The deadline for my column is looming. It’s Thursday night, 8:30 p.m., and I have to submit my column tomorrow to be published in next Friday’s paper. (That would be the one you’re reading today.)
I failed to make a timely appointment with the man I needed to interview, so I’m sitting at my desk, casting my eyes around the room, hoping for some inspiration.
Aha! My eyes fall on a framed high school diploma given to me by my friend Barry Price. He gave this to me recently to be added to the collection of Winyah School memorabilia I’m collecting for the Winyah Auditorium.
The State High School Diploma is issued to Mary Gardner, who has completed the fifteen standard units required to graduate from Winyah High School. The date on the diploma is June 8, 1923 and is signed by William C. Bynum, Superintendent of Georgetown County Schools, and L.T. Truett, Principal of Winyah School.
Okay, there are almost a dozen Gardners listed in the telephone directory for Georgetown, but it’s a little late for me to be calling each one to find out if they were related to ‘my’ Mary Gardner.
I go online to Ancestry.com for a little investigation. If she graduated from Winyah in 1923 she must have been born in the early 1900’s. I enter the name and likely location of birth and find that the 1910 United States Federal Census lists a Mary C. Gardner living in Georgetown.
Okay, now I’m assuming a lot … that this is my Mary. Assuming is bad business when you’re supposed to be writing a history column based on facts.
The 1910 census shows that Mary C. Gardner is a white four-year-old female who was born in 1906. She lives with her grandmother, Mary E. Conklin, and other Conklin and Gardner relatives.
I know, by now, that I should have started this search long before tonight because tomorrow is Good Friday and, most likely, the Georgetown County Library and the Probate Office will be closed. What’s a girl to do … besides panic?
I turn to another of my favorite online sources, “Georgetown County Cemeteries”, created by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Georgetown Committee.
I love this Web site. Over 100 volunteers visited 22,109 graves in 209 cemeteries in Georgetown County and compiled their findings in a book, available at the library, and online.
As usual, I’m getting caught up in reading the names and locations of these cemeteries and momentarily get sidetracked from my mission of finding Mary Gardner.
Among others, there’s the Yellow Rose Family Plot in the Oak Grove section of the county, the Pumpkin Hill Cemetery in Lambert Town, the Ford Burying Ground off Johnson Road, and Potter’s Field, in the block where the Ice House, the Bank of America, and the old Winyah gym now stand.
It’s getting late, and I’m nowhere near finding my Mary Gardner. On the Colonial Dames Web site I click on Elmwood Cemetery and find graves for two people who were listed as living with Mary in the 1910 census.
They are Annie Conklin Gardner, 1882-1955, and James Edward Gardner, 1877-1924. Were these Mary’s parents? Will I ever learn to start researching topics weeks ahead of time?
I don’t always wait ‘til the last minute, but when I do, I sometimes have to ask Zena and Tommy at the paper for an extension, and they always oblige. But it’s hard to look Zena in the eye at church on Sunday if I’ve just begged her to give me a few more days.
So, here you go, an unfinished investigation into the identity of Mary Gardner who graduated from Winyah in 1923.
If you have any information, call me at 843-446-4777, or email me at email@example.com.
To Barry, The Colonial Dames, and Mary Gardner … thanks for the memories.
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