Since the spring of 2008, I have been steadily working on a variety of presentations for national and regional conferences that reflect both research interests in the field of history and pedagogy. My current research is focused in three distinct directions.
One project seeks to examine and analyze the history of borderlands encounters and interconnections along the Connecticut River waterway and Mohawk trail byway, especially in regards to how the two transportation networks intersect. The research will investigate the nature and definition of these intersections while examining the causes and motivations leading to encounters in the specific region of the Northeast. The initial paper on this subject introduced comments about the significant cultural and economic exchanges that occurred, specifically examining the creation of trade networks across cultures, nascent Anglo-European empire building strategies, and the transformation of the Connecticut River and Mohawk Trail as the growing dominance of Anglos and eventually Americans transpired. My intent is to offer a window into the nature of native economy and comment as to the complexity of native and Anglo-European relations, competing social and political ideologies, comparisons between different types of new government systems, and other controversies. Where possible, comments will be made on the nature of Connecticut River and Mohawk Trail prior to European contact, though the focus will remain on the timeframe from the Dutch exploration of the Connecticut River in 1614 through the period of the early republic. The first public presentation of this research was offered at the Dublin Seminar for New England Folk Life conference in June 2009. Information gathered through this research has been discussed with my current Native American history students. Undergraduate and graduate students have aided my research efforts since the fall semester, 2008.
A secondary project reflects an interest in the religious history of the Connecticut Valley and the Northeast in general. I am examining journals, sermons, and account books at the Westfield Athenaeum in an effort to better understand the nature of religion and society in the valley. There is a rich array of material at the Athenaeum and the ministers in question were often so long-lived that their experiences cover much of the first 140 – 150 years or so of Westfield’s existence. The research is informing a course I taught for the first time in the spring semester 2010, Religion and Liberty in Early America, as well as advising on a graduate level independent study based on the sermons and work of Reverend Lathrop from neighboring West Springfield. I am interested in examining the roles of ministers in the region but also the growing number of missionaries who grew up in the area and went on to work among various Native American tribes (eg, Moses Merrill and the Pawnees). Merrill and another figure, Samuel Allis, will be discussed in an upcoming paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in January 2014.
Finally, my dissertation, “Frontier Settlement and Community Development in Richardson, Burt, and Platte Counties, Nebraska, 1854-1870,” was announced recently as one of the top 25 most downloaded dissertations/theses in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s library. With over 3,000 downloads since the spring of 2008, I was given a 2009 University Libraries Influence Award. This research is being edited and will be submitted for consideration at the University of Nebraska Press.