Historic Preservation & Genealogy


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Historic Preservation & Genealogy

  1. 1. Spring 2010 Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other “The basic purpose of preservation is not to arrest time, but to mediate sensitively with the forces of change. It is to understand the present as a product of the past and a modifier of the future.” -John Lawrence, former dean, School of Architecture, Tulane University Tamara Kaelin Van Tuyl HIPR701, Professor Connie C. Pinkerton Spring 2010
  2. 2. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 Everything around us has a history. Everyone around us has a history. When those histories intertwine, we have amazing individual stories that inherently grow into larger stories. Stories from individuals and families link to a community, a region, a culture, and a country…and beyond. Centuries of immigration to and settlement in America prove an overwhelming history of people, traditions, cultural attributes, and all the unique characteristics that have helped distinguish it as a “melting pot” for the world. As stated on the National Park Service website, “History is everywhere…from the remnants of ancient civilizations to the boyhood homes of U.S. Presidents to the stirring sagas of hard-fought wars to the reverberations of one woman refusing to give up her seat on a bus. History is a part of who we were, who we are, and who we will be.” Various stories throughout this paper will represent the historic places and people, and how their importance in history is nearly impossible to separate. Students learn about natural and built places of historic significance: Mount Vernon; Independence Hall; Yellowstone National Park; Williamsburg; Glacier National Park; The Alamo; St. Augustine; Fort Wayne; Jamestown; The Blue Ridge Mountains and Parkway. They also learn about great people of historic significance: George Washington; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Thomas Jefferson; Ernest Hemingway; Robert E. Lee; Ronald Reagan; Rosa Parks; Theodore Roosevelt; John F. Kennedy. Whether through private or public funding, these are notable people in American history, whether because of political, civil rights, or even creative media. We recognize them through establishment of marked historic significance of their homes, public buildings, communities, or even with special markings, usually plaques, on objects near where they made a contribution to American history. Lesser known individuals are also remembered and celebrated in this way. For the purposes of this paper, property and family history will be discussed from the perspective of, and within the boundaries of, the United States of America, with respect to the fact that so much of America’s history has come from all around the world. Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 1
  3. 3. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 HISTORIC PRESERVATION In the early 1900s, several government efforts were established, such as the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allowed the President authority to designate “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” (Tyler, 2009). Another was the National Park Service, in 1916, to protect a natural resource or site, and any artifacts or resources that made it valuable and unique. Today, the NPS has under its umbrella nearly 10 different programs or departments, each with their own specific focus in order to fully provide for the protection and management of the national park registered sites. One of these is the National Register of Historic Places, which helps identify, recognize, and document any significant historical properties (Tyler, 2009). The Department of the Interior, of which the NPS is under, states that the purpose of the established standards and guidelines “are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect our Nations irreplaceable cultural resources.” (NPS, Introduction, 2010). The National Trust for Historic Preservation, established in 1949, allowed for the private sector and the government to work together to encourage preservation activities and efforts. Since the early settlements, America grew, as did unique styles of buildings and homes. Cultural, political, and current-event influences dictated architectural styles, along with regional geography and natural resources, which also dictated the type of materials with which a building was constructed. Thanks to historic preservation we know that “early settlers imitated familiar styles from their homelands (primarily England)” (Tyler, 2009). In the north, for instance, the colonial 2-story homes were usually pegged post-and-beam construction because of the access to natural resources of wood. Steep roofs shed snow easily, and siding- covered brick or other stone-like infill materials helped insulate from the climatic elements typical in the Northeast. Fireplaces were built in the center of the home to distribute heat. However, in the South, where warmer temperatures prevailed and different natural resources were available, coastal colonial homes used fireplaces at the ends of the home to minimize heat buildup, were typically one story, and mostly constructed of brick (Tyler, 2009). Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 2
