Founding family offers funding for new library
The facility would serve, in part, as a genealogical research center and gathering place for family members.
BY SABINE C. HIRSCHAUER
Published August 6, 2004
ISLE OF WIGHT -- Descendants of one of Isle of Wight's oldest families will donate $500,000 for a genealogical research library in the county - if they can find a place for it.
The Fulgham family, whose local roots date to the mid-17th century, is looking to team up with a partner in Isle of Wight to invest the money in a new building or an addition to an existing one.
The county, its historical society, St. Luke's Church and Paul D. Camp Community College have courted the family's money but don't want to maintain and staff a future library.
"It's a great thing to receive a donation," said Don Robertson, assistant county manager. "But you have to be careful what kind of strings are attached to it. You have to look if the project is in the best interest of the citizens of Isle of Wight."
While part of the future library would be designated to the family's research, the remainder could be used for other functions, family members say.
The Fulgham family's time in America dates to 1641, when Capt. Anthony Fulgham first set foot on land off the Pagan River. The Fulghams owned a tobacco warehouse near where the Smithfield Station restaurant is today, and the family operated a ferry in Smithfield.
"Since our family's history began in Isle of Wight, the county was a logical choice," said James Fulghum, a retired North Carolina business owner and eighth-generation family descendant who is spearheading the library fund-raising. (Family members spell their name Fulgham or Fulghum.) The family envisions a building of at least 5,000 square feet - about the size of the Carrollton library, Fulghum said.
If a new building is unrealistic, then the family would support creating the research center on the second floor of the Smithfield Library or sharing a new, satellite library in Isle of Wight with Paul D. Camp Community College.
"We are anxious to accommodate the Fulgham family," said William Laine, of St. Luke's Church. Church officials have said they wouldn't mind adding a structure.
The Fulgham family maintains close ties to the nation's oldest standing brick gothic church. The family sold land to build St. Luke's back in the 17th century. The Isle of Wight Historical Society has lobbied for turning one of the county's numerous historic houses into the research center.
In the 1980s, the Fulgham family, which keeps track of its roots nationwide through a mailing list of 1,500 active members and an ancestry database of more than 16,000 names, founded the Fulgham-Fulghum Family National Association.
Two years ago, family members started talking about finding a home for the association.
"We wanted a national gathering place so that our members can meet and research their roots," Fulghum said.
This year the association formed Fulgham-Fulghum Family National Association Foundation, a nonprofit organization. The foundation has raised about $100,000 toward the $500,000 target.
James Fulghum said he plans to visit the county at the end of the month. He said he hopes to have the location and a partnering organization chosen by then.
"It's important for every family," Fulghum said. "to find its roots."
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