One night I decided to peruse the internet and found a site that accounted for my second positive experience with University Archives. I was searching in the Kentucky Digital Library and ended up at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at The University of Kentucky website. There were no results for “Camp Nelson”, BUT there was a hit titled “History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project”. From reading about the locality, I knew that “Hall” was another name for the refugee slave community Camp Nelson and hoped I’d find a relative in the index. Right off the bat I found two Overstreets!
I used the contact form to see how I could access the interviews, since the index only gave call numbers. For weeks I heard nothing. I finally decided to call the Center and inquire about the interviews. It turns out that I had used the wrong method of contacting them. The employee I talked to was very helpful and informed me that they were in the process of transcribing the interviews. He also promised to have the person in charge contact me and possibly get me access to the audio content. A few days later I received an email and was given links to the two Overstreet interviews! I listened to Norman’s recording. Although the quality was pretty bad, I was overwhelmed to hear Norman say that he was related to Ed and Josie Overstreet! The recordings were from an oral history project from the mid 1990’s. This is from the History of Hall Kentucky Oral History Project website:
“History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project
This project provides information on the community of Hall in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The community grew out of the refugee camp established at Camp Nelson during the Civil War, in which John Fee, founder of Berea College, had a large input. The interviews are with people who lived in Hall or nearby communities such as Poortown or Camp Nelson on the Kentucky River. They include information about race relations, the history of settlement at Hall in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, work in farming and at the local distillery, and community organizations such as the Brass Band and the Camp Nelson String Band.”
Sallie Overstreet turned out to be Norman’s wife. There are still no transcriptions available, but I can see why, since I had a really hard time transcribing Norman’s interview myself.
On my trip to the community cemetery on Payne’s Lane last year, I photographed Norman and Sallie’s gravestone, without knowing exactly who they were. There are 19 interviews in the collection and I am sure I am related to a few more of the interviewees! This is an invaluable, FREE, resource, proving my point of the importance of University Library holdings.