On Tuesday, November 13 beginning at 7pm, Al McGeehan will discuss and share artifacts relating to the Civil War. The Lowell Area Historical Museum’s program encourages those interested and curious about history to attend this event. McGeehan is the “former Mayor of the City of Holland, teacher and long-time Civil War collector, writer and speaker” as indicated in promotional material for the event.
A Brief History
McGeehan can labeled as a long time Civil War historian. “It’s a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.” he explains. As a young boy, he would watch as his own father’s interest in the Civil War led to collecting items from this period in history. This led to his own love and interest in a trying time in United States history.
The American Civil War took place over the course of four years beginning in April 1861 as the Union and Confederacy were at odds over slavery. The Civil War came with a high cost in lives and made for a divided country. After the war ended, it took years for the country to rebuild as former slaves continued to fight for recognition and civil rights.
According to McGeehan, he sees a parallel with current news headlines and those which lead up to the start of the Civil War. He calls the current national atmosphere a “sad reality” saying friends and family members are experiencing a “fracturing” of relationships over political views, similar to what was happening in the 1800s. A country not liking the outcome of a presidential election was a catalyst in the start of the war – a comparison McGeehan notes in today’s political climate in the U.S. He feels telling the story of the Civil War will help history not repeat itself and has even more relevance in the past two years.
Sharing of a Collection
Items from McGeehan’s collection will be on display during the presentation. He will explain their meaning, how they were obtained, and provide information on the time in history from which they came. McGeehan’s Great Grandfather was in the Civil War. Some of the items in his collection belonged to his Great Grandfather and have been passed down through the years.
Each item in his collect bears a story. One example is a weapon obtained by his father. A bayonet used during during the war was being used to hold up tomato plants in a garden. When his father asked the owner if he could have the item, which at the time wasn’t seen to have much value, he was also given a belt and buckle which was located on a chicken coop.
McGeehan takes most pride in items which belonged to his Great Grandfather. But he also has items belonging to other. One item he will be bringing to Lowell is an item with a soldier’s name and unit on it along with an eyewitness story pertaining to the item.
Those attending the presentation are invited and encouraged to bring in their own Civil War era artifacts – photos, letters, items from the war, etc.. McGeehan hopes he can help with identification and even incorporate them into the discussion.
A Look Into the Past
Join Al McGeehan as he shares his knowledge of the Civil War and its importance as a part of history and lessons learned for the present. He has spent 50 years presenting information and sharing items from his collection with people across West Michigan.
An original photo of his Great Grandfather is still an item he is missing. There’s no doubt McGeehan will continue to look for a photo, which will make his collection more complete. And along the way who knows what other artifacts will come into his possession. And regardless of what comes his way, he’ll continue to share his expertise on the Civil War with those interested in learning about this period in time or history in general.
McGeehan will present information on the Civil War and share some of the items in his collection on Tuesday, November 13 at 7pm in the lower level of the Lowell Charter Township building. Don’t forget to bring your own Civil War era items if you have them.
Photos courtesy of Al McGeehan and used with permission.