  4. 4. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 FAMILY HISTORY "Everyone makes history - its not limited to the study of presidents, military leaders or heads of corporations. Studying everyones history affects everyone. African Americans history is everyones history; womens history is everyones history. History is the study of presidents and important events and people but it is also the study of individual histories," notes James Horton, the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University (NEH, Horton, 1999). The following paragraphs will give some history on families and individuals in Virginia. Some are well known in American history, others are not. Their stories tie together in an interesting way, and will also show the impact that people have on history. John Marshall, born September 24, 1755, grew up in Fauquier County, VA in Germantown and, later, in Marshall. Other than attending law school at William and Mary College in 1779, he had no formal education. He became very successful in Richmond, VA, and during his membership in the Virginia Assembly for 9 years helped ratify the U.S. Constitution as a member of the Federalist Party. He refused several roles, including that as minister to France, and appointment as U.S. Attorney General by George Washington. In 1799, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and a year later appointed as U.S. Secretary of State by President John Adams. A year later, he became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Fauquier History, date unknown). His personality and wisdom enabled him to be so effective in a court which, at the time, was very limited and not well respected, that his leadership and rulings had lasting results on what we now know as a very powerful executive branch of government. One particular case, Fletcher v Peck (1810), resulted in the law that a state could not arbitrarily interfere with an individual’s property rights. “In Chief Justice John Marshalls opinion in the Fletcher case, the Court sustained the constitutional challenge to Georgias rescinding act, thus establishing an important precedent: that the Supreme Court has the power to declare state laws unconstitutional” (Coenen, 2004). Marshall was known to be controversial, yet made rulings through precise and logical analysis, such as the treason trial of Aaron Burr, in which Burr was acquitted. While still sitting at Chief Justice, Marshall died in Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 3
  5. 5. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 July, 1835. The Liberty Bell was reported to have cracked while tolling in tribute to him (Fauquier History, Marshall, n.d.). The Marshall family baby cradle and other items can now be seen at the Old Jail Museum in Warrenton, VA (Fauquier History, Marshall, n.d.). PLACES +PEOPLE = HISTORY The Old Jail Museum is the site of the original jail structure, built in 1778 of wood, later replaced by a 44’x20’ in 1808, though a fire and resulting casualties gave support to the new plans, already underway, for a larger more adequate jail. The 60’x20’ stone building was built adjacent to the existing one, which became the jailer’s residence. Over the next century, it saw Civil War prisoners and accommodations and services were improved (water, electricity, etc.). Prevailing winds saved the jail from the devastating fire in 1909 that destroyed most of downtown Warrenton. When the new jail was constructed 2 blocks away in 1964, plans to tear down the “old jail” were overrun by the “Save the Jail” campaign. It was open for one month in 1971 to the public, and 4 years later was put under the Fauquier Historical Society to maintain the interior and operate it as a museum, though it was still owned by Fauquier County. In 1977, it was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, and then the National Register of Historic Places the following year (Old Jail, date unknown). The Old Jail now houses many artifacts from numerous notable people and places from the area, as well as further connections to most of those people and places – such as Weston, owned by the Nourse family for 100 years. Weston is a 19th Century farmstead that is one of the most completely preserved properties in Fauquier County, VA. The property and its 10 outbuildings were purchased in 1859 by Charles Joseph Nourse, Jr., who named it “Weston” after the family’s ancestral home in Herefordshire, England. Not only have the home and outbuildings been restored, many artifacts that were part of the original home have either remained intact or have been returned to the home through purchase or gifting. Some artifacts, such as kitchen utensils and farm tools, have been donated and are appropriate to their age and use, but are not necessarily the exact items which the Nourse family used personally. The home holds mostly of its original furnishings, books, and Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 4
  6. 6. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 artwork, the latter of which were the handiwork of the Nourse sisters, Constance and Charlotte. They were accomplished artists, with Constance’s work being of mostly landscapes, and Charlotte’s of the horses, hounds, and other animals involved in the popular races and hunts in the county. Charlotte had served as Master of Fox Hounds for the Casanova Hunt from 1927- 1932, established in 1909 and still held at the Weston property today. Part of Weston is leased for use of the Hunt’s headquarters and kennels, where horse shows, trail rides, and terrier trials are still held. The Nourse women were very involved in the assistance to soldiers during WWI at the YWCA Hostess House at Camp Lee, near Richmond. They helped their mother run the Weston Home School in the 1920s. Nearby, Vint Hill Farms Station was base for over 1000 soldiers who were served over 11,000 meals by Charlotte and Constance. Their Brother, Walter, was a premier agricultural agent for the county. He developed the area’s first soil maps, and established 15 