Imagining the Virginia Frontier…by Ellen A. Brown
Imagining the Virginia Frontier: Collecting Stories for our Grandchildren
This program will introduce the topic of Virginia’s frontier history using slide shows…
“Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Wives of a Few of our Frontier Heroes”
“Treasures in the Attic: Becoming a History Detective”
This will be followed by a brief outline of the key events in the settlement of the back
country, starting with the formation of Augusta County (stretching as far as the
Mississippi) in the 1740s, covering the French and Indian Wars, and extending through
the American Revolution. Ellen Brown, a local historian who has done extensive work
on several branches of her own family tree, will be explaining her own methodology and
sharing some of the stories she has collected and the insights she has gained.
Participants will be encouraged to sign up for a series of classes to be taught this summer,
and an outline for those sessions will be available.
Week One – Clash of Cultures on the Virginia Frontier
1) Timeline of Events (hand-out)
2) Captivity Narratives (including Mary Draper Ingles, Thomas Ingles, Betty
Robinson Draper, and Peter Looney)
3) Class participation – Getting acquainted, finding out what people are
interested in learning
4) Slide Show: “Mary Draper Ingles Goes to Bedford”
5) Overview of next five weeks
a. Week 2 - Historical Fiction; Native American perspective
b. Week 3 – Land Companies…James Patton…historic resources
c. Week 4 – Identity – Biographies of Andrew Lewis, William Preston,
William Fleming, and William Ingles
d. Week 5 - Regional History – local history books; place names
e. Week 6 – Researching and Writing History
6) Assignment – Search the internet for information about names and places
mentioned so far… Come back next week prepared to tell us what you
Week Two – Historical Fiction… Native American Perspective
Describe and discuss books by James Alexander Thom
Follow the River
Panther in the Sky
From Sea to Shining Sea
…and by Allan Eckert…
That Dark and Bloody River
Talk about other examples of historical fiction…biographies, etc. Think about
television and movies… Talk about research people have started (last week’s
Special Guest: Jeff Kirwan, Professor Emeritus in the College of Natural Resources at
Virginia Tech…to tell us about his research on Native Americans, place names, and
Assignment: Think about how the general public is likely to learn about history…and
come back prepared to give your critique…of a book, website, movie, museum exhibit,
or whatever you find…
Week Three – Early Settlements – The Ulster Tract – Augusta County
Slide Show: “Coming of Age on the Virginia Frontier”
Researching the life and times of Colonel Patton…
Internet – Ancestry.com
Biography by Patricia Givens Johnson
Scholars – Cradle of America – Peter Wallenstein; others
Discussion: What did everyone find?
What are some examples of reliable sources of information?
What do you think about the usefulness and value of historical fiction?
Slide Show: “Virginia History for Yankees and Other Outsiders”
Assignment: Come prepared to tell about your own research projects…
Week Four – The Art and Science of Creating Narrative Histories
Example of research project - Ellen Brown’s Ongoing Research into the
Ingles family (hand-out with bibliography)
Libraries, Internet, Ancestry.com, contacting distant relatives, etc.
What kind of person was William Ingles? Was he really a Tory? Was he
wealthy? Did he have rich relatives? How did he treat his wife and children?
How was he affected by the capture and captivity of his wife and children?
Who were his friends and allies?
Quote to ponder-
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief
Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief
Discussion – What about your own research projects?
Assignment- Come prepared to talk about people and places of local
Week Five - Regional Histories
Show and Tell: Examples of Regional History Publications…Salem,
Montgomery County, Roanoke County, Bedford County, Fincastle, etc.
Slide Show: “Bedford Soup”
Analysis of two local histories…
- Burke’s Garden
- Castle’s Woods
Assignment – Look at website…
www.vahistoryexchange.com ...and look through some of the slides
shows…come back next week to talk about how we could prepare other
educational materials that could be helpful for this region…
Week Six… Applying What We’ve learned
Handouts – samples, excerpts from literature….break into discussion groups to critique
Review Again…Timeline of History…and think about how Botetourt County, Fincastle,
Roanoke, New River Valley, etc. fit into this timeline.
Slide Show, prepared for the Virginia Municipal League…about teaching children about
Discussion: Where do we go from here? …Additional Classes? … Getting
organized to become Community Historians? …Your suggestions?