On St. Simon’s


“Natural paths and arbors were found here by the English, as if formed by the hand of art, with the ripe grapes hanging in festoons of a royal purple hue.”

Petals Plucked from Sunny Climes. Silvia Sunshine

My name is Marsanne Petty, and I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my stuff here and here. If you want some great oddities in your own mail box, sign up at The Southern Sage.



Where Savannah’s Dead Sleep

1901. Via Library of Congress.

What a beautiful sleeping place!

“Bonaventure cemetery is about three miles from town, and is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, even in a land where beauties of nature are everywhere. A wide shell road leads for about half a mile through what seems a vast forest, with the live oak draped in gray moss meeting overhead, while all is still, but for the rustle of the grass, as a little chameleon peeps at you with his bright eyes and then hastens away. After walking quite a distance you come out into the graveyard proper. There under tall trees and waving moss, rare flowers and in sound of the never-ceasing roar and murmur of the ocean, sleep Savannah’s dead.”

Savannah by the Sea.


My name is Marsanne Petty, and I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my stuff here and here. If you want some great oddities in your own mail box, sign up at The Southern Sage.

The Squares of Savannah

Appleton’s Illustrated Handbook of American Winter Resorts

In 1773, James Oglethorpe began his grand plan for Savannah – laying out squares for the community to enjoy and utilize. By 1851, there were 24 squares.

“The number of squares has now been increased to twenty-four—the walks all being paved with granite, and swept daily. Forsyth Park is on a more extended plan than these small squares, containing a large fountain, fine flowers, magnolia grandiflora trees, a small zoölogical collection—all objects of interest, displaying the taste and refinement of a well-cultured people.”

Petals Plucked from Sunny Climes. Silvia Sunshine.


My name is Marsanne Petty, and I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my stuff here and here. If you want some great oddities in your own mail box, sign up at The Southern Sage.

Nature takes over

Originally consisting of 70 acres of Bonaventure Plantation, the cemetery served as a gathering place for family picnics as well as solace for those left behind. Nature was not pleased with man’s tinkering, however, and constantly attempted to regain her lost land. John Muir tells us:

“It is interesting to observe how assiduously Nature seeks to remedy these labored art blunders. She corrodes the iron and marble, and gradually levels the hill which is always heaped up, as if a sufficiently heavy quantity of clods Could not be laid on the dead. Arching grasses come one by one; seeds come flying on downy wings, silent as fate, to give life’s dearest beauty for the ashes of art; and strong evergreen arms laden with ferns and tillandsia drapery are spread over all — Life at work everywhere, obliterating all memory of the confusion of man.”

— A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. John Muir, 1916.

To read more about Bonaventure cemetery, click here.

My name is Marsanne Petty, and I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my stuff here and here. If you want some great oddities in your own mail box, sign up at The Southern Sage.


Analyzing Primary Sources

Using Primary Sources

letter from whistler to paul
Via Library of Congress

Historians look for evidence of their time period in primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include items such as diaries, letters, court documents, the objects people used, and the places they lived. What the historian creates after examining the primary sources is considered the secondary source. This can be in the form of what was found, an analysis of the time period or by tying pieces together to create a story about the past.

History books are generally considered secondary sources, because they are compilations of data. However, a town history can be considered a primary source when you are looking at the author – evidence of the author’s life experiences and world view can be found.

Historians look at primary sources to find evidence from the past. Secondary sources use primary source evidence to figure out the past and create a narrative of the time. Historians dream of finding fresh evidence in primary sources so they can create a new interpretation of a historical time.

Examples of Primary Sources

  • Artifacts
  • Audio recordings/movies/radio programs
  • Diaries, journals or memoirs
  • Interviews – oral, phone or email
  • Letters
  • Newspaper or journal articles written at the time
  • Court documents – birth/death certificate, marriage license, trial transcripts
  • Patents
  • Records from meetings and conferences
  • Documents from organizations and governmental agencies
  • Photographs, postcards, notecards and other ephemera
  • Speeches
  • Art, literature, music and architecture
  • Websites

magnifying glass
Ask These Questions to Learn More About Primary Sources

Historians seek out primary sources to find evidence to answer questions about the past – what happened and why. Answering a few basic questions about the source can help draw accurate conclusions about it.

