Archivists struggle with finding ways to connect collections with communities. We want to get our materials in the hands of people – young and old, local and far away, ones with personal ties and newcomers looking for ties.  We use blogs (like Around the D), create encyclopedias and online exhibits, and we take to Twitter – (@DavidsonArchive.)

@DavidsonArchive twitter site

@DavidsonArchive twitter site

The hashtag #DavidsonNCResources is borrowed from a new movement by historians and archivists and activists to share information and encourage thoughtful reflections on history related to current events.  One of the first uses came from Georgetown College. #Fergusonsyllabus was created by Marcia Chatelain, an assistant professor in the Department of History, in the wake of events in Ferguson, Missouri as a way for educators to share ideas and ways to help students discuss historical and social contexts.

In recent days #Charlestonsyllabus is being used to develop an online bibliography of books, articles, and primary sources on the American South and South Carolina history in particular.

Over the last few weeks — without the tragedies of the Ferguson and Charleston events –but with a similar concern for getting useful history to a broader audience, the Davidson College Archives staff have been working on a digital map.  It’s not finished yet – and will eventually move to a new digital address– but it’s close enough to share.

Portion of the Davidson Neighborhoods map

Portion of the Davidson Neighborhoods map

It’s a map of the town of Davidson with markers placed to link sites with historical documents.  Click on the bubble over the Ada Jenkins Center and you’ll get a list of oral histories, research papers, and manuscript collections about the former school and current community center.  For now, the list is online but the records are not – you still have to come in to the archives to use them.

Example of resource list for the Main Street business district.

Example of resource list for the Main Street business district.

Future plans are to make more of the records available online and to fill in more spaces on the map. There are many areas in Davidson that are underdocumented – businesses we know little about, neighborhoods with long histories, religious communities and civic organizations that have shaped the town — you get the idea.  And if you have records or stories to share, let us know.  Call or email or tweet – lets make community history a community project.



Cafe Parfait

Next up in our Recipes from the Archives series –  Jennie Martin’s “Cafe Parfait.” Jennie’s Martin’s recipe comes from the Davidson Civic Club’s Davidson Cook Book (circa 1928), the same volume that contained the Misses Scofield’s Ice Box Pudding #1. The Davidson Civic Club (1911 – 1959; Davidson Civic League from 1952) aimed to promote “a well-kept household and a place for good and pleasant living” in Davidson. The club’s first president was Cornelia Shaw, Davidson College’s first full-time librarian and registrar; the members raised money to establish the first town library, beautify the town, and name town streets.

The title page for the Davidson Cook Book (circa 1928).

The title page for the Davidson Cook Book (circa 1928).

Jane “Jennie” Vardell Rumple Martin (1872 – 1955) was raised in Charleston, South Carolina. She attended the Charlotte Female Institute (now Queens University) and afterwards married James Rumple of Salisbury, North Carolina. Rumple died in 1892, and in 1897, Jennie married William Joseph Martin, Jr. (1868 – 1943; Class of 1888).

A portrait of Jennie Vardell Rumple Martin taken in Charlotte, circa 1900.

A portrait of Jennie  Martin taken in Charlotte, circa 1900.

W.J. Martin, Jr. moved to Davidson in 1870, when his father (William Joseph Martin, Sr., known as “The Colonel”) took up a post as a professor of chemistry (and served as acting College President in 1887 – 1888). After graduating with B.A. (1888) and M.A. (1894) from Davidson, Martin went on to the University of Virginia, where he received M.D. (1890) and Ph.D (1894) degrees. W.J. Martin was a professor of chemistry at Davidson College from 1896 until 1912, when he became College President. After retiring from that post in 1929, Dr. Martin served as President of the Assembly’s Training School (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) in Richmond until 1933. W.J. and Jennie Martin moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, for five years before returning to Davidson in 1939. Jennie Martin had a son from her first marriage, J. Malcomson Rumple, and four children with W.J.: William Joseph Martin III, Eloise Martin Currie, Jean Martin Foil, and Mary Martin Maddox.

Jennie Martin with daughter Eloise, in front of the Davidson College President's House.

Jennie Martin with daughter Eloise, in front of the Davidson College President’s House (unknown date).

