All posts by Stanley

Research Update

It has been difficult to accomplish much in the recent days because of the snow. UVA Wise is nearing two complete weeks with missed class and so I have not been able to look at anything in the archives that I thought could be helpful in that time. Hopefully that is something that can be done next week. What I have been able to accomplish is continuing to look through the large secondary volume that we acquired from the library. I was also able to find another book about Dickenson County that I did not expect to be very helpful but it was on fact very interesting. It is “School and Community History of Dickenson County, Virginia.” The best source from the book is a biography of individual teachers that worked in Dickenson County and it was particularly detailed for those working in the early 1900s because there were so few schools and teachers. I discovered that many of those teachers left their posts to serve in the Great War and most returned home to return to their teaching jobs. I did not read enough to see if there was any connection to the opening of the Dickenson Memorial & Industrial High School in 1921 but it would be interesting to see if these war veteran teachers were involved in the movement to create the school.
Victoria and I also discovered something very interesting about one of the founders of our college. I looked to see who the local congressional representative was during the war and found out that it was C. Bascom Slemp. Slemp is namesake to Uva-Wise’s student center as well as the local Slemp Foundation, a philanthropic group that gives scholarships to many Uva-Wise students. Our hopes were to contact the Slemp Foundation about any possible papers they may have collected for the Slemp family during this time or any other assistance they could have provided but that hope was buried under two feet of snow. This recent time setback will force Victoria and I to work harder, especially to view the resources in the college’s archives, but I am still confident that we will be able to make up for lost time in the next couple of weeks.

Thoughts on the Website

Victoria and I spoke earlier today about some possible ideas for the website. We came up with an idea for an opening page that seems like a very promising start. We want to open the website with a timeline that is divided into a few blocks of time. Obviously we aren’t sure how exactly we would divide that up yet. My first thought was to have one section cover the years immediately before the war and leading up to American involvement as one section, a second section cover the actual years that America was involved in the war, and then a final section cover the years immediately after the war. This stretches the time span past just the 1914-1919 parameters but I think that it may be necessary to gain a more complete picture of Wise and Southwest Virginia during this time period. The sources for any given year are limited and expanding the time span makes it much easier to show how the war actually changed the area. Back to the timeline. The timeline would be used to divide the site into chronological sections for navigation. Our hope is that we would be able to make as much of the primary research that we have available digitally through this website including the newspapers and photos from the time period. Thus far the people at our college’s library have seemed pretty excited about the idea of digitizing some things that we have looked at in their archives so they would likely be helpful in that process. Through the course of this research the idea occurred to me that World War I was in fact very good for Southwest Virginia. A lot of the development in the region was a result of the need for resources during the war and the result was a boost in population and money across Southwest Virginia. I think it is important that we convey that point with this website, but I am not sure yet how to accomplish that goal.

Victoria has been very diligent in keeping a running tab of the sources that we have compiled or hope to find very soon but since I am the one posting I am just going to use her list.

Present Findings—

Multiple Newspaper Articles. (From UVA-Wise Library microfilm).

Photos of soldiers (From Dickenson County Historical Society)

Photos from Looking Back at Wise County The Early Years

Information from The Heritage of Wise Volume One and Volume Two

Photo of the memorial featured from Dickenson Memorial High School

Booklet about Wise County during World War One

Booklet about Dickenson County during World War One

Future Research—

Mount Empire and the Wise Historical Society artifacts located there.

UVA-Wise special collections

Southwest Virginia Museum

Old Dickenson County Newspapers (Microfilm from Library of Virginia)

Microfilm of the muster roll of Wise County from the Library of Virginia

Questionnaires of soldiers from the Library of Virginia

Map of Dickenson County War Veterans

The map I have so far is a very basic one that uses the information on individual soldiers that Victoria was able to acquire from the Dickenson County Historical Society. I attempted to place a pin for each soldier in the place that he was born according to his bio. It would obviously be difficult to say how accurate the pins are but because residents of Dickenson County name so many of their small, isolated communities I would estimate that the pins are probably accurate within about a mile radius, but that is really just a guess. What I like about this map is that it shows where each individual soldier came from within the county and also gives the viewer an easy to access look at some information on the soldier taken from his bio. I also added the location of the Memorial High School building in Clintwood that is still in use as well as the writing on the “Roll of Honor” that dedicates the school to the county’s World War I veterans. One thing that will immediately make the map better will be adding a few of the photos that I took when Victoria and I visited the school last week. I also have pictures from another memorial in Clintwood and one in Haysi that have the names of some of these same soldiers that could be added. It will also be very helpful to add the photos of the soldiers themselves that we received from the historical society, and I hope to get those added by the end of the week. There were some soldiers that I had information on but did not add because I wasn’t sure where they were actually from in the county so hopefully I can figure that out soon as well. This map has the potential to be a useful tool and I hope that Victoria and I can continue to improve on it as we learn new things about our area and come up with new ideas.

