During Jessi Hersom’s service term as a Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member she had the opportunity to give visitors personalized experiences during tours of the historic district at Jackson’s Mill. This summer she led a personalized tour for a family who homeschooled their children, that went along with their current school lessons.
This family decided to visit the Jackson's Mill Historic area as a field trip relating to their recent lesson about 19th century homesteads and farms. They were particularly interested in seeing the McWhorter Cabin, which was originally constructed in the 1790s by Henry McWhorter near Jane Lew, West Virginia and was relocated to Jackson’s Mill in 1927 for preservation purposes. This cabin is part of the historic area at Jackson's Mill and is set up to display how a home would have looked in the early nineteenth century.
The family was particularly interested in the fireplace and chimney and its role as the kitchen and how these elements connected to the neighboring garden and gristmill. They were given a full tour of the historic homestead after their specialized tour of the McWhorter Cabin, where they could see how the farm buildings and other components of the Jackson family business supported the Jacksons, who originally lived in a cabin that was similar to the McWhorter Cabin.
Jessi Hersom located specific examples of photos of the McWhorter Cabin from the Jackson’s Mill archives so the family had references during their tour, which also aided in providing an experience that was unique to their needs and educational. They greatly appreciated their time Jackson’s Mill and benefitted from the chance to have a hands-on experience in a nineteenth century cabin and shared that they would be visiting again in the future.
As the Preserve West Virginia AmeriCorps member at Jackson’s Mill, Jessi Hersom led tours of the historic area at and led demonstrations that included operating the historic grist mill and working blacksmith shop during special events.
During her term she also continued projects in the Jackson’s Mill archives. Creating electronic records, rehousing, locating and organizing items, inventorying, and processing new documents are some of the activities that are essential in order to maintain the archive. The continuation of digitally inventorying these historic items is vital to preservation and processing items and photographs allows for future access to those who are interested in the site’s history.
Several visitors directly benefited from this project by having access to historic documents that were otherwise inaccessible. On one occasion, a visitor requested any photos from the early days of the state 4-H camp at Jackson’s Mill, when his father was attending during the nineteen forties. Jessi was able to provide him with several dozens of images from this time period. He was then able to reference these images during his visit to Jackson’s Mill and could compare the historic photographs to the current status of the camp.
The archives are also essential for research and can be used as a tool for referencing primary sources regarding the Jackson’s Mill historic area and State 4-H Camp. Items in the archives are referenced regarding any new publications about the site and will be used for new signs and markers that will be created to aid visitors during self-guided tours. The 4-H Camp at Jackson’s Mill will be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary in 2021, and these documents will be vital for the research needed for future publications regarding this event.
Being able to provide guests with data from the archives supplements their visits and allows for a more satisfying and comprehensive learning experience and will also help people understand Jackson’s Mill in its historic context. These improvements may also allow for an increased interest in the site and help boost attendance in the coming years.
I have completed a number of projects as an AmeriCorps member for the history app and website Clio, which aims to provide a digital museum for the country where users can read encyclopedia-style entries on historic sites and institutions across the United States and engage with various forms of media. These projects have taken the form primarily of walking and driving tours, among them walking tours of historic Berkeley Springs, in Morgan County, Beverly, in Randolph County, and the Evansdale Campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. Perhaps my favorite, however, is a driving tour following the historic progress of the Jones-Imboden Raid of 1863, during which the Confederate military made a last-ditch effort to prevent the formation of West Virginia as a state separate from Virginia. The tour follows the campaign as it made a great loop from what is now the western edge of Virginia into Union-held territory and back once more into the Confederacy. In the process, users learn not only of the military situation in 1863 but of the political, economic, and social factors that helped to determine the loyalties of those involved not only before and during but after as well. Users are also treated to a number of interesting and entertaining stories from the campaign and can peruse a selection of videos, photos, and online resources related to the history of the raid and West Virginia’s relationship to the larger Civil War.
Led by Confederate Generals William E. “Grumble” Jones and John D. Imboden, the Jones-Imboden Raid of 1863 had a number of strategic goals. Most immediately, it sought to sabotage the operation of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the region (a key thoroughfare for Union goods and personnel from east to west) and disrupt the proceedings of the pro-Union government there. In less direct terms, however, it also aimed to gather important supplies for the beleaguered Army of Northern Virginia by begging, buying, and stealing as much livestock and food as possible and requisitioning horses for the perennially ill-supplied Confederate cavalry. Finally, with General Robert E. Lee hoping to confront and defeat the Army of the Potomac under General Joseph Hooker, the Confederates hoped to prevent reinforcements from arriving from the west to interfere with Lee’s plans in the east. Of those goals, only the last two were truly accomplished. Jones and Imboden funneled a considerable amount of supplies, livestock, and mounts back to the east and in the Battle of Chancellorsville that occurred during their raid, Lee decisively defeated Hooker in open conflict. While the raiders did manage to destroy significant portions of the B&O Railroad, though, trains were back up and running within a few months after hasty repairs. The goal of disrupting Union governance in the region failed entirely, and the raiders managed to alienate many in the areas they traveled through by their treatment of the local populace. West Virginia statehood became a reality shortly after the raid’s conclusion. Users can learn even more about the raid, its causes, and its consequences in the driving tour I’ve created on Clio.
Nathan served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member at the Clio Foundation during the 2018-2019 term.
For my Civic Service Project as an AmeriCorps member with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and the history app and website Clio, I helped lead volunteers in organizing a collection of historic newspapers and documents held at the Aull Center for Local History and Genealogy Research. Opened in 2004 as an annex of the Morgantown Public Library in the historic home of the Garlow family, the Aull Center contains a unique collection of primary and secondary resources related both to the history of Morgantown, Monongalia County, and West Virginia and genealogy of local families. This collection began on the second floor of the Morgantown Public Library next door but moved to the Garlow home in order to accommodate its continued expansion. The opening of the Aull Center resulted in the collection’s tripling in size. Within this collection is an assortment of historic newspapers and other documents in a filing cabinet on the second floor. This particular collection began life on the second floor the library as a keystone of the historical collection there but became disorganized in its transportation to the Aull Center and has since languished. Without the staff necessary to both operate the Aull Center on a daily basis and reorganize this collection patrons have been unable to benefit from the historical resources and knowledge held within it, once such a key part of the research capacity of the library’s historical records.
In the hopes that patrons might once again be able to benefit from the information in this collection, I helped to lead a small group of volunteers in cataloging, organizing, and when necessary more suitably preserving the documents in the first drawer of the filing cabinet that holds it. Over the course of three hours, we were not only able to complete our task, but enjoy the many interesting and enlightening documents across which we came. As they sought to bring order to this drawer in the collection, volunteers learned about the early industrial history of the city of Morgantown, the construction of the Morgantown and Kingwood Railroad, the early life of the Morgantown Public Library itself, and an episode during the Cold War when a West Virginia mayor invited Soviet officials to his town to complete the construction of a local bridge. Volunteers were also able to locate several resources for which Aull Center staff had been searching for some time, including a map of archaeological and historic sites in Monongalia County. In all, the volunteers organized over two dozen file folders of documents in the drawer. With their help, Aull Center staff will now be able to better serve their patrons by providing access to more in-depth and extensive research materials than was before available. Without the help of the volunteers in the Civic Service Project, this would not have been possible. The staff and patrons of the Morgantown Public Library and Aull Center for Local History and Genealogy Research thus owe a considerable debt to AmeriCorps and the volunteers who assisted in the project.
Nathan served with the Clio Foundation as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member during the 2018-2019 term.
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