Guest Blogger: Sara Wilson C’22 Anthropology Major “Mapping the Landscape of Beaver Dam”

Sara Wilson (she/her) is a senior Anthropology major from outside San Francisco, California. She is interested in osteology, archaeology, and ethical research methods in anthropology.

Maps and spatial data increase understanding of the Beaver Dam site during both historical and contemporary times, which lays the groundwork for potential future archaeological investigation. The goal of these maps is to help identify where the houses and cemetery for the enslaved people at Beaver Dam (documented on historical documents) were located. Satellite imagery, LiDAR data, and historical maps were combined in the ArcGIS Pro software to highlight the topography and possible locations of the cemetery and houses. While in-person site survey is integral and yields meaningful discoveries, creating maps is worthwhile as they can reveal patterns, nuances, and spatial relationships that may not be immediately obvious.

As shown by satellite imagery of Beaver Dam, the property is now far smaller than when it was a working plantation, which underscores the possibility that significant features may have been destroyed by neighboring housing developments.

Satellite map of the Beaver Dam site

Two historical maps of the Beaver Dam plantation site are sketches from 1865 and 1925. Despite being imprecise, these maps indicate important information that is absent from most historical accounts of Beaver Dam. Both maps included an area for enslaved people’s houses and a cemetery for enslaved people. While the scale of these historical maps is off, analyzing them in conjunction with current satellite imagery and LiDAR data, allowed us to narrow down the potential locations of the houses and cemetery. Topographic raster analyses based on LiDAR data, including hillshade, slope, and elevation contour, reveal a steep incline down to a creek bed along the eastern side of the property. The historical maps position the enslaved houses relative to the main house and to the creek, so having the actual locations of both helps deduce where the remains of the houses may be located. Analyses of the maps indicate that if there ever were houses between the Beaver Dam house and the creek as indicated by the 1865 map, it is likely they are located between the current tree line and west side of the creek.

Elevation contour lines over hillshade analysis of the Beaver Dam site

However, if there was a cluster of houses past the creek as shown in the 1925 map, the River Run housing development was unfortunately likely built on top of it, given the creek marks the eastern boundary of the property. The historical maps indicate that the cemetery was located south-southeast of the main house. This is also supported by topographic data, given that cemeteries are typically located on higher ground. If this project moves forward, the cemetery area should be marked and preserved, and the location of houses could be investigated through archaeological investigations.

1865 map georeferenced over satellite imagery of Beaver Dam site.
1925 map georeferenced over satellite imagery of Beaver Dam site.
Concluding location estimations of houses and cemetery for enslaved people at Beaver Dam.

This mapping project will have continued utility if the Beaver Dam project proceeds, as geolocating features, artifacts, and other archaeological findings would be a useful visualization technique. These maps are also helpful for working with the community, as they are a way to communicate information that is visually interesting and more accessible.

Guest Blogger: Isabel Nowak Anthropology Major C’23, “The History of Beaver Dam”

Isabel Nowak is a junior anthropology student at Davidson College. In spring 2021, they spearheaded archival research in Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s Ethical Archaeology seminar which investigated the silenced history of Beaver Dam Historical Park.

Hello! My name is Isabel Nowak, and Spring semester 2021, I was enrolled in a seminar with Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire where my peers and I investigated the local Beaver Dam historical park. Beaver Dam’s history isn’t super well-publicized, so I thought I’d share some of it here.

 The first major player in our story is William Lee Davidson, not to be confused with his father General William Lee Davidson, who died in the Battle of Cowan’s Ford a month after his son’s birth in 1781. In 1808, Davidson purchased 451 acres on Beaver Dam Creek (hence the name of the property), where he established a plantation. The actual house that still stands today was not completed until 1829.

 Sometime between October 1847 and December 1848, William Lee Davidson moved to Alabama, and in preparation, he sold his tract on Beaver Dam Creek to Joseph Patterson, who moved in with his wife and son. Patterson died suddenly in 1858, and his son John subsequently inherited the property. The Pattersons were gone by 1880, and following decades were full of exchanges (usually to settle debt), and over time, the property was divided up.

