Henry W. Spradley – Continued Research

I have been continuing to look for information to on Henry W. Spradley, the African American veteran buried at the former Lincoln Cemetery. Searching through microfilm at Dickinson College and CCHS, as well as researching further at CCHS, I have been able to learn even more about Mr. Spradley.

To start, I found his database record at the Civil War Research database, under the name Henry Williams. It appears that he used this name, as shown on his pension records, during the war. Obviously, there are many reasons why a former slave may have used an alias, but I do have any documentation to explain this yet. Newspapers show that he was definitely called Henry W. Spradley after the war though.

American Volunteer – April 14th, 1897

This newspaper article, available on microfilm at Dickinson College library, was difficult to clear up to get a good and close image. However, the article is very big for my research. It explains that Spradley was born into slavery in Winchester, VA, confirms that he enlisted in the 24th USCT, and then says he came back to Carlisle and became a stone mason. Furthermore, it highlights that students called him “Sprad” as a nickname. It also explains where his children were living at the time, which could be great to follow up on his family. Finally, what I thought was a very big discovery, the article says that Spradley and his wife lived in the basement of East College! This would likely have been what we consider the first floor, since there use to be steps that went up to the second floor of old East College. Talking with the archivists at Dickinson College, it is definitely possible that he lived at the college.

At CCHS, they have microfilm available for the Evening Sentinel, the third newspaper that covered Spradley’s funeral. I found three mentions of him from April 10th, April 12th, and April 13th.

Evening Sentinel - April 10th, 1897

Evening Sentinel - April 12th, 1897

Evening Sentinel - April 13th, 1897

These three Evening Sentinel newspaper articles add and confirm a whole additional layer of information. It seconds the fact that he had been born into slavery, how he died, and where his family lived. It adds that he was the treasurer of A.M.E. Zion Church, that he was a member of the G.A.R. of Carlisle Post 440, and even that he died at exactly 9:45pm. I will stop here to note a number of discrepancies to consider with this article. Whoever wrote it made a number of mistakes, such as that he died at age 67, not 68, he was born in 1830, not 1829, I believe he did not enlist until 1865 and as the third article explains, he was not the senior Janitor. One major error came in the date on the newspaper. It says it was written on Saturday, April 9th, 1897, which would imply that Spradley died on April 8th. However, I know from the other newspapers that April 12th was a Monday and the 13th a Tuesday, so Saturday would have to have been the 10th. Nonetheless, this article furthers the knowledge on Henry Spradley and backs up the information of the two other newspapers.

Finally, I was really excited to find Henry Spradley’s appraisal at the Cumberland County Historical Society. I started searching around for his name in their archives and found the following document, courtesy of CCHS.

Henry Spradley Inventory and Appraisment - July 20th, 1897

Henry Spradley Inventory and Appraisement - July 20th, 1897

This inventory and appraisement tells us so much about Henry Spradley, more than I am probably able to comprehend so far. It shows what items the Spradley’s owned and how much they were worth. The items are organized by front room, parlor, bedroom and kitchen, which tells us how he lived to some extent. The article on the right are definitely harder for me to interpret as of yet, but I bet some of the amazing archivists I have worked with would know. Then on the back of the document, at the bottom, there is a note written by Spradley’s widow that I have looked over many times. I know that his census records said he was married to a woman name Mina in 1870 and 1880. I also don’t understand what would make his widow exempt herself from $300. I will hopefully clear up all the questions about this document by having an archivist or Professor provide their input on it. It is a great document for analyzing Spradley’s life and I am glad to have found it.

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Jim Washington and Lincoln Cemetery

Jim Washington has been a huge help throughout my research on Lincoln Cemetery. I have met with him multiple time to talk about the history of the cemetery and he has been pivotal in both finding contacts and figuring out where to expand upon previous research.

In a recent visit, he allowed me to photocopy what he has researched on the cemetery. First, he had three newspapers articles on the cemetery from March of 1967. This is when the discussion on the cemetery first began.

