At Last! Day One at the Elusive CRHC

Today was the awaited day. As the first Saturday of the month, the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center was open- actually open- from 9am to noon. Leah, Jack, Julia and I made use of every second, and it was the gold mine we had presumed it to be.

Rifle Club (c) CRHC

Rifle Club (c) CRHC

First, we went through all the Battlefield yearbooks from the relevant years of the State Normal School. Project aside, it was entertaining reading to get to know the ladies who first attended my college…there were some personalities. In general, the girls were certainly politically minded and aware of the larger events going on around them. The students seemed particularly interested and participatory in Wilson’s campaign, and even held an impromptu parade across campus and downtown when they got word of his election.

My biggest finds here were from the 1917 edition. The Rifle Club on campus dedicated a page to Professor and Captain Gunyon Harrison, who founded the club. Almost prophetically, their page echoed sentiments about the war abroad, as well: Who can say but in a few weeks there may go forth the cry, ‘Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?

 

 

Thomas Knox (c) CRHC

Thomas Knox (c) CRHC

My favorite find of the day were the records of the Knox family. Through the family collection donated to the CRHC in 2009, I was able to uncover the story of this family that ties together all the major themes of the Century America project, and which happens to read like a compelling, tragic, drama. Of the Knox brothers, Douglas died at the battle of Belleau Woods in France and Thomas died of the Spanish Influenza four months later back in Virginia.

Their correspondences between each other, their mother, and their sister recount their dramatic story of sacrifice, and give a fascinating glimpse into one experience of the time. Since I was wondering how we would incorporate some of the darker realities of the war and the epidemic into Fredericksburg’s account, the Knox family seems to be the perfect key.

 

 

Other images from today (c) CRHC:

Today was certainly not a comprehensive visit, but I’m excited to go back and get some good scans and images to use in our final project. It’s exciting to see this thing starting to come together!

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