Quarter 1 Reflection

October 26, 2020 Off By Mira Pickus

It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten something up on the blog, but this Quarter 1 Reflection should bring everyone up to speed.

I started this quarter researching the history of the Eno River and the Couch land which is now Duke Forest. I consulted, among other resources, the old “Eno Journals” that can be found on the Eno River Association site as well as a dissertation on by a Duke student on the Couch’s land. To further my research on the Eno’s history, I read about the archaeology of the land along the river.

Next, I spoke with local experts on the history of Durham’s land. I met with Ms. Vera Cecelski, the site manager for Historical Stagville. She advised me on how I might locate some descendants of the Couch family and their formerly enslaved peoples by consulting primary resources such as the 1870 census and the 1866 Cohabitation records on Ancestry.com. I next met with Ms. Cassandra Bennett who works for Durham Parks and Rec focusing on the land’s cultural history. We spoke on the porch of the old Hugh Mangum house — and she advised me on other primary resources I could consult — including a court case following the civil war that concerned Guess Mill. This case has first person testimonies from individuals of multiple races who had tight relationships with Durham land in the late 1800s — it could give me excellent context. She also informed me on several individuals she could put me in touch with who I might be able to interview — both people connected to the Mangums and also folks of Occaneechi descent.

Most recently, I’ve attended two events at the Orange County Historical Museum (OCHM) connected with their newest exhibit — The Occaneechi: journeys of the Yesah. The first event covered the archaeological traces of indigenous peoples around the Eno. The event’s speaker was Dr. R.P Stephen Davis who through UNC has worked on archaeology of the Occaneechi and the Catawba since the ’80s. He had amazing pictures of the digs in which they found the remains of Hillsborough’s Occaneechi town. The second event was a series of Occaneechi ghost stories told by Occaneechi story teller, Mr. Lawrence Dunmore. I most enjoyed Mr. Lawrence’s story about Old Uncle Abner (he’s related to Abner — how cool is that?) whose fiddle music can still be heard near the old cemetery.

One of the most notable things I’ve learned both from my own research and the OCHM events is that the Occaneechi have a migratory history. They were driven from their home in southern Virginia due to Bacon’s Rebellion in the Jamestown settlement. I think this is important in two ways. One, Jamestown is a historical term that everyone learns about nationwide and is part of a very stereotypical historical narrative. And though when students learn about Bacon’s Rebellion — it feels like a very far away thing, it turns out that this “textbook” event is part of the reason the Occaneechi still live here today. Two, this complicates the Occaneechi’s relationship with the land. The Hillsborough land is not their home of thousands of years, they were forced to come here. I am very excited to hopefully speak with some folks of the Occaneechi community about this nuance.

My current plan is to meet with Mr. Tom Magnuson of the “Trading Path Associations” to get a cartographic perspective on the research I’ve been doing and possibly get some new leads on interviewees. Then I’m going to reach out to Greg Bell of the Eno River Association and the site manager for the Orange County Historical Museum to try and set up some initial meetings with interviewees.

My current goal for the end of the first semester is to have at least 2-3 interviews done and to be continuing my primary research. If I can get more interviews done then I will go ahead and start with the writing process, if not I will give a presentation on my research in the winter and put out the written piece in the spring.