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Area women honored as W.Va. history heroes

May 05, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - People wanting to trace their family history in the Eastern Panhandle may have a lot of their homework already done for them thanks to Elizabeth Snyder Lowe and Jessie Hunter.

The two local women have been instrumental in the publishing of at least eight books relating to genealogy and history in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties and have been honored at the state level for their work.

In February, Lowe and Hunter were two of 55 "history heroes" recognized across West Virginia for their contributions in preserving and promoting local history. The women received awards during the annual History Day held at the Capitol on Feb. 28.

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Lowe, who lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va., has helped dozens of people trace their family roots in the area. People from out of town often will call the Shepherdstown Public Library or some other local office in their first steps toward retracing their family tree.

Local officials often will refer the people to Lowe for help.

Lowe has published two books and co-wrote a third about the history of her family, a long-established one in the area. Lowe also helped write "See Shepherdstown III," a history of Shepherdstown focusing on floods, rivers, schools and churches in the Shepherdstown area.

Lowe's first book was "The Folks of Swan Pond," which was written about her mother's family in the Swan Pond area, near Files Crossroads in Berkeley County.

A book that mixes genealogy with stories, Lowe used newspaper accounts, obituaries, photographs and church records to put together "The Folks of Swan Pond," published in 1989.

The book offers some 700 pages worth of information and stories, including one about her mother's great-great-grandfather, the first person in their family to purchase the farm in Swan Pond.

George Folk bought the farm at an estate sale, and it is said he pulled the money from the brim of his hat to complete the deal, Lowe said.

After her first book, Lowe went on to write "The Roots and Branches of the Jacob Snyder Family Tree," which is about her father's family, and co-wrote "The Lemen Family Tree," which is about her maternal grandmother's family.

Helping people trace their roots in the area has resulted in all sorts of twists and turns, Lowe said. She has connected family members who never knew about each other, and other people she has helped have gone on to write books of their own.

Lowe advises people to never give up on finding a fact or a date, no matter how elusive it might seem.

"I always tell people, don't give up. It's out there somewhere," said Lowe, who was a substitute teacher in Jefferson County for about 23 years.

Hunter, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., has sifted through decades of records and scoured Morgan County in an attempt to give a clearer picture of the area's history.

She worked on a book reporting the results of Morgan County's first census in 1850. The book, which lists the name and age of each county resident in 1850, was followed by two similar books reporting the results of the census in 1860 and 1870.

Hunter worked on a book listing every marriage in Morgan County from 1820 to 1903 and another book listing every death in the county from 1865 to 1903. Obituaries dating from 1903 to 2000 also have been published, Hunter said. Hunter helped put together "Graveyard History of Morgan County," written after she and her colleagues visited every graveyard they could find in Morgan County and recorded who was buried in them. In addition to listing the deaths, the book includes diagrams to help people find the burial sites.

Hunter said the book on graveyards required "going into the briars and so forth. I did a lot of traveling."

All of the books Hunter worked on can be found in the Morgan County Public Library at 105 Congress St. in Berkeley Springs. In the library's Morgan Room, which Hunter oversees on Wednesdays, there are copiers to help history buffs gather the information they need for their searches.

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