At the Jan. 26 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at Golden Corral restaurant, Norwood Walker, a retired Person County educator who is still teaching a high school class online, spoke to the club about the importance of local history. He has been writing for Hyco Lake magazine since 2012. The magazine owner asked him once to do a story about his dentist, who succeeded to the practice of retired Dr. Tom Alexander. The focus was to be on what makes people come to a place and stay.
Walker noted that in the early 1970’s Roxboro had a number of professional and business young people move here, some of whom renovated older homes. He began to wonder what attracted and retained them. This also made him curious about the value of the past. He did some research on digitalnc.org and found local newspapers beginning in the 1800’s, leading up to the present-day Courier Times, which was established in 1945.
Walker informed that this website reveals anything that happened in North Carolina back into the 1880’s, except for a gap from 1946 to 2011. That local time period can be accessed on microfiche at the Person County Library, which he described as a very tedious process. He exhibited articles from the Durham Herald-Sun about the house that Tom Alexander renovated for his dental office. Another was about the J. A. Long house beside the post office. The Teague house, where Roxboro Savings Bank is currently located, was touted as the second most architecturally-unique home in the state, next to the Governor’s Mansion. Walker recalled seeing an ad in the Courier in which Roxboro Savings was offering for sale some of the architectural features in the Teague house when it was demolished for construction of the bank.
Walker contended that a love of the past is one of the things that keeps people here. For example, Sarah Bullock assisted the Alexanders in renovating their residence, since it was a part of her family. Dr. Swift, who succeeded to Tom Alexander’s practice, has a family history in dentistry and was drawn to this small town.
A 1969 issue of the Courier Times is online, but past editions do not pick up again until 2011. Walker advocated for this gap to be filled, because home town newspapers are the best historical record. He referenced well-known former teacher Mildred Nichols, and read from a piece about her that she wrote. She noted she was “foredoomed” to be a teacher, as her father was also a teacher. She believed that with the proper incentives everyone can learn, and she sought to provide that motivation. Miss Mildred, as she was known, contended that any imprint she left on students was perhaps due to her sense of humor.
In an Aug. 24, 1899 edition of the Raleigh News & Observer there was a story of people in Roxboro establishing a bank and cotton mill, which is familiar history to many generations in Person County. Club president Don Waldo recalled finding a full-length portrait of Mildred Nichols at Person High. Her brother was Byrd Satterfield, who served many years in the North Carolina legislature. Walker reminded that one of Miss Mildred’s teachers was the late Bessie Daniels, also a well-known community advocate for the importance of local history.
In closing, Walker stated that he believes that saving the past is crucial, and this is what he tries to do in his literary endeavors.
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