Franklin county, north carolina, incinerated old records dated as early as 1840
january 5, 2014
It is difficult to write about this subject without having my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels. Nevertheless, historians and genealogists need to hear this story of how the historical society did everything proper and correct but still lost the battle to an incinerator at the county’s animal shelter.
Diane Taylor Torrent is a member of the Heritage Society of Franklin County North Carolina who wrote about this terrible destruction on social media. She describes in detail from the beginning when the county clerk found some records in a closed basement, asked the Heritage Society for help, to the county’s decision to destroy the records seven months later. Diane says, “Upon opening the basement we found stacks and stacks of books, boxes, loose papers, ledgers, etc. dating from approximately 1840 to the 1960's. Strewn records were everywhere. There was obvious mold in the back section and evidence of water damage.” The basement was a locked junk room where they stored old and broken furniture, cleaning supplies and old doors.
Although the mold ruined records, Diane says most were completely viable and a representation from most Franklin County departments including “deeds, county finance, board of education, sheriff’s office, county jail, the election board and many others.” They did take necessary caution in handling the moldy items.
Patricia Burnette Chastain, the County Clerk, and Diane spent the entire Memorial Day weekend hauling away trash and making the room ready for the work of organizing and filing records on the floor in new boxes from local business. Some of the items found in the clean-up were “ mortgages from the 1890s, court dockets from post-civil war to prohibition, delayed birth certificate applications with original supporting documents (letters from Grandma, bible records, birth certificates, etc.), county receipts on original letterhead from businesses long extinct, poll record books, original school, road and bridge bonds denoting the building of the county, law books still in their original paper wrappings, etc.).” There were letters from World War I soldiers and other things historians would be elated to have as a permanent record. You have to read her story to tell of the other items lost.
Diane says the mistake they made over the months was contacting the State Archives to tell them what treasures they had found. How could this be a mistake? The Archives took control of the boxes and told them they would contact them ‘later.’ You must read Diane’s Timeline documenting how the decision led to the records destruction in the local county animal shelter’s incinerator. It is heartbreaking. Please read it at https://www.facebook.com/notes/heritage-society-of-franklin-county-nc/timeline-of-the-destruction-of-100-year-old-franklin-county-nc-records/554910501264078.
Sorry that this preposterous destruction of the recent find of 173-year-old records leads the articles for 2014. It is something about which we need to be aware of because it could happen in any county, hopefully not ours.
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Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.