Evening Sentinel - March 15, 1967

Evening Sentinel - March 17, 1967

Evening Sentinel - March 20, 1967

March 15th, the article explains who the lawyer was that introduced the case, J. Boyd Landis, to take over the cemetery. It always says who the judge was and how long they believe the cemetery was in use. Furthermore, it touches on the multiple names of this space. I have heard it referred to as Lincoln Cemetery, the Colored Cemetery, N Pitt St. Cemetery, African American Cemetery, James Young Memorial Park, Memorial Park, Hope Station, and the Old Colored Graveyard. The March 17 article is very interesting because it has a picture of the gravestones. I have not tracked down this picture or the photographer yet. It also says that there were 78 gravestones and that a man named Richard C. Reed drew up sketches for the proposed park. The third article, from March 20th, explains the decision to assume control of the graveyard. It also says that “Barry Kohn, Dickinson School of Law Student, represented the Community Action Program (CAP) responsible for obtaining the signatures on the petition” to take over the cemetery.

Jim Washington also obtained the court order from 1967 that would shortly follow those articles. It is likely that many of these documents came from CCHS, but Washington could not confirm.

Court Order - April 20th - April 1967

Court Order - April 20th - April 1967

The first part of the court order explains the reasons for taking over the cemetery, who testified at the hearing and what the Borough’s role has been with the maintenance of the area. The second part shows the signatures and ruling of the court. I also believe that point 2 is the act that allowed the court to rule this, though I have not looked into that.

Jim Washington also had a different, what I will call circle map, of the positions of the headstones. I knew Cavenagh had created one of these, but this was a different one. Unfortunately, there is no identifying information on the paper and Washington does not know how he obtained it.

Lincoln Cemetery - Headstone Markings

While I do not have a list of who each circle represents, I could still use this circle map and compare it to Cavenagh’s to see if the headstone positions agree with each other.

May 31st, 1999 - Speech on Lincoln Cemetery

Jim Washington also had a number of documents from more current times. First, he has a speech from May 31st, 1999. It touches on brief biographies of George Fisher, Alfred Whiting, Charles Howard and R. H. Howard. Charles Howard actually is Jim Washington’s Great-Great Grandfather. All four of these veterans enlisted in the 54th Massachussetts, which was the first black regiment formed during the Civil War.

May 31st, 1999 - Speech on Lincoln Cemetery

May 31st, 1999 - Speech on Lincoln Cemetery

Jim Washington also had a copy of one of the master plans submitted for the redesigning of Memorial Park in the 2000’s. It seems like with this land that someone has always been proposing changes to the area since 1967.

2003 Pre-Master Plan

The above image says it was “prepared by YSM” but I am not sure what that refers to and I did not look into it in my research.

Lastly, I photocopied information Washington had obtained about the Jordan Gravestone that still remains as the last gravestone marker from Lincoln Cemetery. It explains why the Jordan Gravestone was saved and what the history is behind the Jordan’s. The information was prepared by Ruth Hodge, who is a local historian who has also done extensive research on the community.

More than just these documents, Jim Washington has been very helpful in the oral history that he has provided on Lincoln Cemetery. His information has been invaluable.

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Summary of Research

The first lesson that I came to grasps with while performing my research was to start broad.  At the beginning I was a little to focused on specific information and it proved to make my research at the time very time consuming and difficult.  When I took a step back and viewed my topic, Battle of Gettysburg and Carlisle’s involvement, in a broader sense I was able to uncover a much better understanding simply through basic research via the internet.  This commonly overlooked research may not provide the body of the information that one is looking for but it allowed for myself to develop a solid foundation of knowledge that I could then build upon.  Also, by looking at the bibliographies of these sources I was able to springboard myself into new avenues of research thus opening doors to me that I previously would not of seen. 

