Home News Local news Not for Profit: St. John Historical Society

Not for Profit: St. John Historical Society

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Jan. 26, 2007 — Explore the island's past with the St. John Historical Society.
"We welcome anybody who has an interest and wants to be active," says President David Knight.
The 32-year-old organization meets once a month between November and April at the Bethany Moravian Church Hall. On the following Saturday, the group engages in an activity, such as a hike to a historical spot.
Membership provides an opportunity to do something good for St. John and meet like-minded people, Knight says.
"It's a personal chance for accelerated learning about how people grew up," says board member Robin Swank. Much of the information she has learned is not documented, she says, so going to the meetings and joining activities gives her a chance to get to know people with information and ask questions.
The organization, which now has about 200 members, got its start by a group of people interested in the island's history, Knight says. Many of the charter members are long dead, but the entire community remembers names like Florence Lewishon, who wrote several books on V.I. History, and Ruth Low, who penned St. John Backtime with the late Lito Valls.
One of the founding members, Andromeada Childs, remains active and on the board of directors. In addition to Knight, officers include Margie Labrenz, vice president; Elroy Sprauve, historian; Robin Swank, secretary; Beverly Biziewski, treasurer; Eleanor Gibney, archivist; and Bruce Schoonover, newsletter editor. Other board members include Rafe Boulon, Chuck Pishko and Peter Burgess.
Many of the early members were snowbirds, and the original focus was on helping V.I. National Park with historical matters. Friends of the Park has taken over that role, Knight says, leaving the Historical Society with a new emphasis on the island's culture. When the organization first formed, he says, people weren't aware of the stresses on the island's cultural heritage.
"We're educating the community to have more sensibility," Knight says.
The Historical Society also serves as the community's memory, he says. The organization has also worked hard to bring more younger people into the fold rather than relying on the retirees that made up the early base. Retirees are still welcome, of course.
The organization's website helps get the message out to members and nonmembers. It's chock full of information about upcoming events, includes historical reports made by members. The site has a slew of old and new photos to pique readers' interest. The old photographs are particularly interesting, because they date back centuries. Many are culled from places like the Library of Congress and the Royal Library in Copenhagen.
The group is in the midst of organizing its archives, which include documents gathered since the organization's start, Knight says. In the future, he says, the organization hopes to open an office to make those documents more accessible to anyone who's interested.
For more information, visit the St. John Historical Society's website.
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