- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The creators of two Southern Maryland historical projects were recognized Feb. 11 in commemoration of the Charles County Historic Preservation Commission’s first year as an active organization.
Joyce Clerico, chairwoman of the Cemetery Transcription Project at the Charles County Genealogical Society, received one of the commission’s Preservation Service Awards for her work researching, charting and preserving small historic cemeteries in the county.
Also honored were 12 adults and high school students who produced a film, “The War of 1812 in Charles County’s Backyard — A Virtual Tour” under the auspices of the Charles County Historical Society.
The recipients were nominated by county residents, preservation commission Chairman Franklin Robinson said. He would not say who else, if anyone, was nominated. The awards were given during an open house for the commission held at the Thomas Stone National Historic Site in Port Tobacco.
“I wish that more of the county would go down there and see the site. It’s a gorgeous site with a lovely little visitors center. You walk through the woods and see the house sitting in an open field, just gorgeous, very peaceful,” Robinson said.
He said 65 people attended the open house, and that “I was very pleased with the attendance. It’s really nice people are coming out to support the creation of the commission.”
So far, the cemetery project has documented 160 historical cemeteries in Charles County during its five-year existence, Clerico said, using work done by other organizations, church records, microfilm copies of publications and tips from the public.
The project aims to document cemeteries “anywhere where we can find that someone has been buried, whether it’s a church, private property, a small family plot. Sometimes we’ve had to crawl through the woods and dig our way in, but we have gotten a list from other organizations and other people who have done this project before,” she said.
While her name is on the certificate honoring the project, Clerico said the work wouldn’t be possible without the help of genealogical society volunteers. She aims to publish cemetery locations collected during the project by the end of 2012.
The War of 1812 video was shown at the open house, before Michael J. Mazzeo Jr., a history teacher at La Plata High School, and others received certificates honoring them for their work. Also recognized were U.S. Daughters of 1812 volunteer Mary Pat Berry, local Sons of the American Revolution chapter President Charles D. Boone, and La Plata students Geoffrey Hammersley, Matthew Bellerose, Casey Gaskins, Jennifer Munoz, Christopher Cheney, Jonathan Teeney, Garrett Lundegard, Orven Torralba and Dorothy Barbour, according to a county news release.
The historic preservation award is only the latest among several the video has received, Mazzeo said, including a preservation award from the Maryland Historical Trust.
“It’s been overwhelming but a source of great pride for the students. They’re excited every time something comes up, the recognition from the commissioners to the board of education to the Maryland Historic Trust with a big award in Annapolis,” Mazzeo said.
On Feb. 27, state Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) will visit and present the student filmmakers with a citation from the state Senate.
“We’re going to actually present him with a copy of the DVD, and then the school’s going to recognize the students. And then in March, the students will go to the Maryland state conference for the U.S. Daughters of 1812 to show the whole DVD to them. That’s going to be in Severn. ... So it’s like every week [we get] some recognition,” Mazzeo said.
At the open house, Robinson praised county government staff members and others who helped the commission in 2011.
“During our first year as a commission, we have accomplished many things. We’ve developed a county historic site application packet, instituted countywide preservation awards and begun developing materials to teach county history in our schools. All this in addition to developing interpretive plans and brochures as well as keeping an eye on the revitalization plans for two of our historic towns, Benedict and Port Tobacco,” Robinson said, according to the text of his prepared remarks.
He also extolled the value of historic preservation, especially the preservation of the memory of people of modest means who can be overlooked in traditional histories.
“In many ways preservationists are dreamers, every day working to save the humbler object, the metaphorical farm worker’s smock, despite being told it is beyond saving, too costly, or that no one really cares,” he said. “We look at those things [that] many term insignificant and see possibility. Again, the possibility of reaching out and touching the lives of those that have gone before us, to reach across that chasm of history to gain insight into knowing who we were, so that we may better know who we are.”