A question-and-answer with Doug Perks on next week’s history seminars
CHARLES TOWN – Doug Perks, a retired educator who serves as president of the Jefferson County Historical Society and as historian at the Jefferson County Museum in Charles Town, is among the history experts behind next week’s two-day seminar on Civil War events in Jefferson County.
We asked if he’d share more about “Jefferson County in 1864.”
Q. How did the two-day seminar come about? Is this similar to past events the Historical Society has put on?
A. “Historic Shepherdstown Commission and the Jefferson County Historical Society collaborated in 2011 to host an annual seminar which highlighted the Civil War events which took place each year in Jefferson County – so in 2011 we did 1861, in 2012 we did 1862, in 2013 we did 1863, and this year we are focused on 1864. We have tried to include not only military events but how the Civil War impacted the men, women and children who were at home in Jefferson County.”
Q. What are you most excited about about this event?
A. “I am most excited by the collaboration. I think it is important for organizations like HSC and JCHS to work together to share Jefferson County’s history. This year we have been joined by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society. They have provided a meeting space – Fisherman’s Hall – for our Monday meeting, and the JCBHPS President, Mr. James Taylor, will be speaking about the beginning of black education in Jefferson County. All of these groups have an interest in local history, and by collaborating we each have the opportunity to contribute.”
Q. Rather than limit this to people already involved in the Historical Society and similar groups, this is open to the public. What’s the thinking behind that decision?
A. “One of our goals is education/outreach and this seminar helps attain the goal. Through this outreach we can expose the public to some of the many events which took place in Jefferson County that have both local and national significance. Our hope is that participants are encouraged to learn more about local history, and maybe will consider joining one or all of our organizations.”
Q. Is the seminar aimed at public schoolteachers? How about students — middle schoolers or high schoolers?
A. “The seminar was originally planned specifically for teachers and was expanded to include the public in 2011 when we had a number of requests from the public to attend. Since then, the seminar has been open to the public. At this point we have not planned for students. That is something to consider. Perhaps we can do a student seminar in the future.”
Q. Can you tell us a bit about the sessions?
A. “Sessions will include the burning of Chambersburg, Pa., Harpers Ferry in stereoview,
contributions of visual artists during the Civil War, Civil War ironclads, the beginning of black education in Jefferson County, the genealogy of a Civil War family. I’ll be leading a session called, ‘A Tale of Three Siblings: The Bedingers of Shepherd’s Town.’
“We have followed through on our original goal and have put together multiple-day seminars for four years in a row. Plus, it has all been done at no cost to participants. That is a tribute to the men and women who have volunteered their time to select an appropriate topic, research it and then prepare an interesting presentation. This takes countless hours. Working with these folks, people who both love history and love sharing history, is the most pleasurable part of doing things like this.”
Q. Do you remember what first sparked your interest in local history?
A. “I sure do! I was an 11-year-old Boy Scout with Troop 42 at Asbury Methodist Church. In the fall of 1859, our troop volunteered to help at the 100th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. I can still remember the U.S. Marines crashing through the door of the armory fire engine/guard house – actually a plywood façade – and pulling out an injured John Brown. I was hooked! I wanted to know more and I’ve been learning about Jefferson County ever since.”