In 1937, then-owner Caldwell Hovis sold 8.5 acres consisting of the plantation house and immediate area to Dr. Chalmers G. Davidson, who restored the house from 1945 to 1975, when he moved in. The house was listed as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Site in 1977 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Davidson College purchased the house and 8 acres of the adjoining lands in 1998 due to the land’s significance to the college’s past. Indeed, in 1935 a committee of the Concord Presbytery met at the plantation house and decided on the location of what came to be Davidson College, named after William Lee Davidson’s father, General William Lee Davidson. However, not many sources mention Beaver Dam’s darker history.

Excerpt of the Will of William Lee Davidson including a list of enslaved people.
List of enslaved people held by Joseph Patterson

Jim, Linda, Aaron, Martha, Jim, Sarah, Harriet, Horace, John, Phebe, Rose, and Amy. Jane, Darky, Tilly, Lee, Taylor, Frances, Dallas, and Mary. These are the enslaved peoples referred to by name in the will/probate records of William Lee Davidson and Joseph Patterson respectively. According to census records corresponding to years he occupied Beaver Dam, William Lee Davidson owned 15 slaves in 1820, 21 in 1830, and 26 in 1840. Joseph Patterson owned 25 slaves by 1850. We don’t know a lot about the enslaved people that lived and worked on the Beaver Dam plantation. There are no written records of most of them. But, hopefully, this investigation into Beaver Dam will raise awareness of its history, and the people who lived and died there.

Guest Blogger: Mandy Muise Anthropology Major C’23,”Community-Based Public Research in Archaeology: An Outsider’s Perspective”

Mandy Muise is a sophomore currently majoring in anthropology with an intended minor in Latin American studies. On campus, they work as the anthropology consultant for the Writing Center and are currently interning with the Antiquities Coalition.

As part of the Ethical Archaeological Research seminar, I began my work on a project called Historical and Community Archaeology: The Enslaved People of Beaver Dam (henceforth referred to as the Beaver Dam project) as a bit of an archaeological outsider – and to a degree, I remain one. Although I am an anthropology major, my concentration has always been on the cultural side; as a result, I found myself outside of my comfort zone in an archaeology seminar. It took me quite some time to find my place in a project defined by archaeological perspectives and jargon I had not previously encountered. I found myself lost as to what we could gain from pottery sherds and confused about what possible implications historical archaeology could have upon a community. Archaeology is built upon colonial ways of knowing, and prior to becoming introduced to Community Based Participatory Research in archaeology (CBPR, discussed below), I saw zero potential for an archaeology that actively served a community.

color photo of front of Beaver Dam plantation house
Beaver Dam Plantation House

In most simplistic terms, CBPR is an archaeology that advocates a movement away from scholarship “on and for” and toward archaeological practice “by and with” a community. It was best defined by Sonya Atalay (2012), an archaeologist specializing in Indigenous archaeology. CBPR creates a methodology that seeks to decolonize archaeological practice to create a more equitable form of research that is mutually beneficial to the community and to academics alike through the democratization of the knowledge production process.

My role in this project ultimately consisted of contacting prominent members of the community for information, advice, and to build connections for eventual in-person activities. In doing this, I’ve developed an appreciation of the difficulty of engaging in CBPR with a community that has not expressed an interest in archaeology. As a result of these challenges, our project has not consistently been able to uphold the objectives and ideals of CBPR. As it stands, our project is not community-engaged beyond the intentions of our group, as our accomplishments thus far have been without the support or desire of the community.

How can we understand this project to be an anti-racist and ethical endeavor in lieu of community engagement? Rather than seeing the project as aligning with older archaeological practices, it is critical to recognize our project at Beaver Dam as still in its initial stages. We have hardly stepped back from the chalkboard, despite the semester coming to a close. What we have successfully done is set the stage for CBPR, creating space in which this project can come to fruition. Our project has been designed with endless flexibility in hopes of community engagement – research questions and ideas are open to adjustments, and excavation can and will wait for the community. I see the Beaver Dam project as full of potential, founded upon ethical and anti-racist intentions – assuming the project continues its trajectory of community engagement, I have confidence that this project will continue to emphasize service to the community through mutually-beneficial scholarship.

