Week Ending March 28, 2014

As of March 22, I had no solid leads on a subject for the oral history interview.  All efforts to make contact with Mount Gilead Baptist Church have been unsuccessful and this is disappointing.  That said, I recognize why that community may not wish to be interviewed by an outsider, and a Euro American one at that. I do have one shaky lead on a man I was told once lived in Magruder, but I am not confident that will materialize.  As I moved into the week, lack of an interview subject was very distressing.

My meetings with government representatives in York County, James City County and Williamsburg City have been fruitful.  Regretfully, those who might be in  a position to have information about what I will call “relationships” among government and community leaders are (understandably) unable to provide any on-the-record information.  That said, their off-the-record tips were very helpful.  Jack Tuttle’s (Williamsburg City Manager) recollection of a commemoration ceremony held for the Oak Grove School (1911-1940) lead me to a booklet published by the Oak Grove Alumni Association.  This publication includes names of what appear to be every student who attended that school.  Although I cannot tell who on this list is from Magruder, it is a valuable resource that can guide that search because I can compare that list to those families which I know lived in Magruder.   I consider myself to be particularly fortunate to have made the acquaintance of Williamsburg Clerk of Council, Lisa Judkins.  She not only helped me locate information, she has taken an interest in this project and promised to keep an eye out if she were to come across anything helpful.

I have continued to check in with Wilford Kale, who is a font of information and help.  The reference librarians at the Library of Virginia are very friendly and helpful and I’ve enjoyed working there.   Thanks to Dr. Lelievre,  I was able to make contact with Bruce Larson, a Naval archaeologist who consulted with American Studies graduate student, Shannon Mahoney, on her dissertation.  I think that he will be able to provide valuable insight into how the Department of Defense operates with regard to the preservation of historic spaces on DOD installations.

Jay Gaidmore, Swem Special Collections, scanned an aerial map of York County for me this week.  While I was there to retrieve the scanned image, he inquired if I had spoken to Brian Palmer yet.  I replied in the negative and, further,  that I did not know who Mr. Palmer was.  He informed me that Mr. Palmer was also working on a Magruder project and that he was a descendant of a Magruder resident.  Further, that Mr. Palmer might be at Special Collections later that afternoon to conduct research.  After classes, I went back to Special Collections, noticed that Mr. Palmer had signed in…and…well, I just stepped right up and introduced myself.  A great conversation ensued, he introduced me to his wife (who is helping him with his research) and he agreed to be interviewed for the WDP.   Practically at the same time I was meeting Mr. Palmer, I received an email from Dr. Lelievre regarding a presentation at the Rockefeller Library that Mr. Palmer was scheduled to give on Thursday.   Mr. Palmer presented to the Colonial Williamsburg Fellowship Forum on Thursday afternoon, which I attended.  Through conversations with other people present at this event, I learned of a memoir published by a female descendant and, additionally, learned of a former WM student that may have completed a research project on Camp Peary/Magruder.  Because I have searched the WDP archive and found nothing, I think it may have been an independent research project.  I need to ask Dr. Knight about it.  I further learned that there may be two additional oral histories on record from Magruder descendants.

At this point, I know I need to stop seeking sources and begin organizing my paper, but that is hard because I keep discovering so many exciting things.  My plans for the next two weeks are to conduct interviews with Mr. Larson and Mr. Palmer and begin organizing my paper in earnest.  I also have two significant research projects due at the end of the semester, so balancing all of my work is the greatest challenge I face as the end of the semester races near.


1 Response to “Week Ending March 28, 2014”

  1. 1 mal2013 March 30, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Just a clarification, Shannon Mahoney was an Anthropology, not an American Studies graduate student. We have Arthur Knight to thank for alerting us to the presentation at Colonial Williamsburg. It will be interesting to learn from Bruce Larsen more about the kinds of historical and archaeological research conducted on DOD lands in the Tidewater region.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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