MCDANIEL — John and Annie Matthews enjoy preserving history.
The couple was recently honored by the North Carolina Society of Historians (NCHS) with the Award of Excellence. They were recognized for their work with the Old School Sorghum Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. History officials also applauded them for preservation and restoration of the Old McDaniel School during the annual awards banquet in North Wilkesboro.
“Thus saving it from demolition … another building that would have been lost to future generations if not for their efforts,” officials stated in recognizting the Matthews couple for the award.
NCHS labeled the Matthews as “treasures” and worthy of receiving the award.
“We’re honored because we think it’s pretty special,” Annie Matthews said.
John Matthews felt the same way.
“I’m really honored by it,” he said, humbly. “I don’t know if I really deserve it or not. We’re just trying to keep the school alive and that’s our main goal in life at this point in time.”
The Sampson County residents believe it’s important to save history.
“We love history and we like old things,” Annie said about places such as the schoolhouse, which is a museum too.
John enjoys cooking and growing sorghum every year there too. During the festival, there’s no fee to participate in the annual tradition, which provides gallons of syrup to visitors. John and and his wife have been hosting the event at the school house for about 20 years.
“It’s a way for citizens to come out and enjoy something that doesn’t cost them anything,” Annie said.
During the event, children also enjoy making rope on an antique machine. Annie was looking forward to creating a new tradition by displaying old feed sack dresses — another attempt to educate the public about the old days. But the Sorghum Festival was cancelled in October because of Hurricane Matthew.
When it comes to preserving history, the Matthews appreciate the support from family and friends as well.
“Family is everything,” Annie said with a smile.
NCHS was organized in the 1940s to collect and preserve the state’s history, traditions, artifacts, genealogy and folklore. The purpose of NCHS is to help and encourage the exchange of information between members and to recognize those persons who fulfill the society’s objectives.
During the awards ceremony in November, NCHS celebrated its Diamond Jubilee and 75 years of service. Awards were presented in several categories relating to local, regional or statewide historical people, events or places. Some of the categories included multimedia, museum, publisher awards, book awards and historian recognition.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.