By Pat Pratt
There are two things Violet Barnett of Troy absolutely loves – bicycling and history.
So when it came time for the Triad student to come up with a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she combined both with a bit of technology to create a unique window into the history of our town.
Her project, “Bike through History,” will be a cyclist-friendly virtual tour which includes information on seven historical locations, an interactive map and even rider safety tips.
“Each stop along the tour discussed relationships and culture during the time period,” Barnett said. “The discussion on the tour allows the community members to visualize how the past affects the development of the community today.”
Locations featured in the project include a history of the William Jarvis house and Paul Simon house, which Barnett said were chosen to highlight the local celebrities and their contribution to the town.
Led by John Jarvis, the family relocated to the area in the early 1800 from Virginia – abolitionists who sought like minded people committed to the ending of slavery. William Jarvis was born in Troy and spent his life here, encouraging emancipation up until Illinois became a free state in 1848.
Paul Simon, the former editor of this publication who came to be known by his bow tie and horn-rimmed glasses, served as US representative and US senator from 1975 to 1997.
“Two of the stops, the William Jarvis house and Paul Simon house, were chosen to highlight the celebrities in the area and their contribution to the town,” Barnett said. “In addition, these locations also allowed the opportunity to discuss and educate individuals on the National Register for Historic Places. The Tri Township Library provided the opportunity to discuss the rights current community members had versus those enslaved in the region before Illinois became a state.”
Barnett also focused on the town’s mining history, transportation and education.
“The mining industry gave us the opportunity to discuss the diversity in culture that can be found in town and the region today. The transportation stop across from the old Star Bakery in Main Street allowed the interpreter to discuss the difficulties of travel when Troy was first established to be available to transportation today,” Barnett said.
“The stop at the Silver Creek Elementary School provides the children with an opportunity to hear the differences between them attending school and their parents, as well as children attending school in the past in Troy.”
The spark that led Barnett to the project was a historic bicycle ride sponsored by Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. After pitching it to the Girl Scot committee overseeing projects, she also got a hand from her sister Kaitlyn Barnett
“Kaitlyn has a background in historic preservation and public history from Southeast Missouri State University,” Barnett said. “She taught me how to conduct historical research, write a historical narrative that allows the audience to participate in the conversation and helped create the story map.”
A number of local organizations also helped Barnett get the project up and running. Donating time and money to get the project on wheels, no pun intended. Those include Troy VFW – Lady Auxiliary, Troy VFW Post 976, Kelly Tracy Apparel & Design, Bike Surgeon, The Cyclery, Full Deck Print & Design, Neal’s Plumbing LLC, Troy Police Department and Digital Artz.
The story map of the historical bike tour, which is an interactive platform that allows users to participate in the tour virtually, has been posted on the spotlight section of the city website. In addition, a sign with the QR code linking to the storymap will be placed in the Tri Township Park near the bike trail, Barnett said.
Barnett, who plans to become a teacher at the elementary level after graduating and attending college, has been a member of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois since she was a child. She said the organization is instrumental in helping empower young women.
“Girl Scouts is an important organization to me, because it pushes me outside my comfort zone,” Barnett said. “When I started my Girl Scout Gold Award Project, I dreaded standing in front of an audience to speak. Through my project, I have learned that preparation and confidence gives me the opportunity to successfully speak in front of others.”