“I held the receipt for the sale of a slave in my hand. This paper represented the sale of a human life. You have to sit down and take a deep breath and think of the significance of that. It shocked me,” he said, choking on his words.
“It's a moment in time that people don't think exists in Texas. When you think about slavery, you think of the Deep South. What most people don't realize is that on the eve of the Civil War, Texas, per capita, had as many or more slaves as the state of Virginia,” Aday said.
An historian working on the Texas A&M Commerce HeirLoom project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Aday found three more receipts for slaves in towns like Honey Grove Texas, less than 60 miles from McKinney. He traveled to rural libraries, museums, historical and genealogical societies and digitized 5,000 historical documents and photographs, uploading to a database for worldwide access. He also trained people to use the software, so they could continue to preserve their local history.
“According to legend, Honey Grove was named after Davy Crockett who stopped there on his way to San Antonio. A lot of honeybees built colonies in the grove where he stayed. Back then to make paper, people pounded cotton and poured it into a mush. That’s one of the reasons we still have these documents. They are more permanent than the paper we use now. It was gratifying to take the history of these little Texas towns and make them available to everyone around the world,” he said.Aday began his pursuit of a career in history at Collin College. He earned an Associate of Arts degree from the college in 2005, a bachelor’s degree in historical studies from The University of Texas at Dallas in 2007 and a master’s degree in history with an archival administration concentration from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2010.
“My experience at Collin College did so much to prepare me for graduate school. The first semester, I took a class from Dr. Kyle Wilkison, and I knew immediately that I was in the right place. He and Dr. Joan Jenkins enhanced my critical thinking skills. They challenged students, had high expectations for thoughtful discourse and expected high-level work.”
As a Collin College student, Aday created text for a plaque in a permanent exhibit at the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano. Prior to leaving the college, he received the Plano Conservancy for Historical Preservation Scholarship.
“I tell people up front that I am proud to have attended Collin College. The professors at Collin are engaged with their students. I developed relationships with the faculty that I still maintain to this day.”
Aday’s extensive resume includes the city of Dallas, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Firefighters Museum. He was also the curatorial assistant at Dallas Heritage Village, where he was responsible for a 27,000-item artifact collection. Recently, he traded the flat, Texas topography for glaciers, granite and California’s High Sierra.
Today, he is an archives technician with the National Parks Service at Yosemite National Park. With more than four million visitors annually from all over the globe and numerous departments with years of paperwork, Aday’s job is daunting. Recently, he had the opportunity to view an old map of the valley, which he dated at about 1940. It included campsites that no longer exist and the location of the Native American Indian village of the Miwok Paiute tribe. With its hand-drawn craftsmanship, the map is a work of art in Aday’s eyes, and the sight of it sent his mind reeling through the history of the area.
“Yosemite was ‘discovered’ by the white settlers. In 1852, the U.S. Army chased groups of Indians who had attacked a mining camp. The Indians fled into the valley, and the Army chased them into what is now called Yosemite,” he said.
Whether he is making discoveries to share with the rest of the world in his capacity as an archivist or stepping outside the office into the very nature he is trying to preserve for all eternity, Aday is reveling in his new surroundings.
“We live in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. There is no light pollution. I stood 10 feet from a lynx. The deer come down every evening. There’s the Conifer forest and Black Oak Pine, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan and Half Dome, the huge granite features that are destinations for rock climbers from around the world. It is a breathtaking experience and a dream destination.”