TVA demonstration farms in Fauquier County (Weston, n.d.). In 1959, upon their death, the sisters bequeathed Weston and 10 acres to the Warrenton Antiquarian Society, and the remainder to the state of Virginia as a wildlife refuge. The property is being safeguarded by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Antiquarians (Weston, n.d). Their great-grandfather, Joseph Nourse, had emigrated from England with his parents and eight younger siblings. He served as a military secretary in the American Revolution, eventually moving to Philadelphia and was appointed by George Washington as Registrar of the U.S. Treasury. He was still in position when the government moved to Washington, D.C. He settled in Georgetown, and eventually bought Cedar Hill in 1804, today known as Dumbarton House. He moved in 1813, and was forced from office in 1829 upon President Andrew Jackson’s election. He remained active in local and national organizations, and died at his home in 1841 (NSTCDA, 2004). There is documentation that discusses financial discrepancies and a court order for Nourse, which appears to be during the time when John Marshall served as Chief Justice. Upon further research, there could be more interesting ties between the two men. There was a connection between them in some manner, probably a friendship, as the Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 5
  7. 7. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 book collection at Weston includes some books that had belonged to Marshall (Semple, personal communication, May 4, 2010). I am interested in further pursuit of more information on the relationship between the two men, some of which I will be able to gather through further conversations with Joan Semple, the Education Chair at Weston. THE SEARCH GOES ON..AND ON…AND ON… My visit to Weston allowed me not only to learn of the property, see a century’s-worth of history belonging to one family, I would not have known of the Nourse sisters, the contribution to Fauquier County’s history and our legendary Casanova Hunt (which I have been invited to experience), or the link between their great-grandfather and John Marshall. Through curiosity of John Marshall’s history, I learned of his childhood in Marshall, a town in the northern part of Fauquier County. Historically, the English settlers in the northern parts of the county, known as the “Free State”, were known to be somewhat rebellious over land rights’ disputes with the Marshall Syndicate, made up of the Marshall family and some friends who had acquired the land from the Fairfax family. Though this is after John Marshall’s time, descendants of his family could very well be part of this group, as the “Free State” area extended from Orlean, Hume, Markham, and over to Marshall, the town where John Marshall’s family had lived. Another link found during this research that has piqued my interest is more personal. My paternal grandfather’s middle name is Weston, and we believe that his maternal heritage is English, though we are still researching that side of the family. I have put this question forth to another family member who is working on this research. Things of this nature are often just coincidence, but this is also an example of the many clues that individuals can use when doing genealogy research. Such clues can potentially open a whole new chapter of family history. It would very interesting if I were to learn that John Weston Van Tuyl of Greenport, Long Island, NY, was a descendant of a family in England that was, somehow, affiliated to a home in England called Weston, the namesake for the farmstead in Virginia, which belonged to friends of Chief Justice John Marshall. All this learned by touring a historic home near my new home, and all because of an invitation from a new friend who learned I was studying Historic Preservation. Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 6
  8. 8. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 RESEARCH AND EDUCATION “Our family stories define us as individuals, just as they connect us to distant places and significant events in American history. It is time for all Americans to discover and celebrate these stories and see how they fit together to tell the great story of Americas history. Our family stories define us as individuals, just as they connect us to distant places and significant events in American history. It is time for all Americans to discover and celebrate these stories and see how they fit together to tell the great story of Americas history," says NEH Chairman Ferris (NEH archives, 1999). Perusing public documents, such as property tax records or business listings, or using resources at local historical societies are just two ways in which individuals can learn about the connection between their family and their community roots. “The My History Is Americas History project has outlined fifteen ways Americans can begin researching and preserving their family heritage and then move on to connecting it with their communities. These strategies are outlined in the workbook, Fifteen Things You Can Do to Save Americas Stories. "If you do, in any way, any number of the fifteen things, you are helping preserve Americas stories," says Patti Van Tuyl, a senior program and development officer in the National Endowment for the Humanities. "The idea is not a project on family history," says Van Tuyl. "The idea is that there are already many, many people participating in activities such as genealogical research, oral histories, family reunions, and cultural tourism in their grandparents’ hometowns. These people are a hairs breath away from being historians. We want to nudge them into genuine historical thinking." (NEH news, 1999). At the time My History is America’s History was published, in 1999, website genealogy resources were becoming more available as yet another resource where people can find history of their families. As mentioned above, one of many resources individuals can use are property tax records. Family bibles, community event documents, newspapers, and even interviews with older citizens from the town are also good resources for gathering information on people as well as buildings. Older residents might be able to recall the layout of the town’s Main Street, what shops were there and where they were located, and who ran the businesses. Also, by Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 7
