Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Virginia writer Earl Hamner, creator of the television show The Waltons, wrote about growing up on a Virginia farm during the Great Depression. He says that in the show he was accused of portraying the depression years as too happy. His response was that he and his siblings, although poor, believed that they lived in the best of all possible times. He wrote, “It may have been severe for city people, but we were country people with country people’s advantages,” and “I am probably the only writer in Hollywood who knows how to milk a cow, not that I get called on much to use that particular talent.”

Speaking of Virginia farms, did you know that Russell County was once a part of one of the largest farms east of the Mississippi? In fact, so were several other Southwest Virginia counties. At its largest, the Stuart Land and Cattle Corporation covered about 100,000 acres! In the beginning, the land belonged to Thomas Hendricks, who was given a land grant in 1769 by the English government in the area that became known as Elk Garden.  In 1868, William Alexander Stuart purchased this same land of 2, 144 acres for $60,000, which was the beginning of Stuart Land & Cattle. William continued to expand by buying other property. William’s son, Henry Carter Stuart, born in 1855, went on to expand the land holdings even further, and also served as governor of Virginia from 1914-1918.

Since its creation Russell County has been largely a farming county. The peak in the number of farms was in 1935, with 3,721 farms. The greatest land amount in farms was in 1890, when there were 296,080 acres of farmland. Although these numbers began to steadily decrease in 1945, according to the 2012 agricultural census (the most recent data available), there are still 995 farms and 187,620 acres of farmland in Russell County.

In fact, for the state of Virginia as a whole, agriculture is by far the largest industry. Virginia has about 46,000 farms with an economic impact of $52 billion annually. Broilers, cattle, milk, soybeans, and turkeys are the top five revenue generators.

To learn more about farming history in Russell County, join us on September 27th at 3:00 pm for the release of Kathy Shearer’s new book, Working for Stuarts. It’s comprised of the history of Stuart Land & Cattle Company, as told by the people who worked for the company.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blogs You Might Enjoy Reading

We thought you might like to know about other interesting library blogs. Take a look at what we found that we thought you might enjoy reading.

The New York Public Library had a recent blog that will interest Virginians. The blog entry is entitled Traveling the Roads of Early America with Jefferson and is based on Thomas Jefferson's own records in his account book, where he recorded how far he traveled, what sort of terrain he crossed, the flora and fauna, and more. This blog is second in an installment about Jefferson's life and world through entries in his manuscript account book, which the library recently digitized.

The Library of Congress has numerous blogs, highlighting their various collections, from music, to photos, to history, to topics like the Civil War. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we'll suggest you look at a recent Picture This blog entry entitled Remembering Hiroshima in Photographs  from the the Library of Congress Prints and Photos Division.

For you history and genealogy buffs, here's a nice blog with lots of references and help if you research family history. The Genealogy Blog of Mid-Continent Public Library (the library is in Missouri) references their library's collection, but the information and recommendations are sound for any researcher.

Finally, last but not least, our own Library of Virginia has several blogs highlighting their collections which can be found at Virginia Memory Blogs. The blogs include millions of pages from the newspaper project, the prints and photographs collection, and the archive, which includes images, documents and stories from the library collections, such as the photo above of the Russell County courthouse.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Reunion Time!

It’s summer, which means it’s that time of year again — family reunion time! And if you have a large extended family that means you may have several reunions to attend for multiple branches. On average, there are 3-4 per summer that I often attend in the NC mountains, and it’s great to see people again after a year or two of being scattered across the country. After years of different reunions with different vibes, here is a list of ideas I’ve gathered that can make them really special. Try one or more in your family!

1)     Recipes   Other than visiting, the next best thing about reunions is food! Everybody brings something to share, just like a giant potluck dinner after church. Why not carry it a step further? Bring great dishes that have been passed down in your family for generations, such as Granny Maggie’s prune cake, or Aunt Ruth’s homemade dinner rolls.  Bring copies of the recipe to pass out to those who ask or comment on it, and tell them who invented it. Or make a special dish in honor or in memory of someone who can’t be there.  Either a dish that person loved, or was known for bringing. For example a pound cake in memory of Granny Nell, who used to always bring one.  Share secret ingredients if you know any. Maybe she used a couple tablespoons of whiskey in the cake to flavor it, but very few people knew that!

2)     Story Swapping   Every family has great stories to tell. Try to interview the oldest family members and record their memoirs first, or encourage them to write them down. For example, during the Civil War, my 4th great-grandmother was so incensed when traveling soldiers stole a honey pot among other things from her family, that she chased after them. She was angry because they were stealing food from her grandchildren whose father had been killed. She picked up a rock, aimed at the pot and broke it, spilling the stolen honey. One of the soldiers charged at her with a bayonet, which she grabbed, badly cutting her hands and paralyzing one finger, but they did not get the honey.  Another favorite is my great grandparents’ elopement in 1915. She was 16, he was 22. His family was made of strong and prominent republicans, hers equally strong and prominent democrats. Neither family approved of a marriage, and their first elopement attempt failed. She sent her younger sister outside in the middle of the night to catch her clothes as she threw them out the window.  When she whispered in the dark, “Do you have them?” her father’s voice replied “Yes, I have them.” However, a 2nd attempt was successful; she met my great grandfather in the woods, and they rode across the NC hills on horseback into Tennessee and married, later having 7 children and a marriage that lasted 70 years.

3)     Family Trees   Even at a reunion where everyone is related somehow, there are multiple branches. Make a tree (either a typed tree or a drawing of a tree with branches) and fill in your branch with the information you know. Let others add to it, or provide blank copies for other branches. When enough branches are completed, designate people to make copies to mail (or email) to everyone later.