Answer as many of these questions as you can when looking at a primary source.

  1. What is it? A letter, diary, court document, newspaper article? Was it written on elegant stationery or on scrap paper, in pen or pencil?
  2. When was it written? The date can be a determining factor if the item is a primary source or a secondary source, especially for newspaper articles.
  3. Who wrote or made it? Who was the author? What background information do you know about the author: race, sex, class, occupation, age, geographic region, political or religious beliefs? Does any of this affect the validity of the source, and how?
  4. Can you tell why they wrote it? Was it for personal use or publication? What was the author trying to get across? What was the message or argument of the document?
  5. Who was the intended audience/user? Was the message meant for the public, or for one person (i.e., letter) What impact does that have on the source?
  6. Where was it written?
  7. How was it written or made? What methods were used in the creation of the item?
  8. What evidence does this source contribute to my research? What do the author’s words, or lack thereof, tell you? Remember to consider the silences of a piece.
  9. What questions does this source raise? What do we know not about this source or the author?
  10. What does the source tell us? Is it prescriptive, telling what people thought would happen, or is it descriptive, telling what people thought did happen? Does it describe the ideology of the time, or the behavior? Does the source tell about the actions or beliefs of ordinary people, or the elite? From whose perspective?
  11. What other information do we have about this document or object? What information do we not have?
  12. What other sources are like this one? How might those sources help answer questions about this source? What have others said about this source or ones that are similar?
  13. What else do we need to know in order to understand the evidence in this source?
  14. How does this source help answer your research questions? What are the benefits of using this source?
  15. What are the limitations of this source? What questions can it not help answer?
  16. How does this source alter or fit into current or existing interpretations of the past? How does your analysis of the source fit into this scheme? Do you think this evidence supports or challenges current arguments?
  17. How does evidence from this source alter or fit into existing interpretations of the past?

Gathering as much information as possible about your source will help you determine if it is valid and valuable. Sometimes sources appear to be useful and you later determine that it isn’t, particularly if you find that the author had a completely different viewpoint than you do.

My name is Marsanne Petty, and I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my stuff here and here. If you want some great oddities in your own mail box, sign up at The Southern Sage.

Bonaventure Cemetery

bonaventure cemetery 1901
Via Shorpy

Bonaventure Cemetery was established in 1846 as Evergreen Cemetery. It’s Southern beauty and history now fill 100 acres near Savannah. A description from 1880:

“They have christened it Bonaventure, derived from the Spanish, signifying, Coming good. Here rest, in the unyielding embrace of death, those whose warfare in life has ended, where the huge live-oaks, with overlapping limbs, entwine with their companions, forming natural triumphal archways, while the somber-hanging gray moss clings lovingly to its outstretched arms, waving in the winds like some weird fancy that lingers only on the brink of uncertainty. These beautiful grounds were once the home of the Tatnall family, but have now been purchased and devoted to the dwelling of the dead, whither the living can come and contemplate the change which awaits them all.”

Petals Plucked from Sunny Climes. Silvia Sunshine

My name is Marsanne Petty, and I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my stuff here and here. If you want some great oddities in your own mail box, sign up at The Southern Sage.


What does a historical research project entail?


Have you been pondering your past or your family? Thinking about an old rumor floating around that you don’t know the source of? A burning question that you haven’t been able to let go? If so, you may have a historical research project on your hands.

The problem is, many people aren’t sure where to start when it comes to historical research. A do it yourself project doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a little bit of prep work and some dedication, you can solve your own history mystery.

While planning is an important part of any research project, you also want to be flexible. Follow unexpected leads when they come up. Get lost down the rabbit hole. Sometimes just reading more information leads you to new and better things that you might not have found otherwise.

