One of Botetourt's native daughters has put together a new book about the county.
Botetourt County by Debra Alderson McClane is part of the Images of America series issued by Arcadia Publishing. The 128-page book became available at local retail outlets on February 12.
This picture history of the county showcases its many towns and communities, members of the Armed Forces, the county's rural roots, its industry and commerce, schools, churches and social groups, historic homes and natural resources.
McClane pulled images from local libraries, the Botetourt County Museum, Historic Fincastle Inc., The Fincastle Herald archives and private collections. She spoke with many local historians and life-long residents of the county's communities during the nearly two years she worked on the book.
The author comes from a long-time Botetourt County family. The Alderson family moved to the area in 1770 when John Alderson, a Baptist minister, settled here. Her parents reside on a farm in the Trinity area that has been in the family since the 18th century. Her father, John Alderson, runs a well-known insurance agency in Daleville.
McClane, a 1983 graduate of Lord Botetourt High School, said she is proud of her heritage and was delighted to be able to share it. She realized that with the Jamestown 2007 commemoration, the publication of a new Botetourt County book was prudent. When she saw an advertisement for writers for Arcadia Publishing, she decided to get to work.
The book was never a chore. McClane has a master's degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia and is a historic preservation consultant in Richmond, so it was truly a labor of love. She already spent time in Botetourt visiting family, so it was easy to locate pictures and research her project.
She has always been interested in old photographs and the stories they tell. “I can remember sitting down with these old boxes of photographs that we have at home and sifting through them,” McClane said. “There is always so much you can tell from a photograph.”
Being able to speak with folks about their memories was an added bonus. “The local citizens were a rich source of information, personal histories and storytelling,” McClane said. She found it hard to contain her excitement when someone cautiously brought out an old picture, saying, “I don't know if you'll be interested Š” Often it was just the thing she was looking for.
The book features photographs of people and places that are a rich part of the county's heritage. “I hope it will introduce visitors to Botetourt County and remind some folks locally about things that have disappeared or things they haven't thought about in a while,” McClane said.
Botetourt County is McClane's second book. She and her husband, Patrick, co-authored The Architecture Of James Gamble Rogers II In Winter Park, Florida, published in 2004 by the University Press of Florida. It is available on Amazon.com.
A second Botetourt book might be forthcoming. McClane has many pictures available. “Someone could do a book just on Fincastle or Buchanan,” she said, noting that both towns have unique histories.
She decided to become a historian in part because of the history of the county. Botetourt is a historic setting and has been fortunate to have folks live in it who value the county's role in the founding of the nation, McClane said.
“I think you're born with that sense” of history, she said. “There are a lot of people who don't care at all about history. I always look at things and wonder why it is there, or how it came to be, or how you end up at a place. There's a lot of stuff that has to go before to get to where you are.”
Botetourt County is a book that “documents things that have disappeared,” McClane said.
The pictures show how the area became what it is today and offer the reader a unique glimpse into a rich heritage of folks who know how to work, how to play and how to move forward without forgetting where they came from.