Bibliography

Atalay, Sonya

2012    Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology “Historical Archaeology and the Enslaved of Beaver Dam”

This is the first of five posts from Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s Ethical Archaeological Research seminar (ANT-380) summarizing the results of their preliminary work on the Beaver Dam Plantation in Davidson, North Carolina.

The role of archaeology is to study societies of the past by examining their material record and the landscapes they inhabited. Historical archaeology juxtaposes the written record to these evidences to gain an even richer understanding of past societies. This written record may come from archives or can literally be found on the artifacts found during excavations. In this, historical archaeology has two incredible advantages as a social science: (1) it offers a rich type of evidence that is unavailable to non-historical archaeology and (2) offers a vast amount of material culture while paying attention to landscapes in ways that are typically evacuated from strict historical lenses. Historical archaeology can thus fill-in the many blind spots of the historical record, which tends to be written by the powerful or literary elite of the past; in this, historical archaeology can be framed as “anti-history” (Lee-Dawdy 2016). In other words, this anti-historical power can shine a light on past realities which were either erased or muted by history; those of past people suffering from intersectional inequities.

For decades, historical archaeologists have documented the lives of people whose stories were muted. This approach has had great success in studying the socioeconomic context, personal practices, challenges, and violence which characterized the lives of the people who were enslaved by plantation owners in the USA and beyond. More recently, historical archaeologists have also studied the realities of the post-emancipation life of African American households (Franklin et al. 2020). This broad research field is known as African Diaspora Archaeology and is spearheaded by members of the Society of Black Archaeologists, who are actively encouraging accomplices to contribute in steering the discipline towards an antiracist future (Flewellen et al. 2021).




A view of the Beaver Dam Plantation house from the hypothesized location of the historical cemetery used by the enslaved (photo by the author).

In this series of blog posts, my four students – Mandy Muise, Paul Mullinax, Isabel Nowak, and Sara Wilson – from the Ethical Archaeological Research seminar (ANT-380) and I summarize the results of our preliminary work on the Beaver Dam Plantation. This past semester, we studied the archival record, the landscape, and the potential for a community-engaged archaeology project at the site. The remaining estate is a small park – located at 19600 Davidson-Concord Rd – owned by Davidson College and currently leased to the Town of Davidson. Our work has identified important features of this landmark which have been effectively muted from its history and contemporary landscape: namely, the probable locations for the homes and cemetery of the enslaved who lived and labored on these grounds in the 19th century. This project has antiracist roots and goals: it aims to redress history through a historical archaeological program to give back the voices to those who’ve been muted by history.

The design of this project was influenced by experienced historical and community-engaged archaeologists and by the rich and recent literature on the Archaeology of African Diaspora and Community Engaged Archaeology (Agbe-Davies 2017; Atalay 2012; Battle-Baptiste 2017; Colwell 2016; Dunnavant 2014; Engmann 2019; Flewellen 2017; Flewellen et al. 2021; Franklin 2019; Franklin et al. 2020; Fryer 2020; Joseph 2016; Kawelu 2014; McAnany 2020; McDavid 2007; Odewale 2019; Ogundiran and Falola 2007; Reeves 2004; Shackel 2013; White 2016, 2017).

We, the five members of this project, are white. We’ve strived to use our various privileges to position ourselves so that we may launch a small, ethically-grounded project seeking to collaborate with the local Davidson community to identify and achieve antiracist goals. In fact, any future research as part of our project will be developed in collaboration with members of the Davidson Community. The powerful lenses of historical archaeology and our preliminary findings give us confidence that this project could transform Beaver Dam into a place of positive historical awareness that would benefit the broader community.

Funding for this project was provided by Davidson College’s Stories (Yet) to be Told program.

Bibliography

Agbe-Davies, Anna

2017    Where Tradition and Pragmatism Meet: African Diaspora Archaeology at the Crossroads. Historical Archaeology 51:9-27.

Atalay, Sonya

2012    Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Battle-Baptiste, Whitney

2017    Cruise Ships, Community, and Collective Memory at Millars Plantation, Eleuthera, Bahamas. Historical Archaeology 51(1):60–70.

