The Lonaconing Silk Mill Project had its genesis in conversations between Dan Whetzel and Mike Lewis in the summer of 1997. As history teachers, they have a keen interest in marrying the local history with an active learning environment, thereby involving their students in the process of preserving the rich heritage of Allegany County. The silk mill was chosen as a student service learning project because of its unique state of preservation and a desire to promote the site as a viable historical attraction. Work on the project was divided into segments: student interviews of former employees, archival and on-site records search for primary sources, historical overview through library material and reports solicited from a textile industry specialist, oral history transcription, and finally book layout and publication.
The oral history approach to the project was chosen for several reasons. First, the oral history format provided an excellent forum for direct intergenerational dialogue that alludes other traditional historical methods. Second, it offered the best way to document daily mill experiences and memories of the community, thereby recording not only the physical experience but the affective domain as well. The research group viewed the mill as an integral part of the George's Creek region and not as an isolated entity. As a result, the students sought to record a history of a community and not just a mill history.
Additional research for the silk mill project was derived from primary resources at the factory. Payroll, ledgers, shipping orders, and assorted documents discovered in the storage room, provided a wealth of information. Secondary sources included Betty Van Newkirk's notes from the Georges Creek Press, 1907, and her Journal of the Alleghanies article "The Lonaconing Silk Mill," The Cumberland Alleghanian newspaper, Thomas and Williams' History of Allegany County and Allegany County: A History by Harry Stegmaier, Jr., David Dean, Gordon Kershaw, and John Wiseman.
Proceeds from book sales will provide for the establishment of a scholarship fund. Two scholarships will be presented to graduating Allegany County high school students who plan to pursue a degree in the social sciences. The coordinators and students will judge the entries.
This book, and complete transcriptions of interviews, will be made available to all Allegany Public Libraries, the Frostburg Museum, Allegany County History House, Potomac State College, Allegany College, and Frostburg State University.
Right: Researchers Chris Jewell and Anne Failing sort through on-site records in the basement of the Lonaconing Silk Mill.
Below: Exterior view of the silk mill, circa 1982.
Allegany High School, Oral history project
Allegany High School, Cumberland
28 cms x 22 cms
Anne Failing, Erin Degyansky, Chris Jewell, Amber Sallerson, Dan Whetzel and Mike Lewis
Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing, Allegany County (Md.), History; Lonaconing Silk Mill; Silk mills, History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1907-1957