July 16, 2010

An Unwritten History of Winston and Salem . . . soon to be told . . .

From the vantage point of my desk and computer area in my shop, I can hear when cars pull in out of the drive. On one particular day soon after I newly opened for business, I heard a loud clanging and rambling of a motor, and saw a truck pulling garbage, or so I thought. I watched as a man got out and walked through my back door which was also an entry way at that time.

We talked for a while and then he asked if I would be interested in two old trunks he was hauling off to the junk yard. Of course I was curious and followed him to his truck. I liked the looks of them, though one was in pretty bad shape but both were steamer trunks and dated to the 19th century.

I looked inside and quickly shut the lid. "How much?"

I didn't bat an eye lash and handed him a check. He said to just throw away the old papers, they were on the way to the dump pile anyway and what ever I wanted to do with them, they were mine. 

The trunks sat in my back room for more than a week before I could go through the insides and sort through material. It took less then 60 seconds to realize that I had died and gone to heaven. I worked my way through dresses and gowns, an assortment of Victorian whites and under garments, children's clothing, blankets, vanity items, hair pieces and other oddities. The real treasures, at least to me were the endless yellowed envelopes, scrapbooks,photographs, cabinet cards, tin types, newspapers, booklets, and other paper items dating back to the Civil War.

It took me months and months to go through the material, to read every word, to become lost in history. Many of the letters are from mothers to daughters from the same family spanning almost 150 years. I was and still am over-whelmed with the material because I had stumbled upon a powerful story of families who rose to become scions, wealthy land owners, backers of almost every business which rose from the city that became Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I am finally ready to write the story . . . When Society Reigned and the Making of Millionaires.

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