Colwell, Chip

2016    Collaborative Archaeologies and Descendant Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology 45:113–27.

Dunnavant, Justin

2014    Rehistoricizing African Archaeology through the Archives: The Intellectual Life of William Leo Hansberry. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 29(2):34-49.

Engmann, Rachael A. A.

2019    “Archaeo, That Useless Subject”: Excavating the Past through Autoarchaeology and Community Outreach Education. Ghana Studies 22:173-190

Flewellen, Ayana Omilade

2017    Locating Marginalized Historical Narratives at Kingsley Plantation. Historical Archaeology 51(1):71–87.

Flewellen, Ayana Omilade, Justin P. Dunnavant, Alicia Odewale, Alexandra Jones,

Tsione Wolde-Michael, Zoë Crossland, and Maria Franklin

2021    “The Future of Archaeology Is Antiracist”: Archaeology in the Time of Black

Lives Matter. American Antiquity 1-20 .Online Article.

Franklin, Maria

2019   Enslaved Household Variability and Plantation Life and Labor in Colonial Virginia. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 24:115-155.

Franklin, Maria, Justin P. Dunnavant, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, and Alicia Odewale

2020    The Future is Now: Archaeology and the Eradication of Anti-Blackness. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 24(4):753–766.

Fryer, Tiffany C.

2020    Reflecting on Positionality: Archaeological Heritage Praxis in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 31(1):26–40.

Joseph, J. W.

2016    Marks from the Past, Signs of the Future—the Dikenga of Historical Archaeology. Historical Archaeology 50(3):5–23.

Kawelu, Kathleen

2014    In Their Own Voices: Contemporary Native Hawaiian and Archaeological Narratives about Hawaiian Archaeology. The Contemporary Pacific 26(1):31–62.

Lee Dawdy, Shannon

2015    Anti-History. In Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives, edited by Geoff Emberling, pp. 328-342. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

McAnany, Patricia

2020   Imagining a Maya Archaeology That Is Anthropological and Attuned to Indigenous   Cultural Heritage. Heritage 3:1-11.

McDavid, Carol

2007   Beyond Strategy and Good Intentions: Archaeology, Race, and White Privilege. In An  

Archaeology of Civic Engagement and Social Justice, edited by Barbara Little and PaulShackel, pp. 67-88. AltaMira Press, Lanham.

Odewale, Alicia

2019    An Archaeology of Struggle: Material Remnants of a Double Consciousness in the

American South and Danish Caribbean Communities. Transforming Anthropology 27(2):114–132.

Ogundiran, Akinwumi, and Toyin Falola

2007    Pathways in the archaeology of transatlantic Africa. In Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African diaspora, edited by Ogundiran Akinwumi and Toyin Falola, pp. 3-45. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Reeves, Matthew B.

2004    Asking the Right Questions: Archaeologists and Descendant Communities. In Places in

Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology, edited by Paul A. Shackel and Erve J. Chambers, pp. 71–81. Routledge, London.

Shackel, Paul

2013    Working with the Difficult Past: Examples from the University of Maryland. Annals of Anthropological Practice 37(1):57-71

White, William A. III

2016   Creating Space for a Place: The River Street Archaeology Project. Arizona Anthropologist 27:69-82.

2017    Writ on the Landscape: Racialization, Whiteness, and River Street. Historical Archaeology 51(1):131–148.

Guest Blogger: Cara Evanson, Research and First Year Experience Librarian, “History of Our Library Our Conference”

Cara Evanson is the Research and First Year Experience Librarian and has worked at Davidson since 2011.

From May 13th to 21st, library staff were searching the E.H. Little building. But not for lost books or items students left behind during finals. They were participating in a conference, of sorts, albeit one that had taken a unique form in this pandemic year.

The origins of Our Library Our Conference, an in-house conference for library staff at Davidson, date back to 2015. At the time, I had been having conversations with colleagues about wanting more opportunities to learn about and celebrate staff expertise and work happening across library departments. While catching up on an issue of College & Research Libraries News I came across an article titled A Conference of Our Own: Creating an In-House Professional Development Opportunity. Written by librarians Shellie Jeffries and Christina Radisauskas, the article describes how they planned a day for their colleagues at Aquinas College dedicated to “sharing, teaching, and exploring with each other.” After reading it, I was excited to try out their idea and create a conference by and for library staff at Davidson.

