Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc. has tapped into a robust interest in local history in the scenic Red Clay valley with a popular winter speakers program. Spanning the first three months of 2015, the inaugural series packed the headquarters meeting room of the nonprofit, the operator of the Wilmington & Western Railroad.
To increase community outreach, especially during the winter, the organization mulled over some ideas last year. Thus when Ray Harrington & Tom Gears, the two volunteers coordinating the initiative, proposed the idea of showcasing the untold, diverse stories of the Red Clay Valley, the team was told to give it a try.
They weren’t sure what to expect, perhaps just a dozen local people might attend. But on the first Monday of each month during the frigid nights of this snowy winter, the lights have been burning late into the evening at the railroad’s headquarters, the attendees arriving early and staying late. Once the speakers wrapped up, the engaged crowds were in no hurry to leave as lively conversation continued.
The first talk on the New Castle County Workhouse was a great one. Three speakers, Ray Harrington, Tom Gears, and Ray Salerno, approached the subject from different perspectives, getting the audience involved in sharing their memories. The next talk by Elizabeth Fite was on Mt. Cuba (a scheduling conflict caused us to miss that one).
The last event this season took place yesterday evening, March 2. Scott Palmer, in an engaging way, shared the largely unassembled narrative about the tiny New Castle County hamlet, Wooddale. His careful research revealed intriguing and nearly forgotten accounts from the past in a place that once hummed with activity.
Thriving industries, grand homes, immigration, and fine literature were part of the overall narrative. However, intrigue, murder, crimes, destructive explosions, and speakeasies made their way into these delightful accounts about the scenic area with rolling hills and a meandering creek, which also seemed like a settlement out of the wild west.
A goat-eats dynamite story, one that could have been part of the script in Andy Griffith’s “the Loaded Goat,” got lots of reaction. One day while grazing around Wooddale the hungry animal stumbled upon some unattended sticks of dynamite on a back porch of a house. So it ate a couple, before being discovered. When last heard from, everyone was giving it a respectful distance, making sure no one tossed any rocks in its direction. Such were the stories one would never associate with such a quiet little corner of the First State.
For some five years Scott has blogged about the past, broadly sharing the knowledge he acquires through his investigations on the popular and informative Mill Creek Hundred Blog. He has spent a lot of time digging up historical traces, which was obvious yesterday evening.
These excellent programs, tapping into the community’s interest, exceeded all expectations. Thank you Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc.. Scott, Tom, Ray and everyone else involved in sharing the stories about the past. You will have an eager audience looking forward to the untold stories you will tap into next season.