Students Research Undocumented Materials for Insights into History of Newbern, New River Valley

Posted on: Monday, March 4th, 2013
by Brent Treash

The Appalachian College Association has awarded scholarships to two Emory & Henry College students to work with a collection of undocumented historical materials that could shed new light on the history of the Newbern and New River Valley areas of Southwest Virginia.

The students -- Caitlin Hollaway of Bristol, Va., and Stephanie Taylor of Gate City, Va. -- will read, summarize, catalog, index, and digitize the materials now held at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Newbern. The documents are legal records, store receipts and records, ferry accounts for ferries on the New River, tavern records, legal proceedings, documents from the sheriffs’ office, as well as some county records prior to the Civil War.

Hollaway and Taylor were each awarded a 2013 Appalachian College Association Colonel Lee B. Ledford Scholarship for Student Research. The research will support the writing of a book by Dr. Tal Stanley, associate professor of public policy and community service at Emory & Henry and director of the Appalachian Center for Community Service.
In addition to Hollaway and Taylor, a third student, Joanna Golde of Asheville, N.C., will participate in the project. Golde’s research is supported through the Bonner Scholars Program at Emory & Henry and the Appalachian Center for Community Service.

Established in the late eighteenth and early years of the nineteenth centuries, Newbern was a major stop on the Great Wagon Road that connected Virginia and the eastern seaboard to the Southwest and Northwest territories. With the formation of Pulaski County in 1839, Newbern became the first county seat.

Stanley hopes to use these historical resources to explore how Newbern, the farms along the New River, and that portion of the Great Wagon Road through Southwest Virginia contribute to a larger understanding of the American story—its conflicts, contradictions, and civic possibilities, as well as the ways that story is rooted in the foundations of the earth.

Stanley sees the work that Hollaway, Taylor, and Golde will be doing as one way of helping support the work of the Wilderness Road Regional Museum and the New River Historical Society. “Although the full extent of the collection is not certain, I fully expect these materials to enrich and deepen the understanding of this part of Southwest Virginia as well as the significance of the Great Road to American history,” Stanley said.

Stanley’s 2012 book, published by the University of Illinois Press, The Poco Field: An American Story of Place, focused partly on the town of Newbern and offered the first part a multi-volume effort to tell the “deep story” or the “deep biography” of Southwest Virginia and its people. The next installment of the Stanley’s biography of place is tentatively titled The Rememberers.

Holloway is the daughter Kim and Claude Hollaway of Bristol. Taylor is the daughter of Mike and Angie Taylor of Gate City. Golde is the daughter of Page M. Golde of Asheville.