Students Capture Piece of Cedarville History

by Madi Cannon, Public Relations Writer

Cedarville University students made important progress this spring preserving a unique piece of local history. 

Students in an American Women Writers class transcribed several journals of Martha McMillan, a farmer’s wife who lived 4 miles outside Cedarville in the 19th century.  

From her wedding day in 1867, McMillan wrote in her journal daily until her death in 1913. As a result, she created 46 years of memories, totaling more than 10,000 pages.

In 1986, McMillan’s grandson donated the collection to Cedarville University, where the journals provide valuable insight into Cedarville history and the founding of Cedarville University. One of McMillan’s sons, Homer, was in the first graduating class in 1897. 

In 2015, Dr. Michelle Wood, associate professor of English, began collaborating with Lynn Brock, dean of library services and professor of library science, to engage students in recovering the journals. 

“The students enjoy being able to touch and work with the journals,” said Brock. “There’s a depth to paper and ink, so they enjoy being able to do the recovery work on a primary work.”

This spring, nine students each transcribed two months from McMillan’s journals. The class culminated with students creating an exhibit about McMillan, on display at Cedarville’s Centennial Library until May 6.

“They had to suggest a theme they saw going through the different journals,” explained Wood. “The displays suggest how that theme, and then the journals, actually speak to an audience in 2017.”

The recovery project allows students to capture a piece of community history through a work with a primary and unpublished text, which is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students.

“I think a benefit for the students is seeing that the ordinary person’s life has significance,” said Wood. “When you read her journal, you can relate because you can see that her ordinary life had eternal significance.”

While the American Women Writers class has achieved much, many more of Martha’s journals are waiting to be transcribed. Wood hopes to continue involving future American Women Writers students in this valuable recovery project so that readers can easily decipher the journals’ cursive entries, which are challenging for most modern-day readers.

All 46 of McMillan’s journals have been scanned and digitized as originally written for online viewing in the University Digital Commons. The journal collection can be viewed at http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/mcmillan_journal_collection.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,760 undergraduate, graduate and online students in more than 100 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.