The Tar River Center for History and Culture (TRCHC), an office of Louisburg College, was established by President Mark La Branche in an effort to bring citizens of the Upper Tar River region together around a sense of shared history, to promote economic development through heritage tourism, and to support the teaching of local history in the public schools. Dr. La Branche hired Maurice C. York, an alumnus of the college, to direct the work of the center. Mr. York began his duties on June 2, 2013. He spent much of the summer and fall of 2013 meeting with groups and individuals, to learn about existing historical and cultural organizations and to determine what they wanted the TRCHC to accomplish. Other activities are described below.
The TRCHC sponsored three strategic planning sessions. The first session, held at the Town of Louisburg's Police/Fire Training Center on September 19, 2013, was attended by sixty people, including citizens from Louisburg, Bunn, Franklinton, and Youngsville in Franklin County and from Granville, Vance, and Wake counties. The enthusiastic participants expressed interest in the following broad areas: heritage tourism; cultural facilities; the arts; and downtown revitalization. Specifically, they underscored the need for a comprehensive survey of the historic architecture of Franklin County; the development of a research center for the study of family and local history; the revitalization of the downtown areas of Louisburg and of other towns in Franklin County; marketing and grant-writing support for existing cultural organizations, and development of such cultural facilities as a museum, a theater in downtown Louisburg, and the public library. The full report is available on the Web site of the TRCHC.
Subsequent small-group meetings were held in November 2013 and in February 2014, to refine the ideas suggested by the large group. Using all of this guidance, the director crafted a draft strategic plan for the period 2014-2017 and distributed it widely. After comments have been received (mid-June, 2014), the plan will be finalized.
At the invitation of Gary Cunard, publisher of The Franklin Times, the director began a twice-monthly column, Tar River Roots. Beginning with the July 11, 2013, issue of The Franklin Times, the director penned nineteen articles in this series. An effort was made to include articles pertaining to all sections of Franklin County and, insofar as possible, to address aspects of the history of the Upper Tar River region.
Working with the director, Louisburg College's webmaster developed a Web site for the Tar River Center for History and Culture. The design incorporates a logo created by a staff member of the Louisburg College Office of Communications and Marketing. The Web site contains sections for news, Tar River Roots columns, and regional resources.
The center sponsored a lecture series, The Civil War and Its Aftermath in North Carolina and Franklin County:
Approximately sixty persons attended the first three lectures; thirty attended the final one.
In an effort to promote heritage tourism, the center worked with the national Civil War Trails program to erect on the Louisburg College campus a Civil War Trails marker commemorating the encampment in May 1865 of troops from General William T. Sherman's Army of the Tennessee. The site was incorporated into a new printing of North Carolina's handsome, full-color map showing the location of Civil War Trails markers. The maker was dedicated on May 1, 2014, the 149th anniversary of the arrival of the troops, in honor of Mr. Joseph E. Elmore, a local historian. The center announced that the evening's lecture by Mike Hill would be the inaugural "Joseph E. Elmore Lecture," and that a lecture each year would be so designated.
Presentations were made to the following organizations:
Heritage Society of Franklin County (July 18, 2013)
Louisburg Lions Club (September 3, 2013)
Spouses of Louisburg College Board of Trustees (September 26, 2013)
Men's Fellowship, Louisburg Baptist Church (October 2, 2013)
Franklin County Democratic Party (October 19, 2013)
Franklin Rifles Chapter, Sons of Confederate Veterans (October 31, 2013)
United Daughters of the Confederacy (December 14, 2013)
Leadership Franklin, Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce (March 12, 2014)
Wilson County Genealogical Society (March 25, 2014)
Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative
Extension Service (May 31, 2014)
In addition, the director helped lead a tour of Louisburg's historic district, which was sponsored by the Franklin County Arts Council on November 10, 2013.
Advice was given to a number of individuals and organizations, including the Ben Franklin Society, the Person Place Preservation Society, and the Youngsville Woman's Club.
The director worked with the office of the Franklin County Manager and the State Historic Preservation Office to investigate the feasibility of a comprehensive survey of the historic architecture of Franklin County. The county has expressed interest in pursuing the survey, which would aid in environmental review activities. It would also provide the basis for numerous educational and heritage tourism-related activities.
On April 30, 2014, the TRCHC co-sponsored with Vance-Granville Community College a grant-writing workshop for non-profit organizations. The workshop was attended by more than twenty persons. This was done in response to suggestions made at the center's strategic planning meeting held on September 19, 2013.
In response to a request by an interested citizen, the center held an oral history workshop on April 26, 2014. It was led by Professor Seth Koch, a faculty member in the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The participants are interested in pursuing a focused oral history project that would document an aspect of the Civil Rights Movement in Franklin County. A follow-up meeting is planned for June of 2014.
The Tar River Center for History and Culture Foundation was incorporated by the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State on December 13, 2014. The purpose of the foundation is to provide financial support for the Tar River Center for History and Culture. The foundation obtained an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on March 7, 2014. Initial board members are: Felix Allen, Cherie Benjamin, Sharon Billings, Dewey Botts, Mark La Branche (ex officio), Randy Thomas, and Maury York (ex officio). Members will apply for 501(c)(3) status during the summer of 2014.
With the help of the Louisburg College Office of Communications and Marketing, the center established a Facebook page on May 23, 2014.
During the year, several volunteers provided invaluable assistance. They are Lucy Allen, Sharon Billings, Adair Werner, and Dru York.
On May 2, 2014, the center moved from the Cecil W. Robbins Library to the Franklin Male Academy building.
The Tar River Center for History and Culture gratefully acknowledges generous donations from the following individuals and organizations:
Mrs. Lucy T. Allen, Louisburg, N.C.
Mrs. Linda W. Cottrell, Louisburg, N.C.
Mrs. Susan Guerrant, Louisburg, N.C.
Mr. and Mrs. John Hilpert, Louisburg, N.C.
Mr. and Mrs. Roy L. Honeycutt, III, Greenville, N.C.
Mr. Ron Kemp, Bell Arthur, N.C.
North Caroliniana Society
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Williams, Las Vegas, Nevada
Mrs. Bobbie Wrenn, Louisburg, N.C.
The Tar River Center for History and Culture accomplished considerable work during its first year. The organization has been well received by many individuals and organizations in Franklin and some surrounding counties. In many ways, it has brought people together around a sense of shared history, which is one of the primary objectives envisioned by Louisburg College President Mark La Branche. The director looks forward to building upon this foundation with the help of interested citizens and volunteers.