franklin St.; Waynesburg, PA 15370).
Data sources documented whenever possible. Contributors credited for shared information. Questions, feedback and contributions welcome.
Copyright © 2003-2008 Candice Buchanan. All rights reserved.