Mark Wineka column – History’s a heavy thing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jenny Roberts said her husband found it several years ago while he was out rabbit hunting in the woods.
“It looks like a big beer mug to me,” she said.
Truth was, she wasn’t sure. That’s why Roberts brought it last Tuesday to the Rowan Museum History Club’s “Annual Show & Tell Program.”
The History Club always winds up its season of monthly programs by asking participants to bring in and share with the group interesting items that might have a connection to Rowan County history, their family trees or their hometowns’ past.
It turns out to be an entertaining blend of “Antiques Road Show,” “The History Channel” and “This Is Your Life.”
But back to the rabbit-hunting find. The group called up Luther Sowers, an expert in things metal, to help determine what the tankard-like relic really was.
“Heavy damn thing,” Sowers said, giving it a hoist.
As if he were talking through an autopsy, Sowers said it looked to be made of copper and was fashioned by someone who knew what he was doing. The seam down the side had interlocking notches, sort of like dovetails in cabinetry.
The lip of the cup was iron or bronze. Sowers said the way the container tapered to a flat bottom suggested it was from the mid 19th century ó Civil War era, possibly. He guessed that it weighed a hefty 2.5 pounds.
An inscription on the container said “G. Price,” and Sowers deemed it a commercially manufactured punch.
After some consultations with a friend in the back, Sowers decided the stout container wasn’t for drinking. A sharp edge around the top seemed to disqualify it for throwing back an ale.
Rather, it was a measuring device of some kind.
“It’s half of something bigger,” Sowers concluded.
The History Club Show & Tell proceeded into the night with even better items, mysteries and memories.
John Patterson, the “Bottle Man/Jar Nut,” shared some of his early research and the milk bottles he has tracked down from the old Westview Dairy.
Clyde Overcash had a receipt, dated May 30, 1864, that showed an eastern Rowan farmer’s paying 16.75 pounds of bacon for what he owed that year in property taxes.
One History Club participant offered a postmortem photograph from many years ago of a 41-year-old woman. The mortuary had opened the dead woman’s eyes and posed her so her 4-year-old daughter would have a good picture of her mother later in life.
Mary Ann Laningham brought a photograph of her father’s hardware/furniture store in Lee County, Va.
J.E. Laningham sold, among many other things, caskets. He was the first embalmer in Lee County.
All the discussion made me wish we could do a Newsroom Show & Tell at the Post. There are a lot of things on and around my desk that I probably need to talk about one more time, then let go for good.
One of my favorite desktop items is a personalized, Six Flags coffee cup with the name “Rafael” along the lip. (It’s a long story.)
And besides some family photographs, the pictures I like the most are a shot of me (of course) posed at the top of Pike’s Peak and one of me (of course) standing near the camera with Stonehenge in the background.
Those stones, I would say at my Newsroom Show & Tell, are heavy damn things.Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or