  1. Why are you conducting this research? The first thing you need to know is… what you want to know! Why are you doing the project? What do you hope to find out? Sometimes the answer to this question is easy, but sometimes it’s not. Maybe you’ve stumbled across a primary source such as an old diary or batch of letters and you want to know more. Make a list of the questions you want answered.
  1. What has already been done? Are you building on someone else’s research, or starting fresh? You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so it’s always a good idea to see what has already been done. If you’re working on a family history project, ask around to see if other family members have already started research. Ask if they will share what they’ve found. For other research projects, search on variations of your question to see if someone else has already started working on it. That does not mean you should not pursue your project
  1. What does your project look like overall? What is the general look of the project? How big or small will the project be? What are the big goals that you hope to accomplish?
  1. What do you want the end product to look like? What is your final result going to look like? What do you want to hold in your hands when you are done with your project? Your end goal will ultimately determine what items you look at during your research. Do you want to write a book, create a photograph collection, edit a collection of related papers, write teaching materials, or create a film? Keep your goal in mind when looking at primary and secondary sources.


  1. What or who do you need to complete your research? What do you need to complete your research? Other than the basics – such as pencil and paper – think about things that you might need. A scanner? You’ll want to have high quality scans of pictures and documents if you plan to print them out later. Library cards or subscriptions to various libraries and online search sites are useful. Keep in mind, however, that not all online libraries or databases require a subscription/card. Will you be talking to people, asking questions about the time or place you are researching?
  1. How long will your project take? Estimate how long it will take you to review the sources needed to find your answers. Then add about 40% more, because it will always take longer than you think! Do you want to spend that much time on your project? If not, you’ll need to reevaluate your question and amend your plan, or outsource your research.
  1. How much will it cost? Estimate the costs of your research project. Include the cost of equipment you must acquire, telephone and internet fees, user fees for libraries and subscriptions, photocopies, and meals and travel. You’ll also want to include any fees you pay to others for their services, including researchers, transcribers and other assistants.
  1. How will you fund your project? How are you going to fund you project? Will you pay expenses and fees out of pocket, or are you looking for outside funding? Grants require forms to be filled out, deadlines to meet, and specific timelines and documentation that you should be aware of. Prepare contingency plans for anticipated grant money in case funding falls through.
  1. Conduct background research. Conduct background research on the sources you find. Verify them. Learn as much as you can about the source, including the time and place from which it was written. Determine if your sources are valid before proceeding.


  1. Conduct primary source research. Dive into your source documents, such as vintage books, journals and diaries, letters, published papers, newspapers and other items. Search for your keywords in the documents, as well as similar words. Be careful when using OCR documents, as misspellings can creep in easily.
  1. Review your progress and project. Periodically review your progress in terms of time and budget. Are you where you need to be at this point? Are there things that need to be done but haven’t been? Amend your original plan if needed. Take into consideration the sources you have or have not found, and their impact on your plan. Consider your budget – have you run out of money? Consider your commitment to the project. Has your interest grown or decreased? Do you need to outsource part of the work?
  1. Cite everything. Historical research is built on citations. And no matter what your project looks like, you are conducting historical research. Citations are the proof that you have found information that answers your question. At the very least, include enough citation information that you can find the original document again at a later time.
  1. Evaluate your research findings. What does your research look like at this point? Have you answered your question, found what you were looking for? While it can be useful to get someone else’s opinion at this point, it is not necessary. Regardless of what others think, it is ultimately your project, so be as thorough as you feel is necessary. Decide if you need to do more research, or if you can move forward with your project.
  1. Create an end product. Organize and present your results. You can create a bound book, paperback book, or an unbound manuscript. Photographs can be presented in photo book format. You can make films, videos, or other recordings. Your end product should make you happy, and you can share it with friends, family, and other people.
  1. How to store your project and sources. Store your primary sources (or copies of them) using archival storage materials and conditions. Avoid dust, dirt, excessive handling, damp, acidic or corrosive environments. Keep two copies of everything, stored in different locations. Ask friends, family, and local organizations if they want copies of your research. Share freely!

