About 50 volunteers from the fields of history, geography, anthropology, biology and others gathered at the 56-acre site, the former home of critically acclaimed author Corra Harris.
"First off, the opportunity to do hands on work makes us better prepared for our work," said senior history major Scott Wilbur. "I love history; this is the career I want to do. The opportunities in class have been invaluable ... I love doing this stuff."
The major focus of Saturday was the sunken garden section where volunteers worked to expose the stone wall of the garden. Senior history major Amanda Rucker said the effort is part preservation and part investigation as the group is trying to figure out what the location was used for and how it looked when Corra Harris lived there. The volunteers cut back sticks and weeds from the wall using hedge clippers and trimmers.
Dr. Tamara Livingston, Associate Director of Museums, Archives and Rare Books, said that the group is mindful of the historical property and are acting as caretakers to preserve and maintain the site "so properties like this don't disappear."
Rucker has volunteered at In the Valley several times since her first trip with a class. "I keep coming back because I find it interesting to see the progress."
Other maintenance at In the Valley included removing ivy from the buildings and cleaning the inside of several buildings. "You should read Cinderella," junior history major Carter Ivey joked as he swept the floor of the Corra Harris House. "We are preserving history. It keeps alive the traditions of the past." In the past two years KSU has also repaired roof leaks and capped chimneys in its ongoing conservation plan.
Among the many features of the site include historical artifacts not limited to the mid-19th century. A stone tool, a scrapper, was found that may be from 3,000 B.C. On Saturday Dr. Terry Powis, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, conducted a shovel test, a systematic survey of the area to learn more and see if he could find artifacts to confirm or deny the origin date of the scrapper. Powis said the location of In the Valley, particularly where the Corra Harris House is currently located, would have been ideal for people moving through the area because the spot is close to water, high up, and easily defensible.
The property also is home to several hundreds of various plants including the rare and state-protected Cumberland Rose Gentian, a small, native plant that grows six inches to a foot tall with pink blooms. According to Wayne Van Horne, Associate Professor of Anthropology at KSU, there are only a couple of dozen populations of this plant left in the world.
The plant was discovered by Wayne Van Horne's son, senior biology major James Van Horne during the inventory and documentation of plant life. James found the plant in mid-winter; however he said, "We had to wait till it bloomed in July to verify."
According to Wayne Van Horne, the plant occurs in fire-maintaining environments, places where lightning fires are common. Today most fires are suppressed by humans and there are few Cumberland Rose Gentain.
"A lot of the populations are on road sides," James Van Horne said. Plants growing on the road are in danger of being mowed or sprayed. He said that because of this plant's location it can be protected. Saturday the two did a floral inventory of the site.
"Everything we do at Kennesaw we hope ultimately engages the students," Dr. Catherine Lewis, Executive Director of Museums, Archives and Rare Books said. Kennesaw State University was given In the Valley in 2009 as a gift from property owner Jodie Hill. Saturday was KSU's fourth volunteer work session.
Livington said Kennesaw State University is grateful for the gift and hopes to give back to the community and eventually open the property up to the public. "Its a beautiful property and we would love people to know about it."
For more information on the In the Valley property or the Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books, contact Anna Tucker at 770-420-4699 or atucke20@kennesaw.