4)     Play Music   If there are musicians in the family, ask them to bring their instruments and play together, it brightens the atmosphere. At one reunion, the new husband of a cousin began to sing with the music, causing everyone to stop and look for whom that wonderful voice belonged to. Turns out that he sang in his own band when he was younger, but who knew? Now he’s a yearly fixture with the family band at that reunion.

5)     Decorate a Cemetery   It may seem strange to hold a family reunion in a cemetery, but that’s exactly what one branch of my family does. A band of family musicians plays gospel music, while others clean and decorate the cemetery with new flowers. Every grave is attended to. It’s a group effort to care for that cemetery and the ancestors buried there, while also visiting with each other. At the end the whole place is bursting with color.

6)     Games   A good way to have fun and also draw the interest of older kids, who may not yet be that interested in family history. One game can be a family hunt. Which people have green eyes?  Which have brown or blue eyes? How many are tall or short? Who is the oldest member there? How many were born in the 1930s? (or in each decade).  Another game might be odd facts trivia (remember to keep the trivia fun and good spirited).  Which grandmother is doubled jointed and can bend a finger backward? Which great-grandfather used to entertain us with mule rides? Which great-grandmother chopped her own firewood into her 90s? Which centenarian still pieces quilts by hand?




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Choose Privacy Week

May 1-7 is Choose Privacy Week. We live in an information age. And knowledge is power. But the technology that allows us access to a wealth of information also facilitates surveillance, with the power to collect and mine personal information.

This year's theme for choose Privacy Week is "Who's Reading the Reader." Online and digital technologies have given corporations and governments alike the ability to track, record, and monitor our communications and our reading  habits. You can replace the word reading with searching, surfing, or viewing. Someone, somewhere, is watching.

Perhaps the watcher only wants to hone their advertisements so you, and other consumers, will buy more of their product. But the convenience of site 'remembering' information about us comes in exchange for the loss of privacy.

To learn more about the issue and how you can protect your privacy, take a look at the Choose Privacy Blog. Your privacy depends on YOU learning how and when to search safely. It depends on YOU actively deciding what information about you to allow sites to retain. It depends on YOU having secure passwords.

Choose Privacy Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association designed to encourage critical thinking and informed choices about privacy. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Herbert Lee Waters Film Collection Now Online

Have you ever wondered what your town looked like decades ago, perhaps when your grandparents were children? Do you remember when the Confederate monument in Lebanon sat in the middle of Main Street? Do you remember which businesses were on Main Street 75 years ago? The Russell Theater with the marquee lit up, Quality Shoe Shop,  the Esso service station, the Russell Grill, or Alfred’s clothing store?

If you lived in Dante, do you remember the company store, the Texaco station, the Beer Garden restaurant (now the museum)?

These places and more were preserved in short silent films by H. Lee Waters. A North Carolinian, Herbert Lee Waters was a photographer and film maker who, in addition to running his own studio, traveled to several small communities in North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina to film ordinary people in small towns during the years of the Great Depression. He sold tickets to see the films, which were then shown in local movie theaters, between 1936 and 1942.  He commonly filmed school children, people on the street, local businesses, and the traffic moving through towns. He made a total of 252 films, including one of Lebanon and two of Dante in 1940.

His movies have been made available to view online by Duke University Libraries. Visit this link http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/hleewaters/ and click on Virginia. See which people and places you know!

The photos you see here are part of RCPL's photo archive, preserving Russell County's history in pictures. Stop by the library and browse photos of Russell County towns and communities during the past century.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use Week, February 23-27, 2015, is an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

So, what IS fair use? Fair use and fair dealing allow the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances. For libraries, educational institutions, and the public, the fair use doctrine is the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright owner--the "safety valve" of US copyright law. 

Each day teachers teach, students learn, researchers advance knowledge, and consumers access copyrighted information due to the exemptions in copyright law, such as fair use in the United States or fair dealing in Canada and other jurisdictions. It's why you can make that copy of a magazine article for your personal use. You aren't using it for any profit nor are you depriving the copyright owner of additional profit.

Fair Use Week is a celebration? It celebrates the important role fair use plays in achieving the Consitutional purpose of intellectual property rights in the US: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. The flexible nature of fair use doctrine has permitted copyright to adapt to new technologies and changes. Similarly, in Canada, fair dealing is a critical right of the user intended to facilitate
balance in copyright law and accommodate freedom of expression.

Thanks to the Association of Research Libraries Fair Use Week website for the content of this blog!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Celebrate Puzzle Day

Thursday is International Puzzle Day.The Libraries will be celebrating with jigsaw and other puzzles to pique patrons' interest. Stop by and try to put a few pieces in a jigsaw puzzle--it's the perfect winter activity!

According to Wikipedia, "a puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person's ingenuity." Folks over a certain age will remember the Rubik's cube, a novelty toy/puzzle that was a hot gift late in the last century. But the puzzles that most folks are familiar with are jigsaw puzzles, and the ones often seen in newspapers, such as crossword puzzles, acrostics and Sudoku.

The first jigsaw puzzle was created about 1760; a British engraver glued a map onto wood and cut out the countries. For many years puzzles were popular, though limited to educational use, until well into the 1800s. International Puzzle Day was created by American game companies in 1995; you aren't surprised, are you?!

On Thursday, Lebanon Library will have a collection of jigsaw puzzles on the tables, including some appropriate for children. There will also be a few crossword puzzles and Sudokus. Stop by and use a puzzle to keep your brain sharp. There will even be several Russell County-themed puzzles!