All posts by Paxton Reil

Weekly Journal 9

This was my last week as an intern for the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough. I finished up my work on the African American History tour. I was able to collect a solid amount of information regarding the slave owners that had been instrumental in the building of Hillsborough. After that, the only objective was to create the finished product of the tour.

Based on the information I had and the locations within downtown Hillsborough that corresponded, I was able to plot a route that would stop by each place. Starting in East Hillsborough, the tour will follow Margaret Lane west. From there the tour heads northeast to end up back at Churton St. I translated my notes on each historic figure and location into paragraph form and I was finished with the tour. This will now be used as a resource for the tour guides that will offer this particular tour visitors.

In reflection, this internship was very beneficial to my search for a future career path. I now know that I definitely cannot be a “paper-pusher”. I need to have some level of authority or creative license within my workplace. I also know that I will need to be working with other people on a regular basis. During the moments when I was alone in the office or at the library, I found that I did not work as well.

While in the intern position this summer, other career options presented themselves to me through other avenues. However, without the knowledge that I gained about myself through this experience, I may not have looked twice at these other opportunities. I don’t think I will end up working in a small historic office like that in the future, but I definitely gained invaluable experience in my time at the Alliance.

Weekly Journal 8

This week I continued working on the creation of a tour that will feature the African American history of Hillsborough. This isn’t a small task and I definitely will be challenged to complete it in the upcoming week, but I have made quick progress since taking on the project.

I was able to gather a great deal of information on Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn was the writer of a great number of Duke Ellington’s jazz hits. However, Strayhorn shied from the spotlight and made sure to minimize his public exposure. In addition, he was not paid and did not receive any royalties from the songs that he wrote for Ellington. I cannot imagine not receiving any kind of recognition for the work I was doing. It wasn’t discovered that Ellington wasn’t writing his songs until Strayhorn wrote “Lotus Blossom”. This was a different style of piece and all of his followers were confused as to how Ellington could create such a different sound.

I also compiled all of my notes on Elizabeth Keckly. While she lived in Hillsborough, Elizabeth was known by her maiden name of Hobbs. She was on loan with the eldest son of the Burwell family and she experienced many traumatic events while residing in at the Burwell school. She was regularly beaten and she was forced into a sexual relationship with a neighbor. She eventually bore a child and was returned to her original home in Virginia. She then went on to become the dressmaker and confidant of Mary Todd Lincoln later in her life.

This upcoming week will be my last, but I am confident that I will be able to tie up my loose ends in the coming days.

Weekly Journal 7

This week was the start of a new subject. After hitting a dead end with the Margaret Lane Cemetery I got the go ahead from my supervisor to move back onto researching the African American History of Hillsborough. Instead of the overall approach that I was taking before, I have begun researching a specific aspect of the history in Hillsborough first and then once I am done with that subject I will move onto the next one.

I am starting with the Dickerson AME Chapel. The chapel was the third Orange county courthouse, and was purchased by the Reverend Elias Dodson Jr. I was able to look through the documents to find a sizable amount of information on Elias Dodson, but there are enough Elias Dodson’s that it is difficult to sift through the information and come out with verifiable proof that this is indeed the correct Elias Dodson.

I also continued to expand on the research of the chapel itself. The changing owners of the building is fascinating. Dodson bought the courthouse and then moved it to another more central location in downtown. from there the chapel changed hands 4 times before becoming the AME chapel it is today in 1886. I have almost exhausted the resources that I have at my disposal for the Chapel so I will be moving onto other subjects this week. A local Hillsborough resident who is knowledgable about Elizabeth Keckly’s history will be coming in to talk to me on Monday and I think that will be beneficial to my research on her. I definitely need to take advantage of those people that already have all the information I need readily available in their head. I look forward to seeing what my research reveals this week.

