|Outbuilding Near Ocean Products, November 2010|
Yesterday I discovered another treasure trove of local information down at the Clerk's office at the Court House.
After I showed up dragging a laptop, a bag of file folders, a mini-backpack that serves as my pocketbook, and
CBW, to the two nice ladies sitting near the front desk: "Hi, my name is CBW and I must be half crazy because I agreed to do a book on the history of Mathews and need some help."
Nice Ladies: (Insert sounds of crickets chirping here as they stared blankly and blinked once or twice. I don't think they're used to people admitting they're crazy, at least not where they work.)
CBW, filling in the awkward silence: "Yeah, well, anyway, a lot of the book will revolve around the Court House area. I'll use old photos from various Court House scenes, match them with current photos I'll take of the exact same scenes, and then for each pair I have to write a paragraph about the significance of the location."
Really Nice Lady and I swear I am not making this up : "You really must be crazy."
CBW: "I know. Anyway. Let's take Foster's Department Store as an example."
Nice Ladies: (**Crickets.** They didn't know where Foster's Department Store was because technically it's no longer called Foster's Department Store, and they aren't from Mathews.)
CBW: "You know, the store across from Richardson's. So it was Foster's Department Store and through some research I know that before the fire in the 1920s there was an old hotel near that property. What I'm curious to know is if there is any resource here that could tell me, for any given piece of property, who owned it and what establishment may have existed on it through the years, as far back as I can possibly go."
Nice Lady, who knew this really wasn't possible but didn't want to potentially disappoint someone who has just self-declared as crazy: "Well, some of that is possible. Eugene will probably be able to help. Eugene, are you there? Eugene?"
Mr. Eugene came out and I gave him the overview but also suggested that Mr. Eugene himself, with ties to Callis Wharf on Gwynn's Island, might know some of the history of the Court House. He then went on to say that he probably knew about as much as my husband.
Since I am not married and haven't been for some time, it was obvious that Mr. Eugene thought I was Chesapeake Bay Mother. Instead of looking 46, I and my baggy eyes must have looked 69 yesterday. Great!
After we took care of that little bit of confusion, Mr. Eugene and the Very Nice Lady carefully explained what I needed to do to piece together what is available at their office to determine property ownership. It's actually quite fun and involves some sleuthing but it isn't a swift process and nothing guarantees you'll find what you're looking for. Researching three properties took me three and a half hours, and I never did find anything about that old hotel.
After I left, I
In conclusion, here are some of the things I learned after my day of research:
* The Clerk's office maintains a wealth of information that is easy to access, albeit time consuming.
* The employees there are wonderfully patient and very helpful.
* Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have not purchased any property in Mathews.
* The room upstairs at the library, which has 2 or 3 huge books dedicated to the Sibley family alone, is a gold mine of local history and information.
* If CBW didn't already have a paying job and two children to parent, she might be able to make her book deadline.
* Since CBW thankfully does have a job and children, she's so worried about making her deadline and juggling all her regular responsibilities that she walks around looking 69 years old while her mother looks 46.
* I really, really, want to escape it all and hop on the next available plane to Bora Bora.
Who wants to come along? What would you run away from if you could?