Editorial: Things to remember in the new year
Against the backdrop of Europe and Asia, the recorded history of America is rather short; short in duration, that is, although not in moments that have changed the course of events.
During 2013, especially as Nov. 22 draws near, we will be reminded frequently of the awful occurrence in Dallas 50 years ago. President Kennedy was struck down, and the assassination heralded the dawn of a new age of distrust in government that more or less culminated with the resignation of President Nixon 11 years later.
More things to remember from the national scene:
One hundred fifty years ago, in Gettysburg, Penn., came the pivotal battle of the Civil War. Lee’s troops withdrew in defeat and, while the bitter conflict’s end was still almost two years away, the Confederate Army switched chiefly from attack to defense until the surrender at Appomattox.
In 1913—a year of significance
Fifty years later, in July 1913, several war veterans from our area traveled to Gettysburg for a reunion. There they shook hands with Union troops. The Mathews Journal reported that H. W. Hudgins, J. W. Minter and R. L. Bailey were among the "old Vets" who attended the reunion, and said, "It must have been an inspiring sight at Gettysburg last week when the heroes of the blue and gray clasped hands in mutual admiration, esteem and friendship. Fifty years ago while thousands of cannon belshed [sic] forth flame and death these same men grappled in bloody conflict, each willing to die in defense of what he believed to be right. What a tremendous contrast in these two scenes—the one so typical of war which has rightly been described as hell—the other exhaling the sweet beneficent air of peace. These heroes of Gettysburg may speak with a pride that is pardonable of their exploits of former days but they should be prouder still of the glorious advance of our reunited country and thankful for the assurance that never again will friends and brothers even be brought into conflict by civil war."
That year 1913 also brought a premier figure in American life, Booker T. Washington, to Gloucester and Mathews where, half a century after the end of slavery, he spoke movingly of the black man’s struggle to achieve an economic and educational footing in America.
On the national scene, 1913 also brought passage of the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution, providing for an income tax and popular election of senators, respectively. Locally, Peninsula High School opened to serve the white school children of West Mathews, combining several one-room schools and offering a secondary course in that area for the first time.
Lost from 1938; perhaps one may be found:
Twenty-five years later, in 1938, one thing nearly happened, but the chance was lost, and another momentous occurrence took place, but its results cannot now be found, although a search is underway.
Lost was the opportunity to include land at Hayes in the Colonial National Park. A proposal in Congress wished to include a formal recognition and preservation of the site of the Battle of the Hook, the definitive event north of the York River that helped lead to the surrender of Gen. Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. This inclusion was unsuccessful, and it followed by several years a separate unsuccessful attempt to include the Rosewell ruins in the park, which was then in formation. Had either or both of these sites been made part of the National Park Service, Gloucester might have become a significant destination for tourists.
And in Mathews, Eudora Ramsey Richardson of the Federal Writers Project program recorded 100 voices at Emmaus Baptist Church at North which, the Gazette-Journal reported, were "singing the old spirituals, many of which originated in Mathews County. Among the leaders were Laura Lee, Josephine Ware, Mary Ellen Billups and Joseph Lee." Some citizens are now in search of this recording in national archives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, 75 years after the fact, the voices of these local ancestors could be found and could ring out again to a Mathews audience? We have hopes of hearing them.