History is not dead.
It is alive and well in this community, commonly known as the Historic Triangle. Throughout the last century, a vast array of books has chronicled the important persons, events, dates and characteristics of the local history of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.
It is extremely difficult to narrow the lengthy list down to a half dozen. The earliest local history was, “Williamsburg – The Old Colonial Capital,” written by lawyer and historian Lyon G. Tyler, president of the College of William and Mary when it was published in 1907.
But here is one such list of must-read history books with a local tie — either by local author or about a local event or person:
» “The Campaign that Won America — The Story of Yorktown,” by nationally known author and historian Burke Davis of Williamsburg, was published in 1970. The splendid narrative records how the ragged Continental Army with the help of the French Army and Navy cornered the British Army at the small village of Yorktown in 1781. The battle ended the American Revolution.
» “Cows on the Campus — Williamsburg in Bygone Days,” by local author Parke Rouse, Jr. came out in 1973. Its vignettes focus on Williamsburg and William and Mary from early colonial days until the era of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the rebirth of the city. Tales of the college concentrate on the 19th-century roller coaster ride of academic success and financial disaster. Appendices list political, local and church leaders.
» “Martin’s Hundred,” by internationally known archaeologist and historian Ivor Noël Hume, tells the saga of the settlement of Martin’s Hundred plantation just a few years after Jamestown. He also describes the story of the archaeological dig that found a palisaded fort and fledging Wolstenholme Towne.
» “Colonial Williamsburg,” an elegant coffee-table history by Philip Kopper, former newspaper reporter and editor and museum devotee, covers the vast history of Colonial Williamsburg. Kopper lived for almost a year in the historic area at the Sign of the Unicorn on Duke of Gloucester Street. He wanted to become acquainted with its people — historians, longtime residents, craftsmen and curators. This allowed him to write “from the perspective of an insider.”
» “Williamsburg, Virginia – A City Before the State,” edited by Robert P. Maccubbin, describes in 23 lengthy vignettes the story of Williamsburg from the days of Middle Plantation to the modern small city it became. Stories relate the Civil War in Williamsburg, World War II, local events, an African-American entrepreneur Sam Harris, creation of small residential subdivisions, and the birth of the theatre.
» “Defend This Old Town,” by Carol Kettenburg Dubbs of Williamsburg, describes in vivid detail the Civil War and the Battle of Williamsburg. Dubbs not only records the military events and related problems, but also provides a lively narrative interweaving the social and domestic life of its residents.
There are another six local historical books that deserve mention: “Rich, Black, and Southern: The Harris Family of Williamsburg (and Boston),” by Julia Woodbridge Oxrieder; ”Jamestown, the Truth Revealed,” by William M. Kelso; “James City County – Keystone of the Commonwealth,” by Martha W. McCartney; “John Tyler — The Accidental President,” by Edward P. Crapol; “We Hold These Truths … And Other Words that Made America,” by Paul Aron; and “Williamsburg (Images of America series),” by Will Molineux.