Jennie Martin was extremely active in Davidson town life – she was fundamental in founding the Woman’s Book Club of Davidson (Booklover’s Club since 1911) in 1899, and the Young Matrons Club (Twentieth Century Club from 1927 to 1964) in 1922. According to the January 1899 Davidson College Magazine, the Woman’s Book Club was established to be a place for women to discuss the latest books – in fact, “The Magazine warns the learned Ph.D’s. to be on their guard and look to their colors, since the women in their midst intend to be intellectual! As to the Boys!-they simply are not in it.” The Booklover’s Club still exists as a space for women in Davidson to gather and learn together.

50th anniversary gathering for the Booklover's Club - Jennie Martin is center, surrounded by Hattie Thompson and Mrs. W.R. Gray.

50th anniversary gathering for the Booklover’s Club – Jennie Martin is center, surrounded by Hattie Thompson and Mrs. W.R. Gray.

Now to Jennie Martin’s Cafe Parfait – this recipe for a cold treat seemed just the thing for summer.

The recipe for Cafe Parfait.

The recipe for Cafe Parfait.

I tripled all the ingredients and added a bit extra coffee, since I was concerned that the flavor wouldn’t come through all the cream. I began by making a sugar or simple syrup, and the coffee I used was Reanimator Coffee’s Guatemala Finca La Pastoria (since I already had a bag on hand). Pro tip: if you don’t constantly stir the egg yolk-sugar syrup-coffee mixture, the eggs will start to separate from the liquids. I borrowed an electric ice cream maker from Jean Coates, our Assistant Director for Access and Acquisitions, for the freezing process – undoubtedly a bit different than what Jennie Martin would have used!

My cat was very curious and fearful of the ice cream maker.

My cat was very curious about and fearful of the ice cream maker.

The first look at the finished product!

The first look at the finished product!

After the ice cream maker had completed its process, I put the resulting ice cream in my freezer overnight. The completed Cafe Parfait is delicious – it tastes a like a sweet cream frozen custard with a hint of coffee. The recipe was very simple to follow, and with the modern addition of an electric ice cream maker, it was also a speedy treat to make.

Charles W. Chesnutt and The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman, by Charles W. Chesnutt. Cambridge: Printed at the Riverside Press, 1899. First edition, large paper edition, limited to 150 numbered copies. Designed by Bruce Rogers. Our copy is number 149. The colophon is inscribed to Dr. H.M. Marvin by Bruce Rogers and reads “This is one of the earliest books I made at Riverside.”

Inscription from Bruce Rogers to Mr. Marvin

Inscription from Bruce Rogers to Mr. Marvin

Charles Chesnutt was born on June 20, 1858 in Cleveland, Ohio to free African Americans, and moved with his family to Fayetteville, NC in 1866. He worked as a schoolteacher in both Fayetteville and in Charlotte, NC, but moved back to Cleveland in the early 1880s. In August 1887, Chesnutt published “The Goophered Grapevine” in the Atlantic Monthly, the first work by an Afro-American to be published in that important literary magazine. This story was to become the first story in his celebrated work The Conjure Woman, published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1899. The seven short stories of The Conjure Woman were set in “Patesville” NC. Chesnutt drew on his time in Fayetteville using local traditions and dialect, but also creating tales dealing with conjuring, a kind of African hoodoo magic. Framed much like Joel Chandler Harris’ “Uncle Remus” stories, Chesnutt’s tales use two adults, rather than Harris’ children, as those to whom the tales are told. “Uncle Julius McAdoo” is the story-teller weaving tales including “Po’Sandy, “Mars Jeem’s Nightmare,” and “The Conjurer’s Revenge.” Chesnutt published additional short stories and also three novels until 1905, after which he wrote primarily articles and essays. Known for his work for black political rights, in 1928 he was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP “for his pioneer work as a literary artist, depicting the life and struggle of Americans of Negro descent.”

Conjure Woman title page

Conjure Woman title page

Bookseller's note

Bookseller’s note

The Conjurer's Revenge

The Conjurer’s Revenge

Automotive moments

Summer brings not only the departure of students, but also their cars. While this opens up more parking spaces, traffic issues appear to be a constant around campus (and definitely a few miles from campus on I-77).  In fact, cars have been an issue for decades.

