A fifth grader at Norris Elementary recently won the Captain John Wilson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution history essay contest. When she heard the news, Caitlyn Tam smiled broadly.
"I had confidence in myself," she said. "I love to write, and my Dad knows a lot about Nancy Hart, and Mr. Snider gave me about 10 books that had Nancy Hart in them."
Caitlyn said she chose to write about Nancy Hart because the topic of the contest was "espionage during the American Revolution," and she thought "everyone else would write about Paul Revere."
"I had no clue Nancy Hart was the only girl with a county named after her in Georgia," Caitlyn said. "I think there would probably be more girls than one."
A better appreciation and knowledge of history is the reason the local DAR Chapter sponsored an elementary essay contest for the first time in several years, according to Essay Chair Virginia White. She said the contest was open to fifth graders in McDuffie County and in Harlem. Schools were asked to submit their top five essays.
"We modified the program a bit for the elementary level," Ms. White said.
According to DAR literature, the essays were judged for historical accuracy, adherence to topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation and neatness.
"When I heard it was supposed to be 300-600 words, I thought that would be impossible," Caitlyn said. "But I like to read books about history so I wanted to do it."
Norris Elementary QUEST teacher Jerry Snider introduced the contest opportunity to his students and gave them some class time to work on it. But Caitlyn said she needed more time - three weeks, because she had to continue her regular assignments.
"It gave our best writers an opportunity to showcase their writing ability," Mr. Snider said. "Each student had to research a famous patriot... This year's topic gave the students an opportunity to be very creative in their responses."
Separating fun tales from fact was an additional lesson Caitlyn learned during her project. While doing online research, she discovered sites that gave different facts. She said her media center teacher, David Donahue, helped her discern which sites are reliable, and Mr. Snider helped her deal with the grammar-check on the computer.
But her support and inspiration wasn't only from school. Caitlyn said she inherited her love of history from her father who taught history before becoming the assistant principal of Thomson Middle School.
Ten-year-old Caitlyn is the daughter of Neal and Connie Tam. She has one older brother, Bailey, and a younger sister, Kaylee.
"She is a teacher's dream," Mr. Snider said. "I simply gave her the assignment, a little advice, and some editing suggestions. She did the rest."
Ms. White said Caitlyn was the over-all winner of the contest. Dearing Elementary also had a winner, Shanikqua Hudson, who has since transferred to Warren County. Shanikqua wrote in the first person narrative about Paul Revere being a part of a secret spy organization, which was the beginning of today's FBI.
The two winners will be awarded at the regular February meeting of the DAR at the Thomson-McDuffie library. Caitlyn's essay has been forwarded to the state level for the state contest.
I Spy-Espionage During the American Revolution, Nancy Hart
By Caitlyn Michelle Tam
Hi, my name is Caitlyn Tam and I am going to tell you about one of the bravest people I know. That wonderful, brave, and terrific person is Nancy Hart.
Nancy Hart was born in Pennsylvania or North Carolina in 1735, and she died in Henderson county, Kentucky, in 1830. Nancy Hart was six feet tall, with red hair and blue eyes with a fiery temper. She was also cross-eyed. Nancy had a few nick names that are listed later on in paragraph #4. Her husband's name is Benjamin Hart. Her name before marrying Benjamin Hart was Ann Morgan. Nancy, her husband, and her eight children had moved to Elbert County from Carolina. Nancy had eight children, but the one that mainly stayed and helped her was Sukey (the others were married or had moved away).
Sukey is Nancy's daughter who was age ten when all of this happened. When the British soldiers came into Nancy's house while the men were out in the fields, Sukey (Nancy's daughter) went to the spring by their house and blew the conch shell that they keep by the spring to communicate with Benjamin out at the fields.
Colonel John Dooley was a patriot and was murdered by the Tories which then made Nancy have an enormous hatred for the Tories. While the soldiers were in the house Nancy threatened to shoot whoever moved. Nancy then told them that they better surrender or she would kill them. The soldiers decided to surrender. Then her husband walked in the door and he wanted to go ahead and shoot all of them dead, but Nancy said that she would not kill them because it would do no good and that they had already surrendered. The soldiers dragged the dead body out the door and Nancy got the rest of the soldiers hung. Also Nancy sang "Yankee Doodle" while the soldiers were being hung.
There is a saying, "Poor cross-eyed Nancy- She was a honey of a patriot, but a devil of a wife." Another nickname Nancy had was "cross-eyed War Queen" and "War Queen."
Did you know that Nancy spied on the British and reported all of the movements to the Patriots?
She is the only woman who has a county name in Georgia. She also has a county seat named after her. They tried the name Nancyville, which failed. So they made a compromise and the name was Hart County. The county seat name was Hartwell.
Nancy Hart was a brave woman and was very helpful with gaining our freedom for the United States of America. I am grateful that Nancy Hart gave up her time to be sure that we had our freedom today. Again, Nancy Hart was a great woman! Let God bless the U.S.A. and let us remain FREE!