Our Library Our Conference was first held in 2016, and over the years this annual conference has shifted in response to circumstances and feedback from the library staff.

Our Library Our Conference First Year, 2016, Left to Right, Jon Hill, Jean Coates and Joe Gutekanst

It has taken on a more informal vibe, and conference “field trips” to spaces like the music library, rare book room, and mailroom have become an ongoing feature. In 2020 the conference was held on Zoom and included a Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! style trivia contest spotlighting library staff stories and projects. This year, the conference planning committee created a scavenger hunt with each clue showcasing library staff collaborations and accomplishments from the year. The scavenger hunt could be completed individually and socially distanced at any time during the week.

Field Trip to the Music Library, 2019, Jon Hill sharing his expertise and enthusiasm

What hasn’t changed over the years is the purpose of the conference – for library staff to share with each other, learn from each other, and explore with each other. Regardless of the format, the conference is a chance to reflect on and celebrate our roles and the work we do. And it couldn’t happen without the hard work of the planning committee. Alexa Torchynowycz, Joe Gutekanst, and Sharon Byrd have stayed on through two years of pandemic-adapted conference planning. A big thanks to them, and to the whole library staff for making 6 years of this conference possible!

Announcing New Research Guides

Summer 2020 has been a busy one for the Archives, Special Collections & Community team! Projects we have been working on include: reorganizing books in the Rare Book Room, updating the taxonomy for archival records, and refining workflows around digitization and making digitized materials available. As we have been preparing for the fall semester, we have also created a few new research guides about topics we are often asked about, including oral histories, student activism on campus, and the history of coeducation.

Stories: Oral Histories and Interviews: A guide to oral histories and interviews in Archives and Special Collections at Davidson College. This guide includes information about audiovisual materials we have in our collection that are oral histories or interviews. Many oral histories are from local townspeople and cover topics ranging from the Town of Davidson to the college. One example is the Shared Stories collection of photographs, oral histories, and records documenting the lives and contributions of African-Americans in the greater Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville, NC area. 

Reeves Temple AME Zion Church and Lingle Hut
Both Reeves Temple AME Zion Church and the Lingle Hut are referenced in the Shared Stories Collection

Activism and Protests at Davidson College: A guide to archival collections and materials related to the history of student activism at Davidson College. Since the 1960s, students at Davidson College have become increasingly involved with local, national, and international issues of social justice, advocacy, and equality. Students, individually and collectively, have participated in and organized demonstrations to campaign for political and social change, both on campus and beyond. Topics covered in this guide include the Civil Rights Era and integration, the Vietnam War, divestment from apartheid in South Africa and more.

Students protesting the Vietnam War on Main Street (circa 1970s)
Students protesting the Vietnam War on Main Street (circa 1970s)

Women at Davidson: A guide to archival and special collections materials related to the history of women at Davidson College and in the Town of Davidson. Topics covered in this guide include coeducation (both pre- and post-1972, the year Davidson became officially coeducational), women’s involvement in athletics and student organizations, women on the faculty and staff, and women in the Town of Davidson.

Student Sandra May holding a sign making it official that Davidson College is for men and women.
Student Sandra May making it official that Davidson College is for men and women.

We are continually updating and creating new research guides, both for individual topics and courses we are involved in. For a listing of research guides from Archives, Special Collections & Community, please visit our Research Guides Page.

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 2

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this second post, we will highlight how three of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses, churches, and neighborhoods near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic.

Our first narrator, Margaret Potts, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark, and local recreational facilities. Our second narrator, Mildred Workman, sheds light on downtown businesses and dining practices. Lastly, our third narrator, Mildred Thompson, discusses the Brady’s Alley fire which devastated several African American families in Davidson, NC shortly after World War II.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 154: Interview with Margaret Potts, January 2, 2001

Black and white image of the front of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Image of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Interviewer: How did you end up at the Sunday school [at the mill chapel]? 

