Reception at library salutes authors

March 01, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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Reception for authorsReception at library salutes authors

She feared she was the wrong gender and the wrong race to be writing a book about a black minister in Hagerstown. Nevertheless Jean Libby forged ahead.

Her book, based on the autobiography of Thomas E. Henry, follows the ex-slave as he became the pastor of what is now Ebenezer AME Church on Bethel Street.

Libby was one of 23 authors who accepted local historian John Frye's invitation to celebrate the reopening of the Western Maryland Room Saturday at the Washington County Free Library.


The library is itself celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

"All the authors are either from Washington County or they wrote about Washington County," Frye said.

A two-hour reception drew dozens of avid readers, history buffs and a few who were just looking for a stimulating rainy-day activity.

"I'm trying to find stories about girls in the Civil War, maybe even some poetry by them," said Holly Stotelmyer, who at 11 is already a keen reader and researcher.

A Sharpsburg resident, Holly said she literally lives on the rim of the Antietam Battlefield so her interest in that period was almost ordained.

"I'm fascinated by the battles, some of which I didn't even know about," she said.

Glenn Danneberg was attracted to the reception when he read that Roger Keller, a local Civil War historian, would be there.

"I wanted to talk with him about details, especially those not in the books," Danneberg said. "That's what I find most interesting - the details."

Some came for very personal reasons. Charles Rowe was hoping to find information about his ancestors to aid him in his genealogical pursuits.

"I didn't find anything but still it was very interesting," he said.

Many of the authors have in common just such a search which started small and grew.

Libby is just such an example. A resident of Palo Alto, Calif., Libby's interest in John Brown first led her eastward 21 years ago.

"I began my research at the Shepherd College library, looking for information on the African-Americans who were with John Brown," Libby said.

She stayed in Shepherdstown with a woman named Dora Washington who told her that she had to visit the Western Maryland Room at the Washington County Free Library.

"There I met John Frye and he took me all around Washington County," Libby said.

She wrote her John Brown book but her master's thesis was all about the Antietam and Catoctin iron furnaces - historic sites pointed out to her by Frye.

That research led to Howard University where Libby happened upon the Henry autobiography which provided fodder for her latest book.

All of the works of the authors attending the reception are available at the Washington County Free Library.

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