The second lesson I learned was that for myself it was much easier looking up newspaper articles in both local Carlisle newspapers and the New York Times via microfilm rather than through databases.  Prior to this project I had never used microfilm and was wary of searching through entire pages to uncover only a handful of useful articles.  This skepticism was quickly brushed aside as I could refine my window of searching in much more of a hands on approach rather than plugging in keywords and dates and letting a computer gather my desired information.  What resonated with me the most was how all the newspapers were in chronological order, this allowed me to craft a timeline much more efficiently than I had ever been in the past.

Lastly, while research does take time and effort no matter how efficiently one performs it, it can be much more rewarding and “fun” when you allow yourself to explore and uncover information that intregues your interests.

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Lessons Learned

Throughout this research project, I learned a few things that would have made my life a whole lot easier if I had been previously aware of.  For one, I found that staying positive about running into dead-ends is key for a successful project.  I ran into multiple dead-ends or areas in my research that just did not have a large amount of information about them.  Even more specifically for my project was the problem of running into information that had already been discovered.  Although this proved to be a problem for me, I eventually improved at stepping back and taking what I could from that experience.  With the right mindset I could usually use my ‘failure’ to guide me on my next topic: where to look, how to spell a name differently, what has already been looked into, ect. 

Another area that I had problems with early on in my research was failing to figure out what had already been researched versus what needed to be ‘fleshed-out’.  A key to this is making sure to find a wide range of secondary materials as well as consult in depth the materials that have already been compiled.  This is not to say that after finding this information I would be able to skip looking at these previously found sources, but I needed to look at them and try to find things that were contradictory or mistakenly not viewed as important as other.  It was just a matter of view point that was taken and this small change in mindset allowed me to hopefully improve the types of sources that are now available about my topic.

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Lessons learned…

The overarching lesson I learned is that research is never what you think its going to be and that is very time consuming. To be thorough, it takes tedious amounts of searching and reading published secondary sources on your topic to gain a general context and basic understanding of where the next phase of your research will take you. I noticed someone else mentioned this, but it also helps a great deal to pick a topic that you are greatly interested in. This is another important criteria because you are going to be spending a lot of long hours with the subject if you want to get something substantial out of it. You are not going to want to slave over pages and pages of microfilm on something you have no interest in chasing further information on.

The research can be tedious at times but if done in a logical order, the process by which you advance in your searches will get easier if done correctly. Starting out by looking at information and evidence already published is the golden rule of any beginning research project. It not only acclimates you better to the subject but is a convenient and useful tool to help you gain a bearing on where you will further explore. It also helps to make a list of keywords dealing with your topic so that way you can have a physical representation of what your trying to look for and not just keeping it all in your head. Not only that, but many times, helpful primary sources are cited and techniques by which the author came about these documents are indicated which will hopefully spawn some creativity in your own research. There is rarely a crucial document/letter or perfectly documented photo that will give you the “A HA!” moment, so take the time to do your preliminary readings first and gauge what is beneficial to continue on in researching. Just like you should not limit yourself to primary sources, do not limit yourself to the resources which provide secondary and primary sources. Explore all available archives, databases and libraries at your disposal. This is another reason why research is time consuming. With all the available information at your hand, it takes time to comb through the relevant information but there are many happy and pleasant people at the archives and libraries to help you on your way.

One of the last important notes and for me, one of the overlooked things in research is what you would consider failing. As Professor Pinsker pointed out, even if you find nothing, the most important thing is the physical process of research and the various techniques and tricks you pick up along the way that you keep with you. Becoming familiar with the various databases, search techniques, and all the facets and facilities at the archives will only increase the efficiency at which you find information. While you may not always find what you’ve been looking for, the various process and practices that led you to this point will do you much more good in the future.

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Lessons From My Research Experience

I have been researching Lincoln Cemetery, the old African American Civil War Veterans burial grounds, and would suggest these three lessons:

1. History Exists Outside the Scholarly Bubble – So often in historical research, we analyze how other historians have researched and published their findings on our topics. Thus, we look for them in libraries, databases, and honors theses. However, starting this project, I quickly learned that my topic had a number of local experts who have never published any writings and might not even consider themselves historians. And once I started contacting one local expert, I was connected to a web of others who could help me piece together my research. So don’t assume that if a historian hasn’t written about your topic that there aren’t dozens of enthusiastic locals with oral histories, family documents or private research just awaiting to be tapped into!