Completing a historical research project can be a large or small undertaking, depending on what your question is and how you plan to carry out the project. There are many decisions that go into planning and completing a project, but this is a reasonable summary to get you started.

What are you working on? Leave a message in the comments to share your current project.
My name is Marsanne Petty, and it might be a sin… but I’m a researcher through and through. I chase obscure topics into the end of oblivion and compile what I find for all to read. Sometimes my family thinks I’m crazy, but my dogs are good with it. If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, check out my other stuff here. If you want some great oddities in your own mailbox, subscribe at The Southern Sage.


Blackwood’s Magazine via Wikipedia.

CURIOUS BOTANICAL LIBRARY. (From Blackwood’s Magazine.)

I must never cease to remember the ingenious and valuable present of the late king, Lewis Buonaparte, to the collections of the library at Dresden. It is the work of a German, and consists of 135 vols. formed at wood. – The binding of each book is formed of a different tree: the back is ornamented with pieces of the bark, and such mosses, lichens, and other parasitical plants as characterize the species. Each volume opens, as it were, in the centre of the leaves, and contains the bud, leaves, flowers, fruit, farina, and every other part in any degree illustrative of the nature of the tree. It affords a complete and scientific exemplification of 135 trees begining [sic] with oaks, and ending with the juniper; and, in fact, may be considered as a brief and perfect epitome of the German groves and forests. In the case of plants, such as the rose and juniper, the ingenious parts of which as not sufficiently large for the purpose required, the binding is formed of some ordinary wood, sprinkled over with fine moss, and then elegantly barred with the rose or juniper wood, giving the volume the appearance of a very valuable old manuscript with iron clasps. On the whole it is one of the most ingenious and complete productions I have ever seen.

[Newbern Sentinel. March 24, 1821.]

What a shame more information can’t be found about these fascinating books. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Since we haven’t any pictures of these gems, let us amuse ourselves with some other vintage botanical prints instead.

Autumn Day Dream via Art and Home

While searching for this treasure, came across this little tidbit about William Howe (1619-1656 – only 37 when he died!), who apparently had quite the botanical library, although in the “true” book form:

How, or Howe, William, 1619-1656, a native of, and physician in, London, for some time a captain in the king’s army, was the first English botanist who gave a sketch of “Flora,” – viz.: Phytologia Britannica natales exhibens Indigenarum Stirpium Sponte emergentium, Lon., 1650, 8vo.

“This list contains 1220 plants, which (as few mosses and fungi are enumerated) is a copious catalogue for that time, even admitting the varieties which the present state of botany would reject; but there are many articles in it which have no title to a place as indigenous plants of England.”

An index of plants in the Phytologia Britannica is annexed to Robert Lovell’s Enchiridion Botanicum, Oxf., 1659, 2 vols. 8vo; 1665, 8vo.

How also pub. Matthew de L’Obell’s Stirpium Illustrationes, Lon., 1665, 4to. See Athen. Oxon. Wood tells us that How

“Left behind him a choice library of books of his faculty; but how they were bestowed I cannot tell.” – Ubi supra: Bliss’s ed., iii. 419.

What would not the Hookers and Londons of our day give for a sight of this curious botanical library?

[A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors. Samuel Austin Allibone. 1874.]

Boy, that was quite a mouthful!

Midnight Botanicals via Deqor

How ironic is it that we’re looking at the work of a German botanist, and we find also the research of a German forest ranger? And quite fascinating it is. Peter Wohlleben recently published “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries From a Secret World.” This book features real life talk about the social network of trees.

Peter Wohlleben via The New York Times. Photo by Gordon Welters.

“I use a very human language,” he explained. “Scientific language removes all the emotion, and people don’t understand it anymore. When I say, ‘Trees suckle their children,’ everyone knows immediately what I mean.” – Peter Wohlleben

Wohlleben discusses the nature of trees as living beings, capable of beauty only, as opposed to the value of the trees as a commodity.