Davidson students circa 1925 - hoping their car will make it "To Cornelius or bust"

Davidson students circa 1925 – hoping their car will make it “To Cornelius or bust”

In the spring of 1923, the president of Hampden-Sidney College wrote to Davidson College president William J. Martin inquiring about students and cars.  He had heard Davidson students were not allowed to have cars on campus and clearly hoped that this was true.  He noted that the Senior class at Princeton had taken a stand against cars “on the ground that they are demoralizing.”

1 April 1922 letter to President Martin with Princeton reference.

1 April 1922 letter to President Martin with Princeton reference.

President Martin replied:

Dear Dr. Eggleston:-

We do not encourage automobiles among the students—indeed, we discourage them. Two or three years ago there seemed to be a tendency for the students to keep them here. That was at the time then money was free and plentiful and almost everybody had an automobile. As a permanent thing, they are a negative quantity on our campus. The only one that I know if here is a new one that a Senior has bought with reference to taking home with him.

I noted too the action of the Senior Class at Princeton. I thought it very wise.

When we get our new road from here to Charlotte we may have trouble with this same thing; if so, we shall certainly put a stop to it. I would not hesitate to require every parent to keep automobiles away from the students during their residence here.

I do not know the practice of other institutions.

With cordial regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

William J. Martin


Grand opening celebration for the new road President Martin worried about -

Grand opening celebration for the new road President Martin worried about – Nov 11, 1923

Even before the road was finished, President Martin found part of his time taken up writing warning letters to students:

It was reported at the Faculty meeting this week that you had an automobile on the grounds which you were using regularly. I was directed by the Faculty to say that this is against the rule of the College and that either the automobile will have to be returned to your home, or you would have to make some arrangements with the Dean with regard to its use. Please govern yourself accordingly.

Banning automobiles was a short-lived solution.  By 1937, the faculty’s Buildings and Grounds committee had developed a long list of rules for “Persons Driving and Parking on the Campus.”

Driving and parking rules, 1937

Driving and parking rules, 1937

These rules encompassed the practical and the aesthetic:

No. 7 – The rate of speed at which cars can legitimately be driven on campus depends on conditions existing at the moment. At no time may the speed be excessive, with 20 miles per hour as the maximum; due care must be exercised when passing or overtaking pedestrians, and when passing parked cars.

No. 11 – A heterogeneous assortment of cars parked at all angles detracts from the beauty of our campus. Orderly parking will help to relieve this situation.

One car that was allowed on campus.  Dubbed "Religion" because it shook the hell out of you, it belonged to the YMCA.  Photo courtesy of George Gunn '47.

One car that was allowed on campus. Dubbed “Religion” because it shook the hell out of you, it belonged to the YMCA. Photo courtesy of George Gunn ’47.

There was no relief in site when Dean of Students J. C. Bailey wrote Dean of Faculty C.K. Brown in 1948 asking for “ideas with reference to the problem of regulating the use of cars by students.”

Brown’s reply was terse. He had no word of wisdom and only one suggestion:

If we decide to allow all students to have cars, I should like for this move to be a part of a general plan for treating students more as men. If they are more mature than formerly, they should bear more responsibility in every area. I should like for us to make clear to them, and to their parents, that we expect them increasingly to stand behind their own decisions. We spend a tremendous time with requests made for special treatment that should never be made. Let us say to students and parents: Here is the freedom you crave; if you use it to the detriment of your college work, we will assume no part of the responsibility and will entertain no petitions for concessions from the established rules of the college.

Dean Brown's reply to Dean Bailey, 24 September 1948

Dean Brown’s reply to Dean Bailey, 24 September 1948

Dean Bailey added his own concerns, not just about maturity –but about financial and social pressure. In his report to the Faculty Executive Committee, he wrote:

It is probable that when more students have cars, still more students will wish to have cars. Many parents of Davidson students would find the cost of a car and its upkeep burdensome, other would find it an impossible undertaking. Possession of cars on the campus by all students who could afford them would tend to emphasize in a very obvious manner the differences in financial background among the students. The Faculty desires to maintain on the campus an atmosphere in which the individual student stands on the basis of his personal worth rather than on the basis of what he owns.

The solution in 1948 was to limit cars to  married students and any students over 21 years of age and even then to encourage them to only use the cars on dance weekends.