  9. 9. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 tracking the movement of a person or family through the use of recent and historical maps, one can identify not only where their ancestors lived, but possibly the style and construction of their homes and community buildings. Now that so much more information is available via the internet, we can access more information in less time. However, physical visits to resources and historic sites, and discussions with individuals still provide vital pieces of the puzzle. Today, we know the internet provides an abundance of resources for research and education of history. A very unique website, EDSITEment, is developed by the NEH and other partners (Who We Are, 2010) as a resource for education of all ages. The constantly-updated site includes lesson plans for such topics as Arts & Culture, Literature & Language Arts, Foreign Language, and History & Social Studies. For instance, a 4th grade history teacher could use the lesson plan “American Colonial Life in the Late 1700s: Distant Cousins” to teach students about lifestyles, technology, business, and other elements of everyday life of related families in Delaware and Massachusetts (American Colonial Life, 2002). Through writing letters from a role-playing perspective of the family members, they communicate with one another what they do, how they’ve spent their day, and with whom they have interacted. The website clearly states the objective and goals of the assignment: Guiding Question: What was life like for people living in the original thirteen British colonies during the late 1700s? How and why did life differ for families in different areas? How did life in the colonies influence the lives we lead today? Learning Objectives After completing these activities, students will be able to: • Identify the original thirteen British colonies on a map • Understand how physical geography affected settlement • Understand how settlers backgrounds influenced their values, priorities, and daily lives • Examine artifacts and make inferences about the people and the historical periods that they represent • Imagine typical daily life for different families in colonial America in the late 1700s • Write a letter from the viewpoint of someone who lived in a different time and place From this assignment, students learn how to appreciate these connections, and the value of the stories that places and people can bring to our lives today. When they listen to or Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 8
  10. 10. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 read stories from older family members, they will be more likely to have a greater sense of appreciation of that history, family heirlooms, and it can encourage them to ask more questions about their past. Through this sort of education, encouragement, awareness, and interest, people can learn at any age the importance of historic preservation and genealogy, both as individual pieces of history and how they are related and create a larger history. Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 9
  11. 11. Historic Preservation & Genealogy: Why One Needs the Other Spring 2010 RESOURCES 1. (1999).U.S. Humanities Endowment Launches National Project Connecting Family Stories to America’s History. Retrieved from http://www.neh.gov/news/archive/19991124.html. 2. Reichers, M., (1999). My History Is Americas History: The Endowment Launches a New Initiative to Share our Stories. Retrieved from http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/1999-11/my_history.html. Humanities, November/December 1999, Volume 20/Number 6. 3. National Park Service, Introduction to Choosing an Appropriate Treatment for the Historic Building. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/tps/standguide/overview/choose_treat.htm 4. National Park Service, History & Culture. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/history. 5. Tyler, N. (2009). Historic Preservation. Architectural Styles, Contextualism, and Design Guidelines (p 64). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 6. Coenen, D. (2004). Fletcher v. Peck (1810). Retrieved from New Georgia Encyclopedia, Government & Politics; http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2941. 7. History of the Old Jail, Warrenton, VA. Prepared by the Fauquier Historical Society, date unknown. 8. Fauquier History: Chief Justice John Marshall. Prepared by the Fauquier Historical Society, date unknown. 9. Dumbarton House: Joseph Nourse. The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America: Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.dumbartonhouse.org/nourse.htm 10. American Colonial Life in the Late 1700s: Distant Cousins, http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=411, posted date 2002. 11. Who We Are, Retrieved from http://edsitement.neh.gov/about_conditionsofuse.asp, 2010. Tamara K. Van Tuyl HIPR701 Professor C. Pinkerton Page 10