What makes for an interesting town history? It’s not names and dates. It’s stories. You’re trying to attract visitors, and the best way to do that is pull them into the story.
We don’t care about a list of names of prominent town founders. We do care about the story of the woman who won 160 acres of land in the lottery, and had it surveyed out into lots for the town’s settlement. Who was she? Why did she choose to make a town, and not a farm? (Read the story of Mattie Beal, and the founding of Lawton, Oklahoma.)
We aren’t impressed that agriculture was a key industry. Tell us the story of a particular farmer. Or how specific crops were brought in and why. Did immigrants bring crops or farming techniques to the area? Did one crop fail, and lead to the introduction of something new? (Read how corn failed and wheat took over in Kansas. And notice, while you are there, how they use quotes from real people to give the story some life.)
The list of businesses by itself doesn’t mean much. You know the type of list I mean, “a feed mill, three saloons, two hotels and one doctor.” Find something interesting. I’ve heard all my life that early-day Alva, Oklahoma Territory, had something like 23 saloons on the downtown square alone. Surely out of all those saloons, we can find one interesting story! (Read how the saloon keepers subsidized the baseball players who made Alva’s early reputation.)
I’m telling you, there are interesting stories in your town’s history! Go find them, and write up a town history that draws people in.
by US Geological Survey, 1901.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.