But wait! Could this be the same botanical library, a full 70 years later? Some details sound similar, but some are different.

A Curious Botanical Library. – A beautiful collection in the museum at Cassel, Prussia, is that of 500 different European trees, arranged in the form of library. Each specimen is in the shape of a book. The back is formed of the tree, the sides, of the perfect wood, the top, of the young wood, with narrow rings; the bottom, of old wood, with rings wider apart. The volume is a little box, containing the flowers, seed, fruit and leaves of the tree, either dried or imitated in wax.

[Silver Cliff Rustler. Silver Cliff, Colorado. August 26, 1891.]

Yes, we find some more information about the curious botanical library. This piece seems to be the original version of the section quoted previously:

Museum of Cassel in Northern Germany. – In the collection of natural history at this museum is a very interesting set of volumes, as they appear to be; though, when examined, they prove to be no real library, but specimens of the woods of 500 different European trees, made up in the form of books. The back is formed of the bark; the sides, of the perfect wood; the top, of the young wood, with narrow rings; the bottom, of the old wood, where the rings are wider apart. When one of the volumes is opened, it proves to be a little box containing the flower, seed, fruit, and leaves of the tree, of which it is a specimen, either dried, or imitated in wax. Something of this kind, though with a more especial reference to the age of trees, might be made an interesting portion of our own collections in natural history, both public and private. – Chronicles of the Seasons. (There is a similar collection, formed in Mexico and California by the late Dr. Coulter, now in the Herbarium of Trinity College, Dublin.)

[The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette. 1845.]

And yet we see that this particular museum was not high on the radar for visitors or citizens, even with the curious botanical library AND an unusual tree on its premises.

The Collection of Natural History is not very extensive or excellent. Besides the usual quantity of stuffed birds and quadrupeds, there are specimens of the woods of 500 different European trees…. A trunk of a laurel which grew in the orangery here, 58 feet high and 2 feet in diameter, is another botanical curiosity. Among the fossils are two specimens of the gigantic Chama shell dug up by the side of the road to Frankfort; this shell exists at present only in tropical seas. The Museum is shown by the Director, who receives a fee of two dollars; when the party is numerous, 8 or 10 gute groschens are enough from each person.

[Handbook for North Germany: From the Baltic to the Black Forest, and the Rhine, from Holland to Basle. John Murray. 1886.]

Alive and Well Floral via Art and Home

Now let us move on to the mysterious Dr. Coulter, who is found easily enough, and see what he was up to.


No. 13. Pinus Coulteri, Don. — Big-Cone Pine, Coulter’s Pine.

Dr. Thos. Coulter, another indefatigable Englishman, had the good fortune to discover the Big-Cone Pine in 1831, together with P. muricata and several other interesting trees, while on his way from Mexico to Alta California. At Monterey he fell in with Douglas, who thus describes him: “Since I began this letter Dr. Coulter, from the Central States of the Republic of Mexico, has arrived here, with the intention of taking all the plants he can find to DeCandolle at Geneva. He is a man eminently calculated to work, full of zeal, very amiable, and I hope may do much good to science. As a salmon fisher,” he adds, showing that this industry was, as now, prosecuted at that place, ” he is superior to Walter Campbell, the Izaak Walton of Scotland, and he is a beautiful shot with a rifle, nearly as successful as myself. I do assure you,” he continues, ” from the bottom of my heart it is a terrible pleasure to meet a really good man, one with whom I can talk on plants.”

