From the Editor

Wild West shows, local African American history, a trip to Ireland, and a C&O Railroad tragedy—though it seems unlikely, the disparate articles included in this issue have something in common: all were triggered by a welcome surprise and fueled by the subsequent burst of enthusiasm that drives research.
Doug MacLeod’s discovery delivered quite a jolt. While browsing through old newspapers, looking for information about small, pleasure steamboats on the James River, he came across “Overwhelmed by Rock Avalanche,” the story of a ghastly 1901 rockslide on the C&O Railroad that occurred near Reusens, beneath a series of cliffs known as “the bluff.” MacLeod had never read or heard about the incident, but he was all too familiar with the terrain. “I used to fish up there at the bluff...sometimes at night...for big catfish,” he explains, “and when it rained, we got under that rock cliff to stay dry!”
Roger Garfield, a military history buff who is busy restoring a 1905 home on Rivermont Avenue, was surprised and perplexed by a photo he happened to see at showing British Lancers parading down Church Street. What were they doing in the Hill City? One inquiry led to another, and the next thing Garfield knew, he was on the phone with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, reviewing the Wild West’s extensive 1897 tour schedule. Several months and seven thousand words later, he’s satisfied with the answer.
Ted Delaney, assistant director of the Old City Cemetery Museums & Arboretum, was perusing treasures at a local antique shop when he “discovered an interesting brochure titled, ‘Lynchburg’s First 200 Years: Fifty Fabulous Facts.’ Illustrated with beautiful pencil sketches by local artist Jon Roark, the pamphlet was created for Lynchburg’s bicentennial celebration in 1986.” For Delaney, this collectable memento from the not-too-distant past was interesting not only for the “fabulous facts” it contained, but also for the ongoing research it inspired. Only two of the facts featured African Americans. However, what seems like a paltry offering in retrospect was considered a significant breakthrough at the time. “It was an important early step,” writes Delaney, “in the reevaluation of local history that continues to this day.”
Peter Houck reports, “My wife, Betsy, and I took a fiftieth wedding anniversary tour of Ireland in May 2012, and during that magical trip we stumbled upon Lynch’s Castle.” There, the Houcks were riveted by an exhibit on the topic of “Lynch’s Law”—a tale of romance, jealousy, murder, and justice that claims to be the origin of the term “Lynch Law” in the United States. For Lynchburgers used to attributing “the origins of Lynch’s Law to our own more recent Revolutionary history, a time when Colonel Charles Lynch of present-day Altavista, Virginia, tried Tory sympathizers at his home,” the Irish version was especially intriguing. After searching unsuccessfully for a copy of the story to take with them, the Houcks photographed the display to transcribe upon their return home.
“Sometimes folks don’t necessarily stumble upon something they weren’t looking for,” muses Doug MacLeod. “Instead, it finds them for some reason!”

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