Weekly Journal 6

This week went in the books as a frustrating one on the research front. The week began with my continuing to research the history of the Margaret Lane Cemetery. However, this proved to be a dead end. I searched through the deed records that are available to me for Orange County, but was unable to get any where with that. Although there were sales of land to the owner of the Cemetery, none of them were the correct plot of land and none of them were sales from the town.

With this portion of the research hitting a dead end, I moved onto researching those who were buried in the cemetery. First I tried online research through the information that I could gather via third-party websites. This information only went so far when coupled with the books that I had on the History in Hillsborough. The one moment of excitement came when I was able to put a crude family tree together that linked two family members who are supposedly buried in the MLC. However, this theory was contingent on either a misprint or a nickname that was given to the woman that was buried there. While this is entirely possible, it is not probable.

From that point I went on to go to the library. While there I looked through the resources available to me through their account. This proved unhelpful apart from finding a few possible census entries that could be related to those buried. I was then able to look through the microfilm for the local newspaper for the dates of death. However, there is a large portion of the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s that is not there due to the paper moving and the new paper not installing itself yet. The few dates that did match with the newspapers I could view did not yield any information. I can only assume that this is because the obituaries, which seemed few and far between, were expensive enough to prohibit the families of those being buried from publishing one. Although I did learn a great deal about using resources this week, they did not prove helpful in the avenues I was pursuing.

Weekly Journal 5

This week was short. I was unfortunately only able to go into the AHH office for 1 day this week. However, that did not stop me from getting work done. On Monday I was able to revise a few more of the itineraries. After that I continued, from home, researching the African American history of Hillsborough.  I was able to find a great deal of information on the local history.

Elizabeth Keckly is often known as the dressmaker and confidant of Mary Todd Lincoln. Before her relative fame she was a part of the Burwell School in Hillsborough. As a slave there she was often abused by the neighbors of the Burwell School. She was even forced to bear a son that was conceived with a local white man. Her son, George, would later die in the Civil War. Elizabeth Keckly isn’t the only famous African American with roots in Hillsborough and I look forward to continuing to gather that history.

The new assignment that I have on my radar is collecting information on those buried in the Margaret Lane Cemetery. The cemetery dates back to the 1800’s and the most recent burial was in 1931. After that the cemetery was largely neglected and was vandalized. There has been an effort to preserve what is still in the cemetery. There was also a monument erected in memory of those in the cemetery. Because many of the original graves are no longer marked, it will be more difficult to compile information on those buried there, but I have a great number of resources available to me. Hopefully I will be able to put all of this information together into some form of booklet that will be available to those visiting Hillsborough.

Weekly Journal 4

This past week was the most hectic, so far, in my position as intern for the Alliance. On Monday and Tuesday I was able to revise some of the itineraries that I had written in June. I then began work on researching the African-American History of Hillsborough so as to begin building a self-guided tour based on the Black history of Hillsborough.

In the midst of those responsibilities the preparation for the July 4th Picnic in the Park was steadily increasing. On Wednesday afternoon there was a meeting of the Alliance and the interns to discuss the responsibilities and duties for the day of the 4th. I was able to create the program that would be handed out for the event, and that became the basis for the scheduling of our responsibilities.

I was nervous about how the day was going to go, but there were hardly any snags and there was even some time to stand back and see how successful the event was. The morning started off with setting up at the Farmers Market Pavilion for the picnic that would take place in early afternoon. Meanwhile the parade had started up on Tryon St. and the judging for most patriotic person and pet had begun. The parade ended in front of the old county courthouse where the community chorus that I sing in during the summer performed a selection of songs including the star-spangled banner. Then we were ready for the reading of the declaration of independence. After the reading (which had a fantastic attendance) there was music, food trucks, pony rides, and face painting for all those who came down to the farmers market pavilion.

There was a glowing review in the newspaper and I heard nothing but positive comments from those that spoke to me about the event. I am thrilled with how it turned out. We will have a meeting later this coming week to discuss the outcome and the potential improvements for future years to come.

