4-H club has unusual focus: the Civil War

Posted: April 20, 2013

The Winchester Star

Volunteer 4-H club leader Bob Meadows (standing) quizzes Mandy Simons (from left), Frederick County 4-H agent; Cash Forero, 9; Noah Forero, 14; and Hunter Forero, 12, about the Civil War. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — A new 4-H club in Frederick County wants to connect young people to the area’s Civil War past and, possibly their own ancestry.

Mandi Simons, the county’s 4-H agent, and Bob Meadows, the new club’s volunteer leader and an amateur Civil War historian, discussed the group during a recent interview.

The main focus of the new club is to generate interest among current and prospective 4-H members in the area and, eventually, to explore the area’s Civil War history, Meadows said.

“The thing is, there’s not time to really teach that topic [in schools],” he said. “A lot of the kids don’t understand how it’s affected us.”

Since significant Civil War sites — such as Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas — are within two hours of Winchester, Meadows said the club will be in a good position to take field trips once it is more established.

“We’re here in the heart of everything [more than three times as many battles were fought in Virginia than in any other state],” he said. “They’ll be able to learn some history on their own, that type of thing.”

The club will also have a genealogy aspect.

“I’d like to see the kids be able to develop a topic,” Meadows said. “A lot of them have ancestors who were in the Civil War. If you know that, why not write something about that?

“When you have an interest in what you’re doing, you can relate it to others and people can’t take away your personal stories,” he added.

Simons said about 10 children have expressed interest in the club so far. From 180 to 200 4-H members are enrolled through the county’s Virginia Cooperative Extension office.

“We don’t have a project for history in the 4-H curriculum, so to do something like this kind of opens up another door for opportunities for kids to do a history project,” she said. “We have a lot of interest in our community with the kids that live here, and adults, too. They really love that time period.”

Virginia does not have a history-oriented 4-H club, but Westmoreland County once had a similar organization, Simons said. “I’ve wanted to do a history project for a long time.”

Civil War weekend camps have been conducted for 4-H members, added Meadows, who served as the Virginia 4-H director between 2000 and 2007.

For additional information about the new 4-H history club, call Mandi Simons at 540-665-5699.

— Contact Matt Armstrong atmarmstrong@winchesterstar.com