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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Browse for Aha! moment (Jan. 6, 2016 issue)

I can only imagine her thoughts and feelings. When the late Mary Hattan Bogart opened a trunk in the attic of her New Street home, she found evidence of the work and adventures of the father who died when she was 12.
As explained under a picture of her on the back flap of the jacket for the book she wrote years later, “In 1966, while going through the belongings of her recently deceased mother, Mary found an old trunk containing her father’s journals and photographs taken when he was working as a civil engineer on the construction of the Western Maryland Railway and the Clinchfield Railroad.”
In the introduction to her book “Conquering the Appalachians” (2000), Mary tells of growing up in Erwin. Although it was the hub of the Clinchfield Railroad, which her father served as chief engineer at the time of his death, she did not realize how important a part railroads played in the family’s lives until she returned to the family home 37 years later.
Already a published author, she, with encouragement from others, researched and wrote this account, important to the history of railroading, particularly in the mountains at the turn of the century. It was a personal journey, also.
For information on the construction of the “’Loops’” and tunnels and bridges, you will need to see the book. Not intended as a review of the book, certainly not an exhaustive explanation of the importance of railroads to this community or this country, hopefully the above will help you appreciate my own Aha! moment.
Checking out the bookstore in the basement of the Unicoi County Public Library, my eyes quickly fell on a small leather bound book. I wanted it, whatever the subject. It had a fold-over flap closing and gilt-edged pages.
“HANDBOOK for SURVEYORS” is the title in gold letters on the book’s spine. The letters are a bit faded and the book worn but in great shape, considering the copyright date, 1895. It is a first edition by Mansfield Merriman and John P. Brooks. Credit is also given in print to Robert Drummond, electrotyper and printer, New York.
If you, too, like old books, maybe you are excited with me. I not only knew I wanted it. I knew exactly what I would do with it. Nephew Brandon earns his living with a surveying crew and likes old things.
Opening the book, I appreciated the condition of the pages and some of the illustrations, somewhat. As for understanding the subject matter, the numbers part–no.
Then I saw the handwritten “W. C. Hattan W. L. U. Session ’96 & ’97.” In another space, “W. L. U. Surveying Class.” A printed inscription stated “Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA.”
Yes, I knew it had to be. Looking back at Mary’s book confirmed it. Her father’s name was William Cary Hattan, born on a Rockbridge County, Virginia, farm December 15, 1875. He graduated Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, with a B.S. degree in civil engineering in 1899.
Whether it was among my friend Mary’s finds in her attic I cannot say for sure. Just glad I found it in the library basement.