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Letter to the Editor

Author says historical value of Tompkins Library deserves funding

web posted March 27, 2009
Dear Editor,
I understand that the Edgefield County Council is considering dropping from its budget support for the Edgefield County Welcome Center. Why would the council want to do such a foolish thing? Is the center such a well-kept secret that its value is not known to council members?

Edgefield County has a treasure in her history, perhaps the most important asset the county has. Her contributions to the state are renowned. Edgefield was a congregating point for thousands of families who came from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Europe, among other places. Here, some descendants still live today, but many families lived here only for a generation or two before spreading over the globe.  Large numbers of her oldest homes have survived and are still standing today, a proud reminder of Old Edgefield’s heritage. Also surviving is the vast majority of her public records, practically a miracle among thousands of counties with lost records from war, fires, and other disasters.

It is primarily through the Welcome Center that this asset, Edgefield’s heritage, is made readily available to the public. Friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful volunteers, mostly local citizens of Edgefield who are members of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society and the Old Edgefield District African American Genealogical Society, give many, many hours of their time to assist the thousands of visitors who come to Edgefield annually, specifically looking for historical or genealogical details. Visitors find the information they seek in the large collection of manuscripts, papers, and books available there and are then sent to other places, like the excellent county archives, for more information.

I have been to research facilities throughout the Unites States and in Europe. It may surprise some to realize that Edgefield has the best genealogical research library in the state and one of the best in the world. I challenge anyone to name another county with a comparable facility. Across the United States, the reputation of the Edgefield Welcome Center and the Tompkins Library is solid. County leaders should capitalize on this good will, not destroy it.

The amount of money in the budget to support this valuable asset of Edgefield is a pittance, arguably much less than the money returned to businesses in the county by visitors like me who often come to Edgefield to conduct research. I am confident that a study could easily prove the Welcome Center significantly supports the economy of the county. Could the same be said of much larger budget items like recreation?

Through an effective organization and the volunteers, the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society and the Old Edgefield District African American Genealogical Society add significantly to the seed money of the county, making it truly an investment in the county.

I urge council members to not kill the goose. The history and heritage of Edgefield are priceless assets that should be loudly touted and displayed, not pushed aside and relegated to insignificance. Such assets should be the main selling point for creating a vital local economy. The Edgefield Welcome Center and the Tompkins Library are essential in making this heritage available to local citizens and visitors alike.

Please continue to support the Edgefield County Welcome Center.

Charles R. Andrews
Cumming, Georgia

Editor's note: Mr. Andrews is Co-author of the forthcoming book, Where Our Paths Crossed: The Old Edgefield District Settlement of Mount Willing.


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