One of the great things about working in the North Carolina Room at the Central Library is that we never know what will happen from one day to the next. Some days the room is crowded and we can barely keep up with the needs of our patrons. Other days, things are a bit calmer. But one thing that we can be sure of is that we will all learn something new, every day.

This Monday held some promise. We already knew that Sue Macy, who I had been corresponding with, would be arriving from New Jersey. Sue is a veteran writer of illustrated children’s books which focus on women’s achievements.

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Sue Macy, left. My favorite book of hers is Basketball Belles, a true account of the first women’s college basketball game between Stanford and Cal Berkeley in 1896, just four years after the invention of basketball. The star of the game was a young woman who grew up something of a tomboy on a western ranch, whose mother sent her to Stanford to become a “lady”. Her reflections upon the irony of that purpose and her present post game condition, sweaty, bloody, with torn bloomers, but triumphant, make for a compelling story.

Sue is doing research for a book on the Winston-Salem Journal’s pioneering sportswriter Mary Garber. She arrived shortly after opening. We got her oriented and she spent nearly twelve hours perusing our vertical files and  microfilm. She will be be back for a day or two.

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Mary Garber, who went from covering Buena Vista parties to being one of the first women sports writers in America. For a two part interview with Mary done by the Washington Press Club Foundation, go here.

Sue had hardly gotten settled in when Lee Sherrill arrived. Lee has spent a couple of decades researching a book which will be the definitive history of the the 21st North Carolina Infantry Regiment, one of the most celebrated units of the War Between the States, drawn mostly from a seven county area centered upon Forsyth.

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Confederate veterans posing on Main Street in Winston, 1894. Brown’s tobacco warehouse is at the center in the background.

Using hundreds of previously unpublished letters, Lee’s book will give us a unique personal insight into the war, for example:

“The inducements to stay here as long as possible are really very strong, for it is one of the best places in the world to stay at.  We have everything that we could ask to make us feel comfortable and pleasant.

We have very nice company, both Gentlemen and Ladies.  We spend our time in various ways, through the day we read some, as we have plenty of books, and fill in the day by indulging in a game of Whist, Euchre, &c., and the evenings are taken up by cotillions, parties, plays, &C. so we have as good a time generally as anybody can have away from home.”

— Samuel C. James, Captain, 21st NC

This letter was written by one of my ancestors who was recovering from a wound received at a battle in the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, Virginia in the fall of 1862. The “cotillions” must have worked, because Sam, a confirmed bachelor of 36, got engaged to a teenaged girl there, only to die in battle at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia two years later, before the marriage could take place.

We were still getting Lee set up on our computer genealogical database when his intrepid assistant , a formidable local historian, Cindy Casey, showed up. Her job today was to assist him in using such resources as Ancestry, Fold3 and others.

But first, she handed me a box containing a folder of pictures and a lot of other stuff which she was donating to the NC Room. Wow!

Probably the most important item was an exhaustive document tracing the ownership of the land in the Idol’s Dam area southwest of Clemmons from the beginning on. If you are a Teague or Doub or Idol or other descendent from that area, you must see this. We have several copies, so no elbowing.

And the pictures brought us never before seen views of important people and places in the history of Forsyth County. I immediately made high resolution scans, then handed them over to Molly, our picture librarian.

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Catherine Masten and her husband Matthias, ca 1860. Matthias was elected sheriff of Forsyth County in 1861, and having won six straight elections, died in office in 1873.

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J.S. Pfaff’s store in Centerville, ca 1900-1905. Centerville was an area between Salem and Waughtown/Washington Park, about where the North Carolina School of the Arts is now. Historic pictures of this area are extremely rare, so we will be busy researching this picture for some time to come.

Thank you, Cindy! A big day, indeed!

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