In honor of April 7-13 as National Library Week, Mark Pace, North Carolina Room Specialist at the Richard H. Thornton Library in Oxford, was the featured guest on Thursday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program.
A part of the Granville County Library System since the early 1960s, the North Carolina Room’s primary mission is to preserve and maintain materials for historical and genealogical research in the present-day county of Granville and adjacent counties.
“We are a regional history center. Granville County formed in 1746 and is a ‘mother’ county. Warren, Vance, Franklin, parts of Orange and Person and present Granville were all once part of the original Granville County,” Pace explained. “We seek to preserve the materials that are relative to the cultural and historical flavor of old Granville County.”
According to Pace, genealogical records ranging in date from 1746 to present day include wills, deeds, marriage records, court records and cemetery records.
Such information can be found on the approximately 600 microfilm reels of newspapers, dozens of large size genealogy charts and 175 scrapbooks – some dating to the late 1800’s – that are a part of the Room’s collection.
“I always tell people that when you start researching your genealogy, you’re going to find something that you don’t like. On the other hand, you find out things about your ancestors that make you proud,” said Pace.
In addition to microfilm and charts, the 900-square-foot room inside the Thornton Library is also home to an extensive photography collection, personal papers and 4,500 books and volumes specific to local history.
“We have received some good collections recently, specifically a photography collection of 4,500 images given by the family of J.B. Clay, a local photographer in Oxford from the mid- 1950s to the mid-1990s. This new donation serves as the largest known photo collection relative to Granville County to date,” Pace said.
Donated materials from the public, including family bibles, photos and letters, are essential to the mission of the North Carolina Room, according to Pace.
“We rely heavily on what people donate to us or bring and let us copy. You can’t go out and buy these types of things. The public is always encouraged to bring by any items of local historical significance for us to copy and keep a record of, no matter how obscure those items may seem.”
Although its primary function is genealogical, Pace said the North Carolina Room meets patron needs for inquiries into historical environmental site surveys, high school reunions, local government requests, church histories and more.
While the majority of visitors are Granville County residents, Pace reported that up to 40% live outside of the area, including residents of other states and countries. “In just this year alone, we’ve had visitors from 35 different states and from far away as Great Britain and Jamaica.”
Pace, a Henderson native and college history major, said his passion for historical events and documents began with the Henderson High School fire of 1968.
“I was eight-years-old and my father taught school there. I remember it vividly. He got home late that night and I begged him to take me back to the school to let me see it. The next day, I saved the newspaper articles about the fire. After that, I would save other newspaper articles of historical events. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, there was a lot going on.”
In his Town Talk interview, Pace relayed many interesting historical facts about both Granville and present-day Vance County, including what he considers Granville’s most significant contribution to the world marketplace – flue-cured tobacco.
“The land in the southern part of Granville County was so good for growing flue-cured tobacco that a group came from Australia in the 1890s and loaded up dirt from Granville County and had it shipped back to Australia to see if they could grow it there. Of course, it didn’t work,” laughed Pace.
To hear the Town Talk interview with Mark Pace in its entirety, including more interesting historical facts on Granville and Vance County, please click here.
The North Carolina Room is located inside the Richard H. Thornton Library at 210 Main St. in Oxford. Hours of operation are Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. (closed Sundays from Memorial Day until Labor Day).
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