[California State Print. 1888.]

desert rose
Desert Rose via Frontera

Coulter was a busy man, indeed. Right from the start, he began showing interest in the outdoors. See portions of an article from the December 1895 issue of the Botanical Gazette:

Thomas Coulter was born in the year I793 near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, 5 and showed an early liking for outdoor sports and natural history. He was prepared for college by Dr. William Neilson, author of a formerly well known Irish grammar, through whom he acquired an interest in the antiquities of Ireland. His education was continued at Dublin University where he showed marked proficiency in the mechanical and physical sciences and attracted particular attention for his knowledge of entomology and botany. His local collections of insects and mosses even at this time were large and valuable. In 1817 he was graduated with the degree B. A., and continuing his graduate work he took the degrees M. A. and M. B. in 1820. He had already spent one or two summers in Paris, making there extensive collections of the plants of the Jardin des Plantes.

The first recorded news from Coulter, after his departure for Mexico, is furnished by DeCandolle, who in the year 1828 received from him a collection of fifty-seven species of living Cactaceae, forty-seven of which DeCandolle immediately published as new, with no reference, however, to Coulter’s movements. Additional new species from this collection and remarks on his former descriptions were published by DeCandolle as a memoir six years later. A similar collection of Cactaceae, consisting of seventy species and varieties, was sent by Coulter to Trinity College, Dublin, for the botanical garden there in charge of Mr. James T. Mackay.

The collections of Cactaceae sent to De Candolle seem to have contained the only ones of Coulter’s plants that reached an avenue of publication previous to his death, with the exception of five new Californian pines described in the paper by David Don, and the Cupressus coulteri of Forbes. But Professor W. H. Harvey, upon his appointment as Coulter’s successor, in 1844, proceeded with the arrangement of the Californian and Mexican plants, issued three short papers on them, and, apparently in the years 1846 to 1848, distributed the greater part of the duplicates, the first set going to Kew and others to Dr. Asa Gray and Dr. John Torrey in America. The specimens were sent out under more than 1,700 numbers, unfortunately arranged systematically instead of chronologically.

It is evident from Coulter’s published work and from references to him in the writings of his contemporaries that he was not merely a collector but a botanist, a man of general culture, and an enthusiastic field naturalist and geographer. Regarding his personal characteristics Dr. Romney Robinson says: “He had every requisite for success among half civilized or savage races: a noble and commanding person; great stature, strength, and dexterity in the use of arms; good temper, courage, and presence of mind: a combination of qualities, which Bruce only, of modern travellers, possessed in the same degree.” Coulter was the first botanist who penetrated the Colorado Desert, remarkable for the aridity of its climate and the peculiarities of its flora. His collections were very large, and their enumeration, had it been published in a single report, would have formed probably the most valuable contribution to North American botany ever issued. It is hoped that this effort to record an outline of his work will serve to show to some extent the importance of his scientific explorations to the advancement of botany in America.

[The Botanical Explorations of Thomas Coulter in Mexico and California. Frederick V. Coville. Botanical Gazette. Vol. 20, No. 12. December 1895.]

Botanical Wisdom via Deqor

Decades later, the Morton Arboretum was founded in 1922 by Joy Morton, whose father was the founder of the original Arbor Day. While not artistic specimens of the trees, the Arboretum is making steps to preserve trees and their history, with the motto “Plant trees.”

Via the Morton Arboretum

The mission of The Morton Arboretum is to collect and study trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum maintains living collections on display across naturally beautiful landscapes for people to study and enjoy, and to learn how to grow them in ways that enhance the environment.

This is the world that our children will inherit. It is our duty to make an effort to ensure that they receive a world as pristine and beautiful as what we once had.

Jasper News – December 16, 1938

Some short pieces from the Jasper News on December 16, 1938. These pieces are mostly about who played bridge where and other social gatherings, although there is also the wedding announcement for Mary Katherine Harrell to Harry T. Reid as well.

Names mentioned include: Harrell, Reid, Corbett, Wethrington, Harrison, Fuller, Frink, Bryan, Adicks, Baker, Stephens, Crouch, Beck, Chandler, Biddle, Tuten, Bridges, Adams, Burley, Lewis, Myers, Hunter, Lewis, Wilkes, Register, Kratzert, Hewitt, Dobson, McGhin, Stone, Tyre, Henderson, Folsom, Shepherd and Black.

See this newest batch of articles today.

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