Weekly Journal 3

This week I completed my first goal. I finished the rough draft of all of the itineraries that I have been working on since the beginning of my time with the Alliance. I felt very confident about this first draft and my supervisor will be revising them over the next week so that we can get them published to the website! I am excited that I have had the opportunity to work on a project that directly and positively affects those who are visiting Hillsborough.

I then began working on the list of elementary school teachers in the area and compiling spreadsheets that were organized by school and grade. This list will be used in early august so that we can send out an email to the teachers about the services that the Alliance offers for field trips. While this work was not difficult, it was tedious. However, this is one of the steps that needed to be completed in order to send that email. I finished the list by the end of my day on Wednesday and now I believe my next projects will be drafting the email and revising the itineraries.

Although I didn’t go to the visitors center for work on Thursday, I did attend a tour of Ayr Mount. This is one of the local historic sites that Hillsborough prides itself on. While I had been to the site many times and walked the grounds for countless hours, I had never been inside the house. It was a fantastic experience and I learned a great deal about the house and the family that built it. I look forward to conducting more research on the historic sites in Hillsborough. Hopefully they all live up to the standard set by Ayr Mount.

This upcoming week is the big July 4th Parade and Picnic. This is out big event for the summer, so it will be an all-hands-on-deck experience. I anticipate that it will run smoothly and the weather should be nice. I will have more information to write on it next week I am sure.


Weekly Journal 2

This week was similar to my last week of work. I continued to work on the itineraries for visitors to Hillsborough. I also began compiling the list of elementary school teachers and their emails. This list will be an outreach resource that can be used to contact the teachers about the potential of bringing their students to Historic Hillsborough for a tour and to learn more about its rich history. My next step in that process will be to begin drafting the letter that will make its way to those teachers, which will explain the possibilities available to them through the Alliance.

On Thursday of this week I attended a research workshop at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The workshop was organized by the Chapel Hill Preservation Society and was offered to the HHA’s interns as well. At first I was skeptical as to what we could learn from UNC, but I soon found that they have historical information on all of North Carolina.

I, along with my fellow HHA intern and two CHPS interns, learned all that Wilson Library on UNC’s campus has to offer in the way of historical information and how to access it. Sanborn maps, personal correspondence, and newspaper microfilm are all available to us either online, or in person at the library. The Sanborn maps are especially intriguing as they offer the opportunity to look back at the physical plot of the town of Hillsborough dating back to the 1800’s. I can certainly use this information as I continue through my work in this internship.

Here is the link to the website for Historic Hillsborough. It is one of the projects they are currently trying to work on, but it does offer a good overview. The Itineraries that I am writing will be posted to the website once they have been reviewed and approved.

Weekly Journal 1

The first week of my internship with the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough was a full and exciting one. I arrived on my first day, a Sunday, to learn more about the Alliance and what I would be doing for the summer. Immediately, I was thrust into a learning experience as visitors to Hillsborough started flooding through the front door of the Alexander Dickson house (The historic building that houses the Visitors Center). For the remainder of my time at the Visitors Center that day I was learning on the job as people asked questions about Historic Hillsborough or the area in general. In between visits, I learned that my main focus for the summer would be to assist with the welcoming of visitors to Hillsborough, the organization/promotion of the July 4th Picnic, creating itineraries and self guided tours for those who might visit Hillsborough, and any other projects that will present themselves. I was also given a working history of the Alliance and how the visitors center fits in with its responsibilities. Having lived in Hillsborough for the past 9 years and being involved with events in Historic Hillsborough during that time, I am lucky enough to already have a good knowledge base of what Hillsborough has to offer. I am confident that I can put that information onto paper or into words for those that are seeking it. For the remainder of the week, I focused on writing the itineraries so that they can be posted on the website and available as soon as possible to those that need them. I made good progress and I am happy with the way they are turning out. This coming week I will continue working on them when I can, but I will be traveling with my family in the midwest and I will return to Hillsborough on June 18th.