Digging up the past

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About 60 Blinn students under the direction of Drs. Michelle Raizor and Dawn Marshall visited Camp Hearne on Friday with garden trowels and earth sifting frames. They dug and sifted through areas around a mess hall in Compound One, near the Kneeling Lady Foundation.

The students found the usual large number of 1940s nails, some sheets of ancient-looking tin, a lot of pieces of Camp clay pipes and a marble that was probably part of the decorative boarder around a flower bed. During the dig this time last year, the Blinn class students found a lot of connecting pieces—hardware from German rucksacks and combat belts, pieces that would have held knives, canteens, gun holsters, etc.

Dr. Michelle Raizor, part of the original archeological team that came from Texas A & M University in the mid-nineties, says taking her classes to Camp Hearne for a little dig experience has lots of advantages. First, the relics are close to the surface so diggers can find something in a relatively short period of time; and second, it is an area she is familiar with. Over the last few digs, Raizor and Marshall have had the most luck digging within the concrete frames that once supported the barracks, spaces they will return to in the fall. A third advantage is, once a student finds something worth displaying, his or her article and name may go into a museum display case, as the marble did last week.

Camp Hearne has actually become the destination of many undergraduate and graduate students who are doing research on World War II POW camps. Last week, the Camp received a copy of a research paper from an U. S. Military History student from the University of North Texas, based on his trip to the Camp. On Saturday, another student spent two hours at the Camp researching a project for her TAMU class.

Camp executive director Cathy Lazarus has responded to numerous requests for photos and information made by doctoral students from across the US working on PhD dissertations. An author of historical works came from Germany a few months ago to research his book on treatment of German prisoners in U.S. camps.
Several master’s degree students have made the trek; former Channel 3 News producer Ashley Sigman is completing a documentary about the Camp for her Master’s Program in communications. Producers from National Public Radio and at least one local TV station are planning trips to the area to research future broadcasts.

Although Camp Hearne Historical Site creator Cathy Lazarus always envisioned Camp Hearne as a World War II education center, she and Program Director Melissa Freeman have been surprised at the number of individual students with research projects who have made Camp Hearne a primary source of information. Also last week, a high school student not only toured the Camp but also picked up a copy of an hour and a half long oral history from former guard J. D. Wardlaw. Mr. Wardlaw passed away at the beginning of this month, but his voice is still telling people about Camp Hearne—something his family says he would be really proud to know.
Also last week, a Little Dribblers family came after their two sons were eliminated from competition. The kiddos didn’t seem to mind so much because they really got into Camp Hearne and other Robertson County historical features—including two of its historical bridges—Providence and Wild Cat. Their dad had made trips to the County as a youngster—his grandparents lived at Valley Junction for a time. He wanted to see the Camp his grandparents had told him about and the bridges he remembered from childhood. He and his family found exploring Robertson County history a fascinating experience. With Camp Hearne being the best researched of the over 500 World War II POW Camps, many other people have the same Robertson County experience.

Melissa Freeman | Robertson County News

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