An editorial in the October 8, 1948 Davidsonian urged students with permission to drive to do so wisely, in hopes that their behavior would open the way for those under 21.  Whether from following the rules or student pressure, by the fall of 1950 more students could bring cars.  Freshman were protected from the possible evils of cars until the fall of 1965 but they then ushered in a new era of parking regulations and fees.

The parking regulations may have improved but tickets still happened.

The parking regulations may have improved but tickets still happened.


Oatmeal Crispies (Children Love These)

For our third installment of Recipes from the Archives, I chose Helen Abernethy’s “Oatmeal Crispies (Children love these)” from the 1965 The Village Cook Book: Recipes from the P.T.A. Pantry, Davidson, North Carolina.”


The inside cover of the Davidson PTA cookbook, 1965.

According to the February 15, 1965 Mecklenburg Gazette, “A group of young Davidson housewives, who are also busily engaged in Parent-Teacher Association work, have begun a determined campaign to raise funds to buy a new 50-star American flag for the Davidson Elementary School auditorium… The proceeds of the cookbook will be used also for a recorder and filmstrips for the school library.” The cookbook cost $1.50, and could be purchased at the Davidson College Store, as well as local shops Cashion’s and P. Nicholls.

Helen McLandress Abernethy (1901 – 1992) was a longtime Davidson resident and prominent community member. Raised in Indianapolis, Helen earned an art degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1923 and an M.A. in arts education from the University of Chicago in 1932. In her obituary, the Mecklenburg Gazette (November 18, 1992) noted that she “worked in ink and oils, she had her own kiln and did beautiful, original work in ceramics and mosaics.” Helen worked as a commercial artist in Chicago and taught art in public schools in Birmingham, Alabama, Champaign, Illinois, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She founded the art department of Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, in 1957 and worked as an associate professor of art at the college until 1964. Her work was exhibited at the Mint Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Barber-Scotia College, and Davidson College.

Helen Abernethy with one of her works of art, (date unknown).

Helen Abernethy with one of her works of art (date unknown).

Flyer for Coffee with Helen Abernethy in the Davidson College Union (date unknown).

Flyer for Coffee with Helen Abernethy in the Davidson College Union (date unknown).

In 1936, Helen married George Lawrence Abernethy (1910 – 1996), well-known to many Davidsonians as the founder of the College’s Department of Philosophy and as a co-founder of the Humanities program. George Abernethy taught at Davidson from 1946 through 1976, after earning a B.A. at Bucknell University in 1932, an M.A. from Oberlin College in 1933, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1936. In 1962, George was the first recipient of Davidson’s Thomas Jefferson Award , given to a faculty member who demonstrates “the highest example of personal and scholarly integrity” (Charlotte News, May 15, 1962). Helen and George had two children – Robert John Abernethy and Jean Helen Abernethy Poston. Both Abernethys requested that their memorials be made to Davidson College at the time of their deaths; George to the George Lawrence Abernethy Endowment, and Helen to the Helen Abernethy Art Book Fund.


The Helen M. Abernethy Art Book Collection announcement, including the bookplate designed by Helen.

The Abernethys at a party in 1960, speaking to an unknown woman.

The Abernethys at a party in 1960, speaking to an unknown woman (on the right).

The recipe Helen Abernethy submitted to the Davidson PTA Cookbook in 1965 is a fairly simple one. I selected it for this blog series because I was intrigued by the title addendum (“Children love these”), and because the crispies sounded delicious.

Helen Abernethy's Oatmeal Crispies recipe.

Helen Abernethy’s Oatmeal Crispies recipe.

As an amateur baker, I had to look up what creaming shortening and sugars meant – essentially, using a hand mixer to fluff up the shortening and then slowly adding the sugars in while continuously mixing. I took some liberties with the recipe: I used tin foil instead of wax paper to wrap the cookie dough rolls in (because I don’t have any wax paper at home), and I put the dough rolls in the freezer for roughly 2 hours, instead of into the icebox (read: refrigerator) for an unspecified amount of time. I baked the crispies for roughly 12 minutes per sheet, checking the color every few minutes or so. My batch made about two dozen cookies instead of five – I must have sliced mine considerably thicker than Helen Abernethy would have done.

The finished product, in E.H. Little Library's staff room for sharing!

The finished product, in E.H. Little Library’s staff room for sharing! My coworkers assure me that they turned out well.