Ruth Blevins and Temple Lawrence Receive Volunteer Award from Virginia Genealogical Society
At the Spring Conference on April 21, 2012, Sharon Hodges, Awards Chair, announced the recipients of the Virginia Genealogical Society Volunteer Award. The award was accepted by Lisa Yost on behalf of Ruth Blevins and Temple Lawrence who were unable to attend. The reasoning for Mrs. Blevins and Mrs. Lawrence receiving the volunteer award is given below.
The Giles County Historical Society is located on property that dates back to before the Civil War. Its history includes being used as a Union headquarters in 1862 by Col. Rutherford B. Hayes and Sgt. William McKinley, both future presidents of the United States. The property housing the Historical Society is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes the family home built in 1829 by Andrew Johnston’s family. His heirs deeded the property to the Society in 1987. What a location for a Historical Society -- a house with a history that houses a facility that keeps the history of Giles County alive.
A native of Giles County, as a child Ruth Blevins was not interested in history. However, she became involved in the county’s history back in 1956 when she not only helped with the County’s sesquicentennial celebration, but actually took over when the committee chair became unable to do so. Because of this “encounter” she became an avid Giles County Historian and is one of the founding members of the Giles County Historical Society.
She recruited members, cataloged artifacts, researched the county’s history, and aided in establishing the Research Library. To do this, Ms. Blevins began telephoning county citizens and placing ads in local newspapers encouraging everyone to write down their family history. From this many local family files became available for researchers. Ruth didn’t stop there. She compiled these family histories adding data from old county records and by visiting cemeteries. This effort resulted in two published volumes – the first with over 440 pages and the second being 378 pages. (We all could use a volunteer like that!)
Ms. Blevins has been essential in building the research library from a few family files to a facility that is about to outgrow its present location – a converted garage on the Johnston property. Patricia Jacobs, a volunteer at the Historical Society says of Ms. Blevins: “When I returned to graduate school a few years ago, the Office of Historic Preservation encouraged me to study and learn from Mrs. Blevins, as that office considered her to be one of the best historic researchers, amateur or professional, that it had ever seen. For me,” says Ms. Jacobs, “she is an inspiration and continues to serve as my mentor….” Ms. Blevins continues to serve as a Giles County Genealogist and local historian and is on-call to answer queries.
Temple Lawrence is carrying on the work begun by Ruth Blevins not only by continuing to catalog documents and by adding to the Research Library, but by doing research. Temple responds to all inquires that come to the Society. This includes doing research at the county courthouse for genealogists outside of the area, serving as a genealogist for the Society for over ten year, and donating countless hours assisting the public in genealogical research.
She is a current board member of the Historical Society, has expanded the Research Library holdings to over 600 volumes and 750 vertical files on genealogy and local history. In addition she is the local historian for Giles County and the town of Pearisburg, serves on numerous committees that promote and preserve the community’s cultural and historical heritage, and, in her free time, publishes articles on local history in county newspapers and in newsletters.
But more important, in 2007 Ms. Lawrence was instrumental in rescuing a large cache of historical county records from destruction and is gradually cataloging these documents and making them available to the public. For this Mrs. Lawrence, the genealogical community thanks you.
Part of the mission statement of the Giles County Historical Society is:
To provide a repository for Giles County family histories, documents, and artifacts; to perpetuate interest in the history of Giles County; and to assist those interested in genealogical research.
Ruth Blevins and Temple Lawrence of the Giles County Historical Society have more than fulfilled this mission.
The Virginia Genealogical Society is pleased to honor Ruth Blevins and Temple Lawrence of the Giles County Historical Society with this year’s Volunteer Award.