During Families Weekend, Oct. 17 through 19, Wayne Stark, director of Sweet Briar’s career services office, was sitting in a lecture given by Lynn Rainville, founding director of the Tusculum Institute, a resource center for historic preservation that makes its home at Sweet Briar.
The lecture concerned Tusculum, ancestral home of Maria Crawford, the mother of Sweet Briar College founder Indiana Fletcher Williams. Once located off Route 29 in Amherst County, Tusculum was dismantled in 2006 and awaits reconstruction in one of Sweet Briar’s old dairy barns.
In her lecture, Rainville mentioned a woman named Sophia Penn. Penn was married to William Sidney Crawford, she said, and they were the parents of Maria Crawford. At the mention of the Penn surname, Stark immediately thought of his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Penn.
He later scoured his genealogy records — which he says were “meticulously kept” by his grandparents — and discovered what might be a link to Sophia Penn, and through her Indiana Fletcher Williams and her daughter, Daisy.
Before Rainville’s lecture, Stark, a native of Cleveland who has lived in Arizona, Kansas, Indiana and Virginia, had no idea he could be related to Sweet Briar’s founder.
Using Family Tree Maker software and assistance from Rainville, the suspicions were confirmed. “I have now hopefully verified everything correctly and am excited to say that I am actually … Indiana’s 3rd cousin 5 times removed and Daisy’s 4th cousin 4 times removed,” Stark wrote in an e-mail.
A lifelong lover of history and genealogy, Stark can trace his genealogy back to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and also to Thomas Rogers, who came to this country on the Mayflower. He’s also related to Mary Draper Ingles, who gained fame after she was taken captive by Indians in 1755.
He has a master’s in history, with an emphasis on the history of the American South, from George Mason University. For a time, he also worked on a doctorate in American history, but stopped to pursue his interest in college career services.
— By Suzanne Ramsey, SBC staff writer