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Historian talks Story of the Shenandoah Valley

Deirdre SinnottActivist, historian and author Deirdre Sinnott presented “A Story of the Shenandoah Valley: The 1836 Escape, Arrest, and Rescue of George and Harry Bird” for the Shenandoah County Historical Society’s quarterly meeting at St. Paul’s Heritage Center in Edinburg on Sept. 18.

The presentation was the culmination of extensive research by Sinnott and local historians to uncover the 180-year-old story of two enslaved men who were encouraged by their dying mistress to run from their home in Woodstock and find the path from slavery to freedom.

The event was very well-received by those who attended. According to Barbara Adamson, president of the Shenandoah County Historical Society, “Deirdre’s thorough research and enjoyable presentation of the compelling story of Harry Bird and George captivated the audience. There was applause at the conclusion when listeners realized that these two men did indeed escape to live their lives in freedom. Because the story began in Shenandoah County, the audience appreciated the local connections and the opportunity to envision life in the County and the Shenandoah Valley during that era. We also are grateful for this valuable research that has revealed a story previously unknown. Thank you, Deirdre!”

Sinnott, has given talks at historical societies, national and regional history conferences, and colleges and universities around the country. She is also the author of an upcoming historical novel entitled, The Third Mrs. Galway.

When asked about her motivation for this particular research project, Sinnott said, “I was particularly driven to find information that would shed light on this time in history, a period that is all too rarely discussed, based on facts or through the eyes of those who lived through it. The story of George and Harry Bird and the Geyer family in Woodstock is vital to help provide insight into the lives of enslaved African Americans, the families to which they belonged and the inner-workings of society in the American South in the years just prior to the Civil War.”

For more information about Sinnott visit her website, For information about upcoming Shenandoah County Historical Society events visit