The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s Jesse Franklin Pioneer Chapter of the Tarheel Junior Historians were invited to speak at the monthly meeting of the Surry County Genealogical Association, and member Olivia Edwards presented her award-winning artifact search project to those in attendance.
The presentation at last week’s meeting was encouraging to the members, Esther Johnson, president of the genealogical association, reported, as they are always hopeful young people will take a greater interest in local and family history. “We love to have guest speakers present at the meetings, and everyone just loved hearing about her project.”
Olivia presented her research on an artifact that belongs to her grandfather — a .41-caliber Derringer pistol, which is the the same type John Wilkes Booth used to shoot President Abraham Lincoln.
Glenda Edwards, who leads the junior historian chapter, shared details about the junior historians’ achievements this year, including several awards at the state convention. The club won second place for a group project in the literary contest, club member Jonathan Casey placed first in the essay contest, and Olivia Edwards and Emily Richardson were winners in the artifact search contest.
The ten-member strong group has been busy this year, Edwards shared, with individual projects for the competition portion of the state’s yearly junior historian convention due this Thursday. The group will attend the state convention in April.
The club’s project for the History in Action competition has involved the junior historians in the popular old-time and bluegrass music of the area.
“They have spent some time studying the old-time music found around here,” Edwards said. “We went to Olde Mill Music and they learned about the instruments and had a chance to try them out. Musician Chester McMillian also talked to them, and they had another chance to use the instruments. They also learned the square dance the Virginia Reel, which was really fun. They are fourth and fifth graders, but they had a great time and it was really awesome to see.”
Edwards said they learned about shape note singing and how bluegrass and old-time music has “popped up in current music,” with the junior historians especially fascinated with the history behind the popular “cup song” — “Cups” or “When I’m Gone” from “Pitch Perfect,” sung by Anna Kendrick — which is a remake of an old Carter Family tune, originally recorded in 1931.
“That about blew a fuse in their heads, when they heard the original Carter Family song. Now it’s in the top ten, played on the radio, and they all know the cup routine that goes along with it. They couldn’t believe it came from an old song.”
The History in Action project will also involve the junior historians attending the Surry Community College Fiddler’s Convention at the end of March, where they will conduct interviews with and take pictures of the younger musicians who enter competition.”We thought it would be interesting to have a record of the young people involved, and then go back and see if they are still playing in the future.
“They have a peripheral interest in music, but this type of music is not necessarily their thing, but we want them to understand it and appreciate it, and see its importance.”
Esther Johnson said the Surry County Genealogical Association members “love to have young people come to the meetings” and said that anyone is welcome to attend. The monthly meetings of the genealogical association are held in the teaching auditorium of Surry Community College (A building, Room 121) at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. The next meeting will be held on March 10 and the guest speakers will be the Elkin Valley Trail Association, who will give a presentation about the history of the area and the new hiking and biking trail they are building, one that follows an old short-line railroad path — a trail that will ultimately connect the city of Elkin with Stone Mountain State Park.
For more information about the Surry County Genealogical Association, contact Esther Johnson, president, at 831-6437 or email EPDJ1@triad.rr.com.
The Jesse Franklin Chapter of the Junior Historians meets at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the museum’s classroom. The chapter is open for fourth through eighth graders, and for more information about the group, contact Museum Director Matthew Edwards at 786-4478.
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 or on Twitter @MountAiryJess.