The four-foot-nine treasure trove of Robertson County is retiring from her position as the Director of Archives.
On Aug. 31, Yolanda Reid will relinquish her role operating the archives office, but she will continue as the Robertson County Historian and also carry on her role as the chairwoman of the county’s records commission.
“I have a lot that I want to do,” Reid said. “I cannot do it with the demands of the archives director job. I want to work more on the history.”
The retirement will provide Reid the ability to spend even more time enjoying her true passion – research - something she said is hindered somewhat by her day-to-day duties as archives director.
It’s the current records management that fills much of Reid’s day, answering questions from the police and sheriff offices, the TBI, the FBI, parole boards, attorneys and private investigators, according to Reid.
“In our society, with all of our background checks for jobs and identity theft, we are dealing more now on pulling and copying records for current issues than we do with history,” Reid said.
Her departure from her daily duties will leave a tremendous void in the community, according to former Robertson County Mayor Howard Bradley.
“She has been an asset to this community on preserving the history of the county and also our courthouse,” Bradley said. “During the renovation of the courthouse, we didn’t do anything inside or outside, even for something as small as wallpaper or paint, without first consulting Yolanda.”
Bradley said the 20-month project resulted in getting the courthouse to look as close as possible as it did in 1879.
“The Robertson County Courthouse will forever be a living testament to her dedication,” Bradley said.
When Reid graduated from Greenbrier High School in 1971, she was like many kids who weren’t quite sure yet what direction to go in life.
She immediately began working in the accounting department of an office in Nashville.
After spending some time doing family history research at the National Archives in Washington D.C., Reid said it was her own sister who discovered what she should be doing with her life.
“She mailed me a note that said, ‘I think this is the job (researching family history) for you,’” Reid said. “That’s because I have always been an extremely organized, focused person.”
Reid, who loved history in high school, picked up the ball and ran with it, digging up the historical aspect of her family’s history, discovering that her ancestors were very early settlers in Robertson County.
In researching her own genealogy, Reid discovered that Patrick Martin was in her mother’s maternal line.
“Patrick Martin was here in Robertson County pre-statehood and was wounded by Indians,” Reid said. “Several of that Martin family became preachers and started churches in that county.”
Martin was located near Samuel Crockett Station, where a Robertson County Historical Marker is placed. The marker reads, “Crockett’s Station. Samuel Crockett, Revolutionary War veteran from Pennsylvania built a fort east of here in 1789.”
The marker also notes Martin being wounded by Indians.
“Robertson County was hunting grounds for the Creek and the Cherokee Indians,” Reid said. “He walked with a limp after that injury.”
Reid’s mother is the person who passed on the researching trait to her, she said.
“My mother was to Bible study as I am to the study of history,” Reid said. “It was that never ending compulsive need to study. She loved to do it and she wanted to do it. So, being able to share the information about her maternal ancestors was a wonderful thing.”
Preserving county records
While doing the genealogy research on her family, Reid said she became familiar with the people at the state library and archives in Nashville. She enrolled in college courses to help her learn more.
In the early 1980s, Reid was hired to help with the management and preservation of records while renovations were being done at the Robertson County Courthouse.
She worked closely with then county historian Jean Durrett in helping to preserve records that dated as far back as 1776.
A group of volunteers worked long hours helping Durrett and Reid gather and clean the records that had been stored in the basement, the attic and closets at the historic courthouse.
“In looking back at the history of the courthouse, it had dirt roads and all of those windows were open in the summertime, so the dust would get on the records,” Reid said. “In the winter, they used coal to heat, so there was soot. The records stored in the attic were affected by the pigeons that got into the tower and then the attic. We cleaned dirt, soot and pigeon poop off many records.”
The county’s archives opened to the public in 1982 in the basement of the old post office, which was being used by the county for departmental offices.
“Those volunteers were so very good, we were able to make progress that has resulted in our history preservation being in excellent shape today,” Reid said.
It took about 25 years for Reid to accomplish all of the goals of cleaning, unfolding and placing the marriage records, last will and testaments and court cases into acid free folders and into acid free boxes. They all needed to be properly indexed.
For about 10 of those years, Reid said the archives existed without funding, but the commission saw the need for Robertson County to preserve the records in an organized location and began support the office and employees in the early 1990s.
In April of 2000, the archives moved from the old post office, which is now the county museum, into the current office located at 504 S. Willow Street in Springfield.
“We are in excellent shape today,” Reid said. “We have had numerous visits from other archivists, not only in Tennessee, but visitors from other states also have come to see the organization of this archives office.”
J. Mark Lowe, professional genealogist and member of the county records committee, said Reid’s effort and the work of many others have paid off.
“We now have access to virtually all of our county’s records through the efforts of our county commission, archives staff, volunteers and Yolanda’s efforts,” Lowe said.
“No county has gone as far as we have in putting the archives together with its full staff,” Bradley said. “This county has a great history and fortunately, we have a community that wants to embrace it. Yolanda has been the key catalyst to getting that done.”
The archives office is launching a Robertson County Archives website that includes the indexes that Reid and others have created over the past 37 1/2 years.
“It’s all of the records, including marriage records, court cases and meeting and court minutes, just a tremendous amount of records that have been filed and indexed,” Reid said. “A company has been digitizing our documents and once that is completed, it will be live.”
Reid anticipates the website being launched within a couple of months.
Working with the public and finding the answer to a question they have, whether its family history or help in dating an old historic home they just bought, are the things that Reid said she’ll miss most once she retires.
Reid said she will continue to work at the archives’ office on a part-time basis on Fridays.
Yolanda and Joseph Reid, both Robertson County natives, have been married for 47 years. They have three daughters and five grandchildren.
She and Joseph plan to continue their hobby of woodworking. She wants to make available her home telephone number for people looking for guidance or historical information. She requests inquiries to leave a message at 615-379-1237.
There are currently one part-time and three full-time employees at the Robertson County Archives.
Jailyn Grogan, who has worked at the archives’ office for nearly three years, will become the archives director in September.