Library Notes: Treasures to share

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 2, 2023

By Gretchen Witt
Rowan Public Library

RPL’s Edith M. Clark History Room often benefits from the generosity of its patrons. For instance, our large collection of annuals exists primarily because of donations. While the History Room attempts to acquire yearbooks, the collection still has some gaps in it, particularly in the 2000s and later. Yearbooks and items related to school days are popular materials. Folks often come in looking for a picture of a particular classmate or a sporting event. They also seek material from schools that no longer exist — The Farm Life School, Rowan Memorial Hospital’s Nursing School or Salisbury Business College for instance. Just the other day, History Room staff was gifted with a catalog from the Salisbury Business School circa 1960s and three reunion photographs of the Boyden High School class of 1943. Reunion material or scrapbooks from school days, like Jewell Witherspoon Holland’s scrapbook of Dunbar make great additions to the History Room.

Other historical items given recently include photographs, maps, medals, pamphlets and correspondence, including a “Dear John” letter from a former pilot who participated in both WWII and in the Civil Air Patrol after the war. His family, who were moving from the area, were anxious that the items are not lost in obscurity but available for genealogical as well as historical research in the future.

Family historians are often interested in letters written to friends and family in Salisbury and other documents. The History Room has many original documents including the 1821 settlement of debts of George Sheeks or a ledger containing the itemized sale of John Walton’s property at a public auction on Sept. 29, 1837, after he passed away. Descendants of the Wilhelm family might be interested in a petition in 1863 from Nancy Wilhelm, widow of Jacob, to obtain a dower in order to support herself and underage children after her husband’s death. A letter dated 1882 from J.P. Wilhelm to his mother and siblings is also part of the collection.

Aside from individual papers or manuscript collections, the History Room also receives books that are helpful for family research. Recently the family of Annie Nicholson Drake, a sixth generation Texan, contributed several copies of her book, “Clear Fork Kinship” and while much of the book is concerning the family in Texas and other western states, the genealogy begins in Rowan with the very old families of Lopp and Waggoner.  These two families immigrated from areas in present day Germany and settled in Rowan County in the 1700s. Even in mass-produced books like “North Carolina’s Shining Hour:  Images and Voices from World War II” just acquired by the library, one can find local connections. A photograph and short story about historian and genealogist Norris Dearmon and his wife Dorothy appear in the aforementioned book.

The Edith M. Clark History Room has many gems for the historian and genealogist alike to discover. The History Room accepts donations of family materials as well as items of local historical interest.  If you are looking for somewhere to discover or preserve your treasures, your local library might just be the place to look.

Gretchen Witt is supervisor of the Edith M. Clark History Room at Rowan Public Library. 

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