Boonsboro museum exhibit inspires a song from artist

December 10, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO - Doug Bast is no stranger to people being impressed with the exhibits in his Main Street museum.

But a visitor recently wrote a song expressing her strong emotional response after viewing a collection of letters, dried flowers, keepsakes and a lock of hair from the possessions of Mary Vance - a woman who lived during the Civil War.

"Nobody did that before," Bast said.

Jennie Avila is a guitarist and percussionist from Pennsylvania who moved to Washington County 2 1/2 years ago.

"I was never really interested in the Civil War," Avila said.

That all changed when she was introduced to Antietam National Battlefield and Bast's museum.

The display features a framed collection of letters, buttons and other trinkets. But perhaps the most evocative item is a tiny lock of blond hair tied with a ribbon.

Avila said she learned that the gentleman friend with whom Mary Vance was corresponding told her he got the lock of hair from an enemy soldier who was dying on the battlefield after the Battle of Antietam in 1862.


"The soldier asked him to take it and not to let anything happen to it," Avila said.

When it was sent to Mary Vance, her gentleman friend asked her to safeguard the tiny treasure.

In her musical tribute, Avila sings "my dearest Mary Vance, take good care of this ... it was given to me under difficult circumstance."

Bast explained that the man who corresponded with Mary Vance was most likely her beau, as the letter had a courting quality to it.

Her gentleman friend promises Mary Vance in the letter that when he returns, they will be "much more than friends."

Moved to write the song, Avila finished it just in time for the Boonsboro Historical Society's meeting Nov. 27, where she sang and accompanied herself on acoustic guitar.

Enthused by the response to the song and her own feelings about the tragedies of a war fought so long ago, Avila is now working on a new song.

"The new song will be about bullets," Avila said.

Avila's first encounter with Washington County came four years ago when she met Stephen Wright in an art class. The Hagerstown man has a business called The Wright Hand Drum Co.

"I ordered a drum from him," Avila said, noting he gave her a catalog of his store's inventory.

When Avila got an invitation to audition for a Columbia, Md., trio called Hot Soup, she swung by Wright's shop to pick up a drum.

They became friends, attended Blues Fest in 2004 and are now engaged, Avila said.

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