Every community has local history, and all local history is important and worthy of being preserved and passed on to future generations.

There is a tendency to write off the contributions of a community’s founders and the generations that came before the present day as unimportant meanderings into a misty past that has no bearing on the daily lives of a town’s present and future citizens, but that is a dangerous thing to do.

As Edmund Burke stated: “Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

In addition, it is vital to remember the contributions of a community’s past citizens and honor them, as they built the foundations of the current citizens of a community’s daily lives via much hard work and sacrifice.

The present citizens of a community are building their corporate community lives on the foundations of the efforts of those who came before them. That can provide both positive and negative lessons to prevent a community’s current citizens from making the same mistakes that had negative results in the past.

If a certain action in a community’s history has had repeated negative results since the founding of the community, then it behooves the current citizens of any community not to choose to repeat that choice in the development of the community.

The only way to learn about the negative effects of certain choices in a community in the past is to study the community’s history to learn if what seems like a good idea in the present seemed like a good idea multiple times in the past and had disastrous results every time that idea was put into action. Therefore, the study of a community’s history is a vital subject of study.

One of the primary objections to studying a community’s history is that there is little interest in studying what seems like the mundane details of the daily cultural, economic and social lives of a community’s past citizens due to the pedestrian nature of their contributions to the community’s life in the past and that their lives have no real impact on the present life of a community’s citizens.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The local business owners who sacrificed much of their lives to provide goods and services in the past built up their communities in the past and provide positive lessons in entrepreneurship and grit in their efforts to build up a community in good times and bad.

Teachers and school administrators of the past educated multiple generations of students who sometimes stayed in their communities and used the knowledge that their teachers imparted to them to build up their communities.

Health professionals, first responders, and hardworking employees of the businesses in a community all worked to serve the community with a spirit of giving and cooperation that deserves to be studied. We can learn many lessons, both good and bad, from the choices made by a community’s past citizens.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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