Margaret Potts: Well I was teaching Sunday school in Davidson Presbyterian Church, early.  They wanted me to have the little ones, the two in, whatever hours it was, babysitting more than anything else, in the old church.  It was a terrible place to have little children.  But anyway, so just through the years, I would teach Sunday school and do things like that, whatever needed to be done.  And so, some of the students, some real good students here at Davidson took on the mill project.  And they got anybody that they could get to go and help there.  And of course, I knew a lot of the people over there, so I was willing to help.  (laughter) And until I went off to go to college, and then I had to stop doing that.  [Page 26]

On recreation in Davidson:

Davidsonian article from 1920 stating: "The Mill Sunday School is quite elated over the new playground equipment provided by Dr. Munroe and his associates. A considerable quantity of open-air gymnasium equipment, such as is found in city parks, has been received. The apparatus consists of swing."
April 29, 1920 Davidsonian article discussing the construction of a gymnasium for mill children.
Margaret Potts: Well, I liked the track meets; oh I loved the track meets.  I didn’t miss a single one of those.  And in the summertime, we used to come out, and [00:49:00] they would let us -- not complain, if we played.  We never did anything terrible.  But on this very spot, right here, where this library is, they had this tremendous jungle gym for adults.  And what, where they got that, I don’t know whose idea it was to put that thing together.  It was metal, big metal things, put together, and it had a ladder that went up two stories and it went all the way across.  Now this is was when I was a child.  It had -- was hanging down, and a place for you to sit, and you could swing back and forth.  It had the most interesting jungle gym I’ve ever seen.  They let us play on that.  We used to spend hours over here.  I think the -- [00:50:00] what was behind?  The gym was behind it.  And it was in front of the gym.

On Dining in Davidson:

AUDIO 158: Interview with Mildred Workman, January 11, 2001

September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
Mildred Workman: Absolutely no place.   
Interviewer: No place? 
Mildred Workman: No.  There was a little place called the Coffee Cup down on -- what’s the street where Jasper’s is? 
Interviewer: Depot. 
Mildred Workman: Depot.  Down on Depot Street.  It was just kind of a little greasy spoon.  You could get decent breakfast there.  But I remember when we moved in -- we moved in as I recall on Saturday.  And we inquired where we could go for Sunday lunch of the C.K. Browns, and they said, well, there really was not anywhere.  You must come to The Browns and have Sunday dinner.  And there was no place near around to go.  You had to go to Charlotte.  And there wasn’t much in Charlotte.

On the Brady’s Alley Fire of 1949:

AUDIO 159: Interview with Mildred Thompson, January 17, 2001

Photograph of the Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Interviewer: I know.  Asking about, or mentioning Carl reminds me, do you remember a fire in 1949 in Brady’s Alley, (inaudible) – 

Mildred Thompson: Oh, yeah, I sure do.  I remember that like it was yesterday.  Carl was the minister, and Carl was the one that, I’m not positive about this, but I’m pretty sure, he’s the one that started that children’s sermon before church, you know, that called the children down.  I think he started that, because I can remember him seeing him come down out of the pulpit, and the little children would just listen, and they’d turn around and say to their parents, “Is that true?  Is that true?”  When Carl was telling the story.  

But anyway, about that, it was almost time for church to be over, and this fire started, and the fire was just blowing, blowing.  And of course, everybody was apprehensive, “Where is it?”  Well anyway, it was down in that alley; that was pathetic.  Those people, I don’t know where they had water, I don’t know what they had, but what they had was pretty bad.  And so Carl, after that he went down there and he investigated everything, and he told, he got in the church, and he said, “I refuse to preach in a church where the shadow of the church falls on poverty.”  Honey, that afternoon, he took the young people around, it was terrible.  Honey, he really turned this place around. [Page 9 -10]

Each of the five interviews featured in this two-part series are more than one hour long, meaning the vignettes you have read represent only a small part of these individuals’ stories. Now that researchers will be able to keyword search our newly produced transcripts, we hope others will have easier access to these rich narratives.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Potts, Margaret. Interview by the Davidson College Archives. January 2, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 154. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Workman, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 11, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 158. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Thompson, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 17, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 159. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 1

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this first post, we will highlight how two of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses and churches near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic. Our first narrator, Patricia Sailstad, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark. Our second narrators, E.M. and Dolly Hicks, shed light on labor relations in the South through the lens of the Davidson Cotton Mill, now known as the Hurt Hub.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 107: Interview with Patricia Sailstad, April 1997

Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.
Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.