2. Visit Your Site – While this is not always possible for every topic, I personally think it is very important to consider. Yea, likely the place you are researching may have been destroyed or eroded, and you may only get a basic idea of where the site is on a street. But after I visited my site, the eroded and former Lincoln Cemetery, I would always have that image in my head for the rest of my research. And by then looking at historical documents, it allowed me to actually take this modern day site and start imagining what it may have been like 150 years ago. Otherwise, it’s just a research topic or a piece of paper.

3. Write Down Every Possible Lead – Throughout your research, you will find you sometimes only have one possible lead to research, and then all of a sudden you have dozens that you cannot possibly fully address. So write them all down. Every time I saw a person’s name who might have information on Lincoln Cemetery, a different archive or source that one of my sources recommended, or a way I could expand my research, I would write it down. In the future, I could hopefully chase down all these leads too, but this allowed me to follow one lead without worrying about what I was missing.

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Lessons Learned

There are many lessons I learned from this project. One of the first is a very fundamental lesson. The easiest way to be successful in research is to choose a topic that grabs your imagination. I found it difficult to commit to researching Bowen when I first learned about him. The only real things I had to go on were his diary of his time in Andersonville and his muster records. However, that was enough to pique my curiosity. I suppose the lesson is to go with your instinct. I could have looked for more subjects, or researched an easier topic. I chose to go with Bowen and it only took a few hours for the story to captivate me. The lesson is that when you find a topic that excites you it becomes easy, almost to the point where you have more material than you can use.

The second lesson is a bit more concrete. When researching one must be open minded. No matter how remote the possibility it is always worth pursuing a lead. In my case, at a loss for databases to search, I used google. That led me to the Pennsylvania Reserves website. Tied in to this is the need for patience and efficiency. When there is a lot of material to wade through, you need to be patient, and you need to be efficient. I was not very efficient in my research, particularly with documenting where I was learning new information as I was getting it. I got so carried away going from one source to another that I had to retrace my steps when the time came to document my sources.

Research is hard, research is time consuming, and if you find a topic you like research can be fun. The trick is streamlining what parts of the process can be streamlined.

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Summarization of my Work

My work in the archives was certainly challenging but made easy because the event that I covered, which was the Gettysburg Campaign and Carlisle’s involvement, was a very well and widely written about topic. The biggest lesson I learned was comparing reports in newspapers and examining stories side by side. Newspapers were certainly the biggest and most important source for me during my research and the stories in the different paper I looked at were not always the same. I looked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, and The Philadelphia Press. These were three of the bigger papers during that day and all had the same story just told a little bit differently . The second source of information that was helpful was letters and memoirs of people who were either from the area or present during the attack. These provided detailed and first hand accounts of what occurred from an eyewitness’s point of view. Finally the third source of information that was extremely helpful to me were secondary sources such as books. I happen to own a book called Saber and Scapegoat. This book written primarily about the Gettysburg campaign and General J.E.B. Staurt’s role. It talks exclusively in one of the chapters on General Staurt’s attack on Carlisle. These three different sources proved be very valuable and helpful to me in my research. I believe that I found solid and useful information that helped tell the story about the Gettysburg Campaign and Carlisle’s involvement.

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Lessons Learned From Research

Conducting research through a variety of mediums has taught me several valuable lessons that I intend to carry with me into future college classes and careers.

First, and foremost, I had to learn to control the urge to jump headfirst into primary sources and detailed databases.  I discovered that beginning research with secondary sources greases the gears of the entire process and allows one to form clearer research questions and acquire direction.  In the early stages of my research into the involvement of Dickinson College students involved in the Civil War, I found myself floundering as I hopelessly searched through databases and primary documents on an immense number of different subjects.  Without taking a step back and reforming and detailing my research questions, I probably would have gotten nowhere.

