Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Giving Kids Historical Perspective – One Reason For A Museum Of Durham History

I think most parents and schools underestimate the value of local awareness. That’s why the movement to establish a Museum of Durham History is so critical to Durham’s future.

I see the importance in the eyes of local school-age kids as DCVB communications like the recently launched intrigue them with the connection of their hometown or adopted community with historical perspective .

I recently caught a history channel documentary on the “Mountain Men,” fur trappers in the early 1800’s. It was amazing how many times the area where I come from was mentioned or shown.

I don’t recall my parents or the schools making local connections with history. My Grandfathers did most of that.

I come from Fremont County, Idaho and as you might imagine learned in school about John C. Fremont who passed through there in 1843 and credited with opening the American West. I didn’t learn however, that he actually published “guides” and “pamphlets” and that he was in the destination marketing business.

Or that these resources were used by three of my Great-Great Grandfathers who were among 100+ people on a 70+ wagon train in 1847 that blazed the Mormon Trail wagon road from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountain West, now largely the route of Interstate 80.

Another traveled the route in the 1850’s. With no pioneer, frontier or road building experience, they left homes in Massachusetts, the Quaker country of Pennsylvania and the Dutch country of Delaware where they had been carpenters, carriage makers and brick makers.

But I don’t remember learning about Fremont’s local connection when we studied him in school. And I learned about my pioneer heritage long after learning about the movement west when I first read their names in somewhat disbelief on a statue.

As a young boy, I never missed The Adventures of Kit Carson, an early 1950’s television show. But only much later in life did I learn he first became a fur trapper when he traveled to my part of the country just three years after the return of Lewis and Clark. He was initially a recruit of Andrew Henry, co-founder with William Clark of the Missouri Fur Company, along with the equally famous Jedidiah Smith, whose story was the basis for much of Robert Redford’s 1972 classic, “Jeremiah Johnson.”

They built America's first trading post, Fort Henry, near Saint Anthony, ID, a couple of miles south of the ranch and became the first non-Native American’s to winter over in the Rocky Mountains. The area had long been inhabited by bands of Shoshone, Bannock and occasionally Crow Indians. Henry is the namesake for the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River (north fork) that ran 2 miles from the ranch, some of the finest Brown and Rainbow trout fly-fishing in the world and across which the school bus crossed twice each day.

But I don’t remember those connections being made in school or at home.

I learned in school about Chief Joseph and a band of 750 members of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe who rather than leave their homes for a reservation, took a winding 1200 mile run through Idaho and Montana in an attempt to get to Canada before they succumbed to the 7th Cavalry a few miles from the border.

It is now a National Historical Trail but I don’t remember my teachers and definitely not my parents making the connection that the Nez Perce with the 7th Cavalry in hot pursuit passed within 30 miles north of the ranch my Great Grandfather homesteaded about 20 years later….about the same span I’ve called Durham home.

Making these connections may have given me more respect for that area and maybe I wouldn’t have spent more than a decade “running” from Idaho as I like to call that period of my life.

There is even more history in Durham and it is important for natives and transplants alike to make those connections.


Anonymous said...

You go man. You are doing good, you and Gary Kuber. Keep up the good work. for whatever it's worth I support you.

Reyn said...

Means a lot. Thank you.