EDGEFIELD — As Edgefield County's archivist, Tricia Price Glenn is in charge of a huge collection of documents that provides fascinating information about the past.
“We have hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – of records that have been generated by the county since 1785, when it was established, and they go up to the 1940s,” Glenn said.
The files are complete because there has never been a courthouse fire locally, and Gen. William T. Sherman didn't come through Edgefield during his Civil War march through the Carolinas, according to Glenn. The paperwork from the past that she oversees includes deeds and estate appraisals.
“We also have coroner's reports from the 1800s,” Glenn said. “That's fascinating material to me because it has the details about how people died. It wasn't necessarily because of something like the measles. It often was from being shot or being beaten to death or in an unusual accident. I also enjoy reading all the jail reports from that era and the chain gang records. It's an amazing amount of material.”
Glenn is writing a book about crime in Edgefield County that is based on what she has discovered in the archives.
“I'm listing every single crime I find in the course of my work,” Glenn said. “I thought I would be done in six months, but it has been three years since I started. I've got over 1,000 pages and I've only gotten to the 1870s; that's how prolific crime was in Edgefield.”
Glenn's office and the archives' vault are located on Courthouse Square in the town of Edgefield.
People come from all over the nation to visit Glenn, many because they are interested in uncovering their family histories. The Edgefield County records are especially valuable to African-Americans doing genealogical research because they contain the names of numerous slaves that were bought, sold and inherited.
“Estate records are a great way for African-Americans to track their ancestors, which is so difficult prior to the 1870 census,” Glenn said.
On Dec. 16, Glenn helped Arletha Chappelle and two members of her family search for material about their ancestors. Chappelle, who lives in Washington, D.C., said well-known comedian Dave Chappelle is her cousin. She was mainly interested in finding out more about one of her forefathers, Ben Chappelle, who was a slave.
In her 11 years as Edgefield County's archivist, Glenn has met famous people such as rapper 50 Cent and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a Baptist minister who is a civil rights and political activist.
Curtis James Jackson III, who uses 50 Cent as his stage name, came to Edgefield County several years ago for the filming of “50 Cent: The Origin of Me,” an episode in the VH1 Rock Docs television series that first aired in May 2011.
With Glenn's assistance, 50 Cent uncovered details about the life of his great-great-great-grandmother, Jane Jenkins. Glenn, who appeared in the episode, took 50 Cent to the house where Jenkins had worked as a slave.
“In a strange twist, that house is the house where I live, Carroll Hill,” Glenn said.
Sharpton descends from a slave named Coleman Sharpton, who was owned by Edgefield County resident Alexander Sharpton. Alexander's son, Jefferson Sharpton, married Julia Ann Thurmond, and they lived in Florida.
“After Jefferson Sharpton died, Julia Ann was left to run their plantation in Florida alone, and she needed help,” Glenn said. “She made an appeal to Alexander Sharpton, and Coleman was one of the slaves that was sent down to Florida to her.”
According to Glenn, Julia Ann Thurmond was related “in a roundabout way” to the family of the late Strom Thurmond, who served for nearly 50 years as a United States senator.
However, “there is not an existing blood relationship between the Al Sharpton of today and the Thurmonds,” Glenn said. “Coleman was a slave who was sent to Florida to help out Julia Ann, and he used Sharpton as his last name when he was given his freedom.”
Even though Glenn has enjoyed her brushes with fame, they're not why she enjoys her work so much.
“It's a great thing when you meet someone that everyone knows and is interested in,” said Glenn, who is a native of New Zealand. “But you know what? Ancestry is just as important to the little old lady who lives in some little place in Mississippi. It's great to be able to help someone like her who is looking and thousands of other people. That's one reason why my job is very interesting.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Tricia Price Glenn has been Edgefield County’s archivist for 11 years.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Tricia Price Glenn has been Edgefield County's archivist for 11 years.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Edgefield County Archivist Tricia Price Glenn looks through some of the county's records.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Edgefield County Archivist Tricia Price Glenn tries to locate some information in the county's records.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Edgefield County Archivist Tricia Price Glenn, center, helps Arletha Chappelle, left, and James Schneider do genealogical research.×