Ranger camp takes kids back in time

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Children from the Little Rangers camp went to the William Johnson House, Tuesday, to learn about the life of William Johnson, a freed man of color who was a barber and businessman in Natchez from 1809 to 1851.

&8220;It really gives them an intimate and fun connection to our and their history in Natchez,&8221; Natchez Historical Park ranger, Jim Heaney said.

The children were split into four groups: architects, archeologists, detectives and historians and instructed to research details of Johnson&8217;s life, such as tax records, diary entries and various artifacts found on the grounds.

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Park ranger, Angie Lurz, said she brainstormed the idea with her colleagues to teach children the many aspects of studying history.

&8220;One of the main points is teaching kids how takes a number of different people to piece together the past,&8221; Lurz said.

Heaney said the purpose for the summer program is to experiment how well it would run then to offer the program to area schools.

&8220;This is the third week of the first year we have done this and so far it&8217;s going very well,&8221; Heaney said.

10-year-old Lane Gordon said he enjoyed learning similarities of Johnson&8217;s life and his.

&8220;I thought it was very interesting how William Johnson loved to hunt and rode horses,&8221; Gordon said.

Julia Kuehnle, 9, learned some funny and tragic facts about William Johnson&8217;s life.

&8220;I laughed when he wrote in his diary about how his cow fell off the bluff,&8221; Kuehnle said. &8220;But I thought it very sad when I found out he was murdered.&8221;

Kurz said she hopes the program will have a lasting effect on the children.

&8220;If this program is picked up by the schools and the kids come back in the fall, it will be interesting to see which kids will be ahead of the pack when it comes to the history of Natchez,&8221; Lurz said.

Heaney said he believes children are very lucky to live and learn about the historical figures of Natchez.

&8220;I think it&8217;s very important to make an impression on them, giving them a sense of pride and making a connection with Natchez,&8221; Heaney said. &8220;With William Johnson being such a unique person in the community of Natchez, the children get a wonderful opportunity to see what others outside of this community may not.&8221;