Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 18, 2012

Mercer County applies for grant to restore historic records

PRINCETON — In an age of computerized printers and cursors, the old record books written in flowing cursive stand out. Their pages are yellowed and brittle, and they record property ranging from mirrors to land, and in some cases, moonshine stills.

Two heavy volumes recording last wills and testaments written during the 1830s and beyond now rest on shelves in the Mercer County Clerk’s Office. Both historic records of life in early Mercer County are being scanned so they can be stored electronically, but the books themselves need restoration, said County Clerk Verlin Moye.

Moye took one of the volumes off the shelf and opened it. There are holes in one of the first pages, and transparent tape holds another page together. Repairing the damage that time has inflicted and removing acid from the old paper will be expensive, so the clerk’s office has applied for a grant from the West Virginia Archives Department, he said.

He looked at some of the old wills.

“The oldest (will) books has slaves being transferred,” Moye said. “They’re from the 1830s. Our oldest books are our highest priority.”

During the 19th Century, the county taxed items most 21st Century tax auditors would not even consider when they were doing a property inventory.

“Guns, land, livestock, your still, looking glasses which were mirrors, and there are a few mentions of slaves,” Moye said. “Of course, if you were taxed, they assessed anything of value.”

If approved, the grants will provide up to $5,000 to preserve the two volumes. They would be shipped to a facility in Vermont for restoration. There are also plans to scan the books’ pages so they will be available on computers, Moye said. Another plan is to store the books in another part of the courthouse and make them available to people who need to see the original documents.

“I propose to put these upstairs in the archives,” Moye said.ӻ

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