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Learning More than Just History by Michael Muñoz

Historic Sandusky has been extremely great experience for me. When I first learned about Sandusky and found out it belonged to the University of Lynchburg and was here for education purposes. I really felt that I had to take advantage of all that Sandusky had to offer. I spoke with Greg Starbuck and asked for a work study position, but I was not entirely in need of money. I only wanted the experience and the education. My plan after graduation is to work for the National Park Service at National Historic Sites, so I knew this was the perfect situation for me. Greg agreed and hired me in the spring of 2023.  I had no idea at that time what I would learn working at Sandusky. All I knew was that it was an historical site and an archaeology lab, which I learned from taking a tour prior to my hiring.


I started off transcribing letters from the 19th century, and I learned little tidbits of information about the personal lives of people who lived at Sandusky from during the Civil War. The next task I was given was cleaning artifacts in the archaeology lab, and later mending them together. That spring we excavated the kitchen site of the Sandusky plantation, and I was able to assist with the dig. I dug the area I was instructed as well as screened the dirt for artifacts. It was exciting to find any artifacts, which we found nails, glass, and many odds and ends in that dig.


During the summer, I volunteered at Sandusky and helped with upkeep projects around the grounds. I painted exterior base and the shutters of the visitor center brown. Later that summer, I was involved with painting the green shutters of the Sandusky house. I spent a lot of time that summer mending ceramics and was able to reassemble broken chamber pots, wash basins, and a large water pitcher. It was very exciting to take broken pieces of ceramics and discover that it was once useful items, and more importantly, items that were once used by the people I learned about in their letters and memoirs.


When the fall semester began in 2023, I went back to work transcribing letters and memoirs of people who participated in the Battle of Lynchburg on 17-18 June 1864. I learned a lot about the battle from first-hand accounts of the Battle of Lynchburg. I also transcribed accounts of the residents of Sandusky that took part in other battle of the Civil War. I gained a better understanding from these transcriptions about what these battles were like. That same semester, I began giving tours of the site. I was able to use all of the information that I had researched about the property to pass on to other people about how truly fascinating Sandusky truly is.


In the spring semester I was given a task of running down the ownership of the Sandusky property from its original acquisition to current ownership. There was a period in time between the original owner, Charles Johnston, and the owners during the Civil War, George Hutter, that the property ownership was confusing. I was asked to find out what was going on during that time, in regard to ownership, and to provide a timeline of who purchased it, when they purchased it and how many acres of land it consisted of. To accomplish this task, I had to go through records of deeds and wills to find out this information. Not all of the deeds that I needed to accomplish this was readily available, so Greg and I went to the Campbell County Courthouse to find these old documents and make copies to bring back to Sandusky. After that I had to transcribe these documents because they were written by hand in the 1800s and very difficult to read. After transcribing them I was able to create a timeline of ownership and acreage of the Sandusky plantation. I had only made it to the 1930s before I graduated but was well past the portion of time that was most understood. Figuring out the ownership between 1818 and 1841 was a huge accomplishment and gave me an enormous feeling of pride that I was able to nail down information that was unknown prior to me accepting this task.


Sandusky was an absolute gem of experience as a college student. Working there not only gave me the experience I was looking for, but it was invaluable to understand what I wanted to do with my life moving forward. Not only did I get to research important history, but I was able to put that knowledge to good use. Sandusky is truly one of the top historical places in Lynchburg with a vast amount of historical importance. From the fact that it was the Union Headquarters during the Battle of Lynchburg, to the fact that three presidents of the United States had set foot inside the house. I found that I have a deep admiration for historical sites from working at Sandusky and want to spend the rest of my life working at an historical site. Everything from the research to the archaeology to the maintenance of such important places were imprinted into my mind as to how things should be while working at an historical site. Sandusky helped me take my passion of history and hone my skills of working on make a place like Sandusky better. For all those who visit Sandusky and take a tour of the property each experience should be better and better as more information is discovered. For students in the future, it would be a serious missed opportunity to not take advantage of what Sandusky has to offer. I could never tank Sandusky and Greg Starbuck enough for all that I learned from working there. I learned a lot more than just history, I learned how to bring history back to life.


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