Research into local history has resulted in a state award for a youth group that published a booklet on the founding families of Mount Airy.
The Jesse Franklin Pioneers, which was formed through Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, took home first-place honors in the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association Literary Contest.
Although it is made up mostly of fifth-graders, the group — a chapter of the Tar Heel Junior Historians — was competing in the Intermediate Division of the contest.
The Jesse Franklin Pioneers, named for a former North Carolina governor from Surry County, received the award at the recent annual convention of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association held at the state museum in Raleigh.
The youths’ award-winning project resulted from an effort that began last September and continued until April, according to Heather Elliott, director of programs and education at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
Their booklet “Founding Families of Mount Airy,” copies of which are available at the museum and the city visitors center, focuses on several key figures in local history. Included are Robert Richard Galloway, Gertrude Smith, William Edward Merritt, Thomas Fawcett and their family members.
The booklet details how they developed local businesses, including Galloway’s opening of an opera house downtown, and their overall impact on the community. Information on the founding families’ houses also is included, along with such interesting tidbits as possible ghost stories linked to the families.
“What they did was actually take a different approach,” Elliott explained of the students’ work.
To complete the project, members of the Jesse Franklin Pioneers, a group open to any student in Surry County including home-schoolers, gathered on the first and third Thursdays of each month during the September-April period when it was under way.
They researched old newspaper articles and used material compiled by local historians as well as consulting books on Surry County history. Then they edited all the information and drafted a text for the booklet that captured the statewide award.
Elliott said judges were “very impressed” with the project of the Jesse Franklin Pioneers.
North Carolina has 121 Tar Heel Junior Historian Association clubs in 51 counties with a total of 4,430 student members.
The Jesse Franklin Pioneers is the only club in Surry County.
Contact Tom Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1924.