Patricia Sailstad: And I remember the first time we ever had an integrated World Day of Prayer, and I went with Ms. Maude, and it was over at the little Methodist Church that has the log cabin next to it.  Oh, gosh.  Well, it’s…this is not the black church there.  This is the one behind it.  It was a white church at the time. But they decided they would have refreshments.  

And actually, this was...  But it was the first time they’d had black and white together, and after the ceremony we went to their little log cabin, which was right next to it.  You’ll see the church; it’s a Methodist church, I think.  Now it is a [00:40:00] black church, but it was white at the time.  And so there we were (inaudible) standing up.  We weren’t sitting down, eating.  And Ms. Maude said, “You know, Mrs. Sailstad.”  She looked around at the black and the white together, all chatting.  She said, “I think this is what heaven must be like.” [Pages 23 – 24]

On the Davidson Cotton Mill:

AUDIO 150: Interview with E.M. Hicks and Dolly Hicks, September 18, 2000

The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
¬¬Dolly Hicks: At one time we had a union that picketed, trying to get the union in at the old Davidson Cotton Mill…I remember from down the street cars just -- But we weren’t allowed up there because there was trouble going on up there -- Up at the mill, so you can see it from right where -- back then it looked like a hundred miles, but it’s only, [00:30:00] what, not very far at all, half a block.  (laughs) But they did have some over there.   Now, [Beatrice?] might could tell you more about that -- but I remember it very distinctly, because we were not very young at that point…’cause I was born in ’25.  It would probably be in the early ’30s…But the union or something came in, something they were doing up there, and there was cars, and seems like somebody got hurt.  
 
E.M. Hicks: They had the flying [00:31:00] squadron.  Had a flying squadron came out of the North, and they were coming down through the South, and they were going to organize the South.  And so they came through Greensboro.  Now, this would have been the ’30s. And they came through Greensboro, because Cone Mills was in Greensboro, and we were out -- I lived close to Cone Mills.  And this flying squadron came down there, and I remember very well -- you know, it was different back in those days.  I was freer to get out and go where I wanted to than most kids my age.  And so I wanted to see what was going on.  I went out to Cone Mills, [00:32:00] and I could walk out there easily.  And I got out there, and the cops wouldn’t let me -- get close.  They kept me back.  But in those days the cops wore leather leggings. And so these people who were fighting the cops, some of them were the employees, see, and the others were imports, and they’d take an apple and stick a razor blade down in it, you know, and then if you take your fingers and put it on the wrong side of the razor blade so it would be [toward it?], and throw that thing, and when it would hit these guys on the legs, it cut their [00:33:00] leggings.  It cut their leggings. It was rough.  I mean, it was kind of tough.  But anyhow, the cops won, and they left Greensboro, came on down this way.  They got to Gastonia.  That’s where the big one was.  You can find that on the record, because they had machine guns up on the buildings, and they were sitting up there with machine guns. [Pages 66 – 70]

In part 2 of 2 of this blog post series, we will provide another look at the Lingle Hut, culture surrounding the cotton mills, downtown eateries, and a devastating fire.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Sailstad, Patricia. Interview by Jim Smith, Heather Baker, John Thornberry. April 1997. “Common Ground Oral History Project.” Audiotape Collection 107. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Hicks, E.M. and Dolly Hicks. Interview by Jan Blodgett. September 18, 2000. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 150. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

“(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories” Week One Update

As mentioned in the previous blog post about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, Archives and Special Collections is proud to present the initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we aim to document the personal experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during the COVID-19 epidemic. We invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away.

We’ve had a wonderful start to this project and here are some highlights of the first contributions!

