“History must be imagined before it can be understood.”
Historian David Blight
History colleague John Pellowski and I first began discussing the concept of a local history project in 2000. How could we bring a greater awareness of our local history into our classes? How do communities grapple with and understand their own history?
It was in 2002, then, that we began to develop these projects. From the outset, the goal has been to explore local and regional history through authentic interaction with available sources, including a heavy emphasis on oral history when possible. As an introduction, I researched the life of Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr., BRFHS graduate and Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean Conflict. Beyond his gallant and tragic story, I wanted to explore HOW he is remembered in the community.
We have partnered with Jackson County History Room Director Mary Woods from the beginning and have utilized the resources held at the History Room at the Public Library for most of the projects. In addition, our intention, from the start, has been to develop an archive for future history students and community members. Through 2021, we have completed 19 projects, had 22 interns, conducted over 80 interviews, and produced nearly 1,000 pages of archival material.
The plaque pictured here honors Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient and graduate of BRFHS, and it is part of our “Shared History” wall at the high school. This plaque was originally displayed at the High School on Third Street, which over time became the Junior High and then Elementary School.
Our 2022 Project marked a new chapter for the Falls History Project! The pandemic that began in early 2020 altered our lives in ways that we are only beginning to understanding as we head into 2022. Our senior intern, Paige Blackdeer, worked with Eli Youngthunder to document for future generations the pandemic’s impact on our community. Framing the approach as “History as it Happens,” Paige gathered local stories and presented them in a couple different ways, including a more robust digital footprint. As you will see when you access the 2022 project, Paige conducted a series of interviews to gain different perspectives and those are posted as part of the project. (Note: Transcriptions of the interviews will be finalized in the 2022-23 school year).
In addition, I will continue as a contributor to the FHP and post occasional stories that focus on the history of our region. My most recent foray is the story of Yep Ging, a Chinese laundryman who lived in Black River from 1894 to his death in 1943. You will find a link for the story in the project index. Additionally, I am working with Mary Woods at the History Room to secure a grave marker for Yep Ging at Riverside Cemetery.