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A Call to Share Local History

There’s a saying, “All politics is local.” The same could be said of history. We tend to get so caught up in international and national history that we forget that all of that starts with local history.

Some people, however, are beginning to recognize the importance of learning about their local history as evidenced by the series of small history books about small towns and communities all over the nation that are being published by Arcadia Publishing. More people are tracing their genealogy. And local historical societies are being organized or revitalized here and there.

An emphasis on local history gives one a sense of place. It helps natives of a community feel a sense of pride in their ancestors and their predecessors in the community. It helps newcomers feel more at home to understand how their new community came to be and why things are as they find them.

I’d like to encourage each of you to share with our readers your own thoughts about your local history and how it has influenced you and what role you and your family have played in it. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll try to share some of your stories in subsequent posts.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll share a little about some of my own local history. Originally, “local” for me was Halls Crossroads, a rural community north of Knoxville, Tennessee. It was an area of small farmers, craftsmen, and small businessmen. It was founded by a farmer named Thomas Hall.

One set of my great-grandparents lived in Halls. My great-grandfather, Harvey Graybeal, was appointed by the governor to be justice of the peace. My grandfather grew up there and became a prominent grocer, farmer, and churchman. He also was for a while a streetcar conductor in Knoxville and during the Depression a machine repairman in the Standard Knitting Mills. But his main prominence came as a successful dairy farmer operating a TVA test-demonstration farm, conducting agricultural experiments and welcoming visitors from all over the world, most notably Albert, the Prince of Belgium.

My father partnered with my grandfather in the farm but later became a brick mason. The homes he bricked still stand all over Halls and surrounding communities as silent testimony to his workmanship. He and my mother were early officers in the Halls Community Club.

Some Petersons still live in Halls. In fact, my sister lives in the old home place, although the farm has since been subdivided and provides homes for numerous other families. Other Petersons became teachers, preachers, and business people and scattered all across the nation. But no matter where they now live, they still consider Halls home.

Your family’s local history no doubt differs from mine in many details, but it holds great value to you and others. Why not share some of that history with the readers of this blog? I look forward to hearing from many of you, and I’ll try to share as much of your stories as I can.

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