Wearing face masks to go outside and to go shopping has become the temporary new normal. Many people are wearing homemade masks as seen by contributions from Annelise Gorensek-Benitez (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry), Molly Kunkel (Digital Archivist; “Shopping Essentials”), and Ann Haley and Shaw Smith (Joel O. Conarroe Professor of Art History).

We are also delighted to see contributions of creative works, including a painting from community member Dr. Edward L. Boye and original poetry from Lisa Forest (Leland M. Park Director of E.H. Little Library) and Anthony S. Abbott (Professor of English Emeritus).

Painting of castle.
“Finding Your Castle” by Dr. Edward L. Boye

A huge thank you to those who have submitted thus far! If you would like to view more contributions or would like to contribute an item to the “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories,” please visit the site.

(Re)Collecting the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and COVID-19 in Davidson

On September 18, 1918, the fall term of the 1918-1919 academic year began at Davidson. Three weeks later on October 9, 1918, The Davidsonian reported that the college experienced “a severe visitation” of Spanish influenza. From the report of the first case, new cases began to emerge rapidly. The infirmary, although equipped with medical equipment and staff, quickly became overrun with patients. To more adequately attend to the sick, the Chambers building, the main academic building on campus (which also had two wings set aside as dormitories), was turned into a makeshift hospital. At first, only the first floor of the south wing was used to house the sick. However, cases continued to appear and the second and third floors of the wing were quickly repurposed as hospital wards (“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson”).

Chambers as built.
Old Chambers (Burned in 1921)

With an ever-increasing volume of cases, campus administration decided to suspend class for three weeks and to place campus under quarantine. To care for the sick, the entire Davidson community offered support. Nurses attended to the ill, the women of the Davidson Red Cross Chapter provided meals and necessary supplies, and Davidson professors took regular shifts to assist in any way they could. One individual, presumably a student (and possibly one of those infirmed) remarked about this extraordinary support offered by the community in the October 9, 1918 Davidsonian (“Editorial”).

The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918
The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918

These combined efforts worked. Remarkably, the next issue of The Davidsonian (October 23, 1918), reported that after three weeks of cases of the Spanish flu on campus, the epidemic was practically over. In total, over 200 cases of the flu were reported and those remaining were rapidly recovering (“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College”). However, one student, Daniel J. Currie of Defuniac Springs, Florida, did pass away from pneumonia, which was likely resultant from the influenza. Nurse Laura Rose Stevenson of Charlotte treated patients at Davidson and also died of pneumonia (“In Memoriam”).

While the college was rocked by the flu, the Town of Davidson was as well. The sick were treated in their homes, cotton mills and schools temporarily shut down, and the town was placed under quarantine. The October 23, 1918 issue of The Davidsonian included notices of townspeople affected by the influenza (“Town Items”).

The Davidsonian, October 23, 1918

Like in the case of the college, the Red Cross provided assistance to the Town of Davidson. In total, over 150 cases were reported in the town. There were at least five deaths from pneumonia, most of which were African American (“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved”). The next week, in the November 6, 1918 Davidsonian, it is reported that the town’s quarantine had been lifted and that mills had resumed work (“‘Flu Situation In Town Continues to Improve).

Although the events of the Spanish flu epidemic occurred over 100 years ago, we find ourselves in a very similar situation today with COVID-19. What can we learn by reflecting on Davidson’s response to the Spanish flu?

I think it is this: It takes all of us to get through it. In 1918, this was evident in medical personnel, townspeople, and the college community coming together to help one another. In 2020, we can see the same thing occurring. We are helping each other by tending to the ill, by donating supplies, by abiding stay-at-home orders, by offering each other emotional support. The list goes on and on. We are all trying our best to help each other get through it. And I think that is worth everything.

As Davidson adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are challenged to develop new ways to engage and interact with our community. Davidson College Archives, Special Collections & Community, which regularly collects, shares, and preserves the college’s and community’s unique stories, would like to document the experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during these uncertain times. To this end, we are excited to present our initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away. To learn more about “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories, please visit the site.

Works Cited

“Editorial.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation In Town Continues to Improve.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 6 Nov. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181106.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 30 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181030.pdf.

“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

“In Memoriam.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.