Welcome to our September meeting!
First, I am so pleased to learn that we now have 430 members. Two and a half years ago, when we organized, this would have been unbelievable. Faye Savedge has said we should be able to attract 500. With where we are now, it may be possible. Surprising to me has been the number from out of State. We have over 100. A large percentage of our new recent members are from out of state.
We now mail 100 newsletters out of state, and spread throughout the country. This is compared with 135 mailed to Surry County and 72 to Sussex County addresses. 158 go to other Virginia addresses. We mailed over 465 newsletters total. Mr. and Mrs. at the same address get only one newsletter.
I have to give a lot of credit to Eva Gregory, who keeps our Internet page. She keeps it up to date and publishes each newsletter and the Presidents report. She fields the increasing number of inquiries. It is definitely one of our strongest assets and brings in new members regularly.
Can we reach 500 members? Who knows.
Yesterday we had our first open house at Rogers Store. It was a great success. What they saw was the raw, unchanged and uncleaned store as we received it from the Rogers family. Attendance was approximately 100. Some were impressed by the old records, others by the nearly 180 year old Gwaltney's Store. Carsley Methodist Church was also open. In addition to local people, visitors came from Richmond, Powhatan, Maryland and other distant areas. We received a number of offers of people who volunteered their help in cleaning up and organizing Rogers Store. Some have artifacts they are willing to give to the museum. We appreciate the interest in this. It is going to be a lot of work.
The Society is now approaching Foundations for matching grants to restore Rogers Store. We have sent an application to the Camp Foundation, and will soon do the same with the Garland and Agnes Gray Foundation. Others will follow. While we have a $100,500.00 grant, it must be matched within two years or it will be lost. We expect to apply to other foundations soon.
We also expect to approach members and friends who likely will support our plans. Without local financial support, we will not be able to do what needs to be done to research, collect and display the records and artifacts of our past that are available.
We are beginning the transcription and organizing the large file of loose papers which were the working file of the Surry County, Virginia Register of Free Negroes. Dennis Hudgins is spearheading this project. Our grant for $8,400.00 from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy makes this research possible. Much new information is being found in these files. When added to the information we already have, it is very doubtful if any other Virginia County can approach the depth of our information on the free Blacks of Surry County. Even those of us who have worked for years on this information cannot believe how these records come together to present a window into the past that is just not available elsewhere.
We are fast outgrowing our office here in Surry. The Society's officers and board are beginning to seek a larger, drier and yet conveniently located office. Money is scarce, and there are limits on what we can pay. The use of the present office, at no cost, complements of the Town of Surry has been a godsend to the Society. It gave us a home, but unfortunately, it is too small for the records, artifacts and facilities we need in the future.
We continue to collect more and more Surry County History, and genealogy in our files. More family histories, black and white are being given to the Society. Just filing them is requiring a lot of time and effort.
Virginia Edwards Savedge, Clerk of Court in Surry County 1957 - 1964, studied and recorded an immense amount of Surry County genealogical information during her lifetime. It probably is the most extensive in existence. There are thousands of pages, indexed by family names. There being no Society in Surry County at the time of her death, these files were given to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond upon her death.
The Richard Slatten Endowment for Virginia History has sponsored the entering and filing electronically lists of her files. The actual information is not on the internet, but you can find what they have. We hope to get a complete copy. It is not a done deed.
The 2002 celebration of our 350th anniversary is coming fast. A new Surry County brochure is being printed and we expect to include a copy with our next newsletter. The society expects to support this celebration in any way we can.
Following on its heels is the 2007 celebration of the founding of The Jamestown Settlement. We are already working to insure Surry has a prominent part in this great event. I am convinced that we must work hard and constantly if we are to be included in the festivities. If we do not, it will not happen. We will get the traffic, Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown will get all the money.
Next, I want to announce that David C. Hart will not be speaking tonight. He lives in Detroit, Michigan, and called me right after the newsletters were mailed. He has a family medical problem that dictates that he stay in Detroit. We will reschedule his talk in the near future. His work continues to help the society. He has given us the names of six Union Navy sailors who came from Surry County and joined the Union Navy at Jamestown. These are in addition to his grandfather, John Cornelious Hart. Unlike those known to have joined the Union Army, all of these joined near the first part of the war in 1861.
Our program tonight brings us the oldest history ever found of Surry County and our area. Who were the first settlers? When were they here, how can we know? Having been fortunate enough to travel in Europe and the area around the Mediterranean, I marveled at their early civilizations and prehistoric finds. What was happening in America during those early centuries of development? Were we just a black hole of history?
Joe McAvoy is changing our earliest history, working with others, including David Hazzard and Randy Turner of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and supported by the National Geographic Society. Our history will never be the same!
James E. Atkins