Here is the link:

Research in Clintwood, Virginia

Last week was the best week of research that I have had so far. I assume Victoria feels the same way but I won’t put words in her mouth. We were able to begin looking at some records in our college’s archive that did not prove very fruitful yet but will as we continue digging. We were able to look at ledgers and inventories from a local store and there was also a rent book from a nearby coal town that I found particularly interesting. What was much more exciting was discovering in a local county history book that the high school building in Clintwood, Virginia was commissioned as a memorial to the soldiers of Dickenson County that were killed in World War I. In the years after the war the money was earmarked for the project and Dickenson County Memorial & Industrial High School opened in 1921. The original school building is still in use today in Clintwood with an addition to the building that was added in the 1950s. The original inscription is still on the building even though the name of the high school was changed decades ago. There is also a large plaque still mounted in the old building commemorating the structure to those that died in the war and it also includes a list of those that were killed. We talked to the principal an he took us to the plaque and he wasn’t even aware what the memorial part of the original school name was for and he also told us that he hadn’t really looked at the memorial plaque to know that it was dedicated to World War I veterans. Both he and I have lived in that county our entire lives and neither of us knew that the school was built for that purpose and I asked my parents who are fellow Dickensonians and they were also unaware. It just seemed surprising to me that so many people who see that old inscription on an almost daily basis could be unaware of what it actually stood for. Victoria was also able to get some pictures from the local historical society of Dickenson County troops that were killed during the war. Each picture gave a name and rank as well a short description of each soldiers’ war experience. One interesting thing that I noticed when reading the short bios that came with the picture was that the majority of the soldiers were killed in the Argonne Forest in a relatively short span of time. That was also reflected on the memorial plaque at the high school as it showed well over half of the soldiers killed died in the first two weeks of October. All in all it was an exciting week and I look forward to continuing our research in the archives and finding a use for what we found in Clintwood.

Digital History Sites

The first digital history site that I looked at was the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. The website’s home page looked very professional, with easy to navigate tabs and a list of prominent sponsors easily visible to all site visitors. The site is a very impressive archive for anyone doing research in this field. There is also a small collection of essays that, although possibly helpful, feel almost out of place since there are so few surrounded by so much primary information. As far as how the site functions, one thing that I really liked were the tabs that appeared on every screen. They were very easy to navigate and there weren’t so many of them that it made it difficult to jump around the site. There really weren’t many negatives to be found on this site, as the information was very thorough and the site itself looked good and ran even better. If I could incorporate anything from this site it would be its fantastic links and charts. The site does a great job incorporating charts into its Estimates section, and also using links within the Voyage section to navigate deeper into the database.
The second website that I looked through was The Valley of the Shadow. The site did not have the same polished look as the Slave Trade Database, but it had just as much information in its archive that was even easier to access. The focus of the website gave it a small time period to cover, and then those years are broken down into three sections. Each chronological section is basically its own small archive that is divided into categories and those categories are very cleanly organized. This archive is nowhere near as expansive as the Slave Trade Database, nor does it have the same clean, polished look, but it knows its purpose and does an excellent job providing any visitors to the site with easy access to relevant information. The best thing that could be taken from this site is the way it divides the information in its archive into small subsections to make everything easier to find and the website easier to use.
I also looked at the University of Houston’s Digital History site. The most impressive thing about it is its sheer scale. The site basically provides a brief overview of all of American history, from the time of Early Americans up to the 21st century. Unlike the other two archives, this site does not have a single issue to focus on and give it direction. Instead, it divides America’s history into notable eras and provides some of the very useful links for each era. The documents provided for each time period are only the bare essentials in many cases, but it is still useful to have so many essential documents gathered on one easy to navigate website. One of my favorite things about this website was the music of each time period. This website is incredibly easy to navigate, especially considering its scale. The best thing that could be taken from this site is the way it is effectively organized to make such a huge mass of information easy to sift through. The only thing that does bother me about the site is the fact that there are sections within some of the time periods that are just left blank possibly because there was no relevant information to put in that place. It just makes the site feel incomplete and if there really was nothing to put in that place then it would’ve been better to simply say that.


Introduction and Early Research

Hello all. My name is Dakota Stanley and I am a senior at UVA-Wise. I live in a town just north of Wise and my family has deep roots in the region. Because of that I have a genuine interest in learning more about Wise and the coalfield region, as it is often referred to locally. Wise is the only branch campus of the University of Virginia and it is located in the far southwestern part of the state. The college and its surrounding communities are situated very close to the Kentucky border and share more similarities with West Virginia or the East Kentucky coalfields than the rest of Virginia. Wise is a typical small Appalachian town with much of its history tied to the coal industry. Attempting to research Wise in the World War I time period has presented some major challenges, particularly a lack of easily accessible resources. The college library has an archive on local history that was somewhat limited in size but still certainly a valuable asset. Another interesting issue that has come to our attention has been a relative lack of interest in World War I among local historians, especially when compared to the much more plentiful work done on local soldiers in World War II.
For my part in our present research, I have decided to focus on, in conjunction with Victoria’s research into local organizations, what Wise itself was like in 1914 and how that changed, or didn’t, over the next five years. The prosperity of Wise and other local counties has always been closely tied to the boom-bust cycle that comes with a resource based economy. When lumber or coal production was on the rise, Wise and other local towns saw an increase in population and activity. When the resource markets turned down the area often slowed to a near halt. Stories from the good times and the bad times are very common to anyone who has grown up in Southwest Virginia like I have and I look forward to doing research that could create a more detailed understanding of the area that goes beyond the colloquial stories shared by locals.
One thing that will help Victoria and I in our research will be the ability to expand our scope beyond just the town of Wise itself. Wise is a small town with a very small population and it would be difficult to compile enough just from this one town to create a full picture of the World War I experience. In order to create that fuller picture it will be necessary to expand our research into surrounding areas. There are a number of small towns and counties in Southwest Virginia all bound together by their similar dependence on coal. Each town is unique in its own way, but it is very likely that they all had a very similar experience from 1914 to 1918. I look forward to continuing our research and understanding more about this area that I have called home for my entire life.