Sunday, March 6, 2016

Local Historian Leaves Legacy to Library

Before Don Shadburn passed away last year, he made sure that his life’s work of uncovering, documenting, and preserving Forsyth County history could continue for future generations. He gave a sizable portion of his book collection to the Forsyth County Public Library.

Shadburn conveyed his final wishes for the collection through his granddaughter, Sarah Curtis.

“Studying history, especially the history of our local area, was such a big part of his life. He wanted to make sure that all the books and records he collected were not just preserved, but put to good use by other people who shared his passion for understanding the past,” says Curtis.

Well-known in historical circles, Shadburn authored seven books on local pioneer and Cherokee history. And, as a retired science teacher, he had a fond appreciation for libraries. He even presented a lecture on genealogy and how to research historical documents at the Cumming Library in the fall of 2014.

Shadburn’s bequest included approximately 450 items and Curtis worked with Sarah Reynolds, the library’s Collection Development Manager, to determine which materials would be best placed in the library’s local history and genealogy collection and which ones would be more accessible to historians if they were placed with other organizations.

“Linda Kelly, our Assistant Director for Materials, and the Library Board of Trustees provided guidance on the materials our patrons need and want in our collection through our collection development philosophy,” says Reynolds. “Ms. Curtis and I worked together with Martha McConnell of the Forsyth County Historical Society and other libraries to distribute the collection in keeping with Mr. Shadburn’s wishes.”

About 180 items were accepted by the Forsyth County Historical Society. Some of those items are expected to be added to the library at the Sherrill House on Old Federal Road, which is undergoing renovation and is believed to be the place where Cherokee chief James Vann was killed in 1809.

Several works of non-fiction, some of which are collectors’ items, were accepted by the FCPL Friends & Advocates who will consult with a rare book dealer to find placements with private collectors and historians.

Other items are specific to the local history of areas around Georgia. Some materials have been offered to public libraries in those locations, such as the Chestatee Regional Library that serves Dawson and Lumpkin counties.

Just over 100 items were added to the Forsyth County Public Library’s collection, and browsing through them is like taking a walk with local historical figures.

One book, Oglethorpe’s Folly, written by Webb Garrison, a former associate dean of Emory University, details the colonial history of Georgia and Governor James Oglethorpe’s plan to settle the colony with people who had been released from debtors’ prisons in London so they wouldn’t face poverty in the city and resort to criminal activity.

Another book, was signed by local author Elaine Jordan before her passing in 2009. Her book tells the story of Cherokee chief Nunna-tsune-ga, whose name translates to English as “I dwell on the peaceful (or white) path.” Chief White Path, as he is known to history, fought for General Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in the War of 1812, and then spoke against ceding land to white settlers during the Council at New Echota.

Chief White Path died on the Trail of Tears. His family’s cabin was moved from Elijay and is now restored, furnished in period style, and open for public tours at the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville.

Perhaps the most well-known items in the collection are those penned by poet Sidney Lanier. Born in Macon in 1842, Lanier studied at Oglethorpe University before returning to his hometown to serve in the Macon Volunteers during the Civil War.

After the war, he lectured at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and wrote poetry focused on spirituality, society, and the beauty of the natural world, including “Song of the Chattahoochee.” Lanier died at age 39 from tuberculosis he contracted in a Union prison camp. Our local Lake Lanier, which is fed by the Chattahoochee and Chestatee rivers, is named in his honor.

“We are grateful for these materials and honored to help other patrons conduct historical research with them. We’ll wrap the books in protective covers and include a bookplate honoring Mr. Shadburn,” says Reynolds.

It will take several weeks to wrap, bookplate, and catalog all of the items. Copies of books written by Shadburn are already in the library’s local history collection, and the books donated by his estate will be available for patrons to use later this spring.

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