A second lesson that I took away from this research process is that in order to conduct research well, one must be thorough and truly commit time to reading and sorting through materials.  I don’t think that I would have been able to locate some of the information that I found had I followed my original strategy of simply glancing over everything that I had in front of me.  During my first visit to Dickinson’s archives, I utilized the sources from a history I had read to locate documents.  Had I not gone deeper than simply reading meeting minutes, or an odd letter, I would not have located items from obscure correspondence, alumni records and photographs.  I had to buckle down and take clear, detailed notes and read through both my secondary and primary sources without rushing too much.  If I did not take the time to sit and patiently read through pages upon pages of microfilm, I probably would not have been able to find the name of a fraternity that led me to images of Dickinson students who had enlisted in the Union Army.  In a similar fashion, had I not looked through the card catalog in the Dickinson College Archives and never inquired about the correspondence of a college president’s son, I would not have located a reference to masonic fraternity that played a role in the invasion of Carlisle, PA.

A quick glance at headers or keywords would have led me astray in this instance, so I am glad that I took the time necessary to do a fairly thorough reading of my materials.

Utilizing secondary sources and forming research questions coupled with thoroughness and patience form the most valuable lessons that I took from our research project.  Had I not been able to confront the problems I had been facing in conducting research, it is unlikely that I would be able to achieve much as a history major.  I hope that with this experience I can go forward and put my skills to good use and I hope that my mistakes and achievements can aid other students of history.

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Lessons from my Research Project

The first lesson I learned from my Research Project was to begin with scholarly secondary sources.  Scholarly books and articles provided me with a extensive contextual understanding of my topic before I began searching for primary sources.  Since I was researching Daniel Cloud and Thomas Conrad, who were Confederate Spies, I read books and articles about Civil War Espionage.  As a result, I became familiar with the methods Civil War spies used to infiltrate the opposing military and collect information.  I read through the footnotes in order to determine where the authors found the bulk of their primary sources.  I found that a great deal of them came from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  By searching for Cloud and Conrad in NARA’s catalogue, I located a number of relevant primary documents.  One book I read specifically mentioned Cloud and Conrad and referred to the fact that they were college roommates.  A footnote attributed this information to the diary of their Dickinson classmate Horatio King, which is held in the college archives.  I was able to quickly find the diary and confirm the claims made in the book. 

Another useful piece of advice is to pinpoint specific dates and events relevant to your topic or topics when conducting newspaper research with electronic databases or microfilm.  Before using databases and microfilm, I made a list of dates of relevant events using Conrad’s memoir, Ancestry records, primary documents, and secondary sources.  I narrowed narrowing my searches to the weeks of their college graduations, the weeks following their deaths, and the weeks surrounding their purported plot to kidnap Lincoln, and the months following the publication of Conrad’s memoir in 1892.  By creating these specific targets before conducting my research, I saved a great deal of time and found more relevant sources. 

A final piece of advice is not to restrict your search for archival materials to a certain geographic region, regardless of your ability to travel.  Even though an event may have taken place in a certain location, people involved possibly lived elsewhere at some point or had friends, associates, or relatives elsewhere.  Therefore, relevant materials may be found all over the country.  The most efficiant way to determine where such sources may be located is to determine where the people involved were born, lived, and died.  This can be ascertained by using primary and secondary sources as well as Ancestry.com.  Once you single out a geographic location where someone lived, you should contact the local historical society by phone or e-mail and explain specifically who and what you are searching for.  In many cases, these historical societies will not require fees in order to recieve scans of primary documents or images by mail or e-mail.  I pinpointed Conrad and Cloud’s birthplaces in Virginia and discovered that Conrad died in D.C., and Cloud died in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  I then contacted the historical societies in their hometowns and Vicksburg and therefore discovered some useful primary documents and images.  Regardless of where someone lived, you should access the NARA catalogue online and search for their name, especially if they were ever a federal employee or served in the military.  If the search produces any results, you should fill out the request form on the website in order to recieve photocopies of the documents in the mail.

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