Do you ever think that what you are doing in your life doesn’t really matter? Or wonder if one person’s work can really make a difference? We often think of someone like the character of George Bailey in the Christmas movie classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to be reminded of the impact just one person has on a community.
As I visited with Angela Daniels Upchurch, the driving force behind the Milton Renaissance Foundation Museum and Visitors Center, I began to see locally here in Caswell how the work of one person can bring to life so much for so many.
If you have driven through Milton, NC in the recent past you likely have noticed a number of restored buildings there that stamp a time in history. If you take some time to investigate, you can learn a lot more about our county and the relevance of Milton to the state of North Carolina.
One of the buildings there that has been restored to its original grandeur is the Milton State Bank listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Owned by the late retired Superior Court Judge James M. Long and his Caswell resident wife, Cathy, they restored the magnificent building in downtown Milton. Now officially named the Milton Renaissance Foundation Museum and Visitors Center, Angela, the operator of the facility, works to preserve and communicate the historical narrative of the town of Milton that was established in 1796. As the mission of the organization states, the museum shares the story of Milton through display, archival and preservation of artifacts and through educational and cultural programming.
Angela’s family has roots here and she grew up in the area. Her family moved over to Person County when she was young, but the ties to Caswell were strong. Like probably many of us, having been through the town of Milton time and again heading to Danville, she had always appreciated the nostalgia of the town. When she began to learn more about Milton, she realized how many did not know about the history of Milton and its importance at one time. When the time in her life was right, it became her mission to be part of bringing more people to Milton to both live and visit.
Through much hard work and dedication, Angela has been able to lease the museum from the Long family and establish a nonprofit museum/visitor center/foundation so that the community (and others) can benefit from the preservation and artifacts within the walls there. Her tireless dedication to the town has positioned the bank museum among the other historical buildings providing a legacy for years to come. Many are familiar with the Thomas Day presence in Milton and the work Angela does at the Milton Renaissance Museum and Visitors Center complements that and provides more of the story of Milton.
Although COVID has put a damper on the programing offered, the museum welcomes quests by appointment and looks forward to returning to its previous schedule of events. The visitors to the facility have included notable names such as Bland Simpson, a Kenan Distinguished Professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that you may recognize from various contributions to ‘Our State’ Magazine. Visitors also include an interesting mix of passers by from as far away as Germany and visitors traveling across the region on motorcycles. With the variety of programming provided, supporters from Durham, Hight Point, Reidsville and other surrounding areas attend.
During the pandemic, Angela’s extensive newsletters provide a continued opportunity to engage with the museum and history of Milton. An in-depth look at the various historic homes in Milton is being featured monthly. If you would like to learn more about the museum and Milton, visit the website (https://milton-renaissance-foundation-museum-of-milton-visitors.business.site) and sign up for the newsletters. Due to COVID the facility is open by appointment and Angela welcomes you to contact the museum to schedule a time. In addition, this spring Angela is hopeful that outdoor programming can be safely offered.
In closing, we can all participate in not underestimating the power of one person who has an idea and a passion for a purpose larger than themselves. It is quite compelling when you think about it...the many ‘George Bailey-like’ people in our midst.
As publisned in The Caswell Messenger February 17, 2021