Galax siblings' books chronicle history of city

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

John Nunn and Judy Nunn Alley are two of the featured local writers at this weekend's "Authors on Grayson" event, part of the Galax Leaf & String Festival.

Brother and sister John Nunn and Judy Nunn Alley of Galax grew up in a family of bookworms.
Their house, they said, was full of books, magazines and newspapers.
“Anytime I would ask a question, [my mother] would say ‘go look it up’,” said Alley. Because of this, both she and her brother learned how to do their research early on. Today, they both have published works to show for it.
This year, both of them are scheduled to attend the “Authors on Grayson” celebration in downtown Galax, part of the city’s annual Leaf & String Festival. Each will present their newest book at the event: Nunn’s “Galax Remembered: A Collection of Galax History” and Alley’s “First Families of Galax.”
“First Families of Galax” delves back into the early history of the city, beginning with the families who settled to form the area’s first community. Alley, the family historian, said that her idea for the book stemmed from an interest in learning about the history behind her childhood home, which formerly belonged to one of the first residents of Galax.
“I wanted to learn more about them, and researching the history led to the book,” Alley said.
The research, she said, was her favorite part. She began with a copy of Grayson County’s real estate minutes, which were obtained from historian and former library director Laura Bryant.
She would spend hours doing research at the courthouse and thumbing through deed books using the Grayson real estate index.
She opened “First Families of Galax” to reveal a plot map. “The lots are referenced by a block and lot number,” she explained. A list to the side, she explained, was for the plots she couldn’t pinpoint on the map.
“I loved it when I searched for someone and finally found them. It was exciting when I located someone or found a connection to how this person was related to this person. There were some people who stayed and some who just passed through... it’s like putting together a big puzzle,” she said.
This wasn’t Alley’s first project. She has written several books chronicling her own family history, along with a cookbook, an autobiography and two collaborative works with Nunn.
Although he has completed two books, Nunn does not consider himself an author, preferring the term “collector.”
“Galax Remembered,” the second volume, consists of articles, letters and photos that tell a detailed history about the city’s development throughout the years.
Nunn had been collecting bits and pieces of history for a long time, until his collection grew to an impressive size.
“I probably have enough that I’ve collected from The Gazette and Post Herald to fill three books,” he said, and noted that he had to trim down around 50 pages of information for his newest book.
The focal point for Nunn’s book, he said, was a written history by C.L. Martin. “His family started Martin’s Florist, and he lived two doors away from me growing up, and I had no idea he was an author and a researcher,” Nunn said. “The reason for the book was to get his work out for people to read.”
In addition to putting together these historic volumes, Nunn also scans his articles to place in the Jeff Matthews Museum in Galax. Articles are preserved in acid-free boxes, so that others can read them for themselves.
“Johnny enjoys getting together with friends and sharing stories. He’s a people person, and I think that gathering this was just another way of adding to his huge number of friends,” Alley said of her brother’s work.
Individually, Nunn and Alley have two very different ways of doing things. Nunn’s impressive collection paired with Alley’s organization eventually resulted in a completed work.
The process didn’t always run smoothly though, and both Nunn and Alley remembered some of the frustration that came out during those moments.
“Judy lives in Florida, so we had to send a lot of stuff back and forth,” Nunn said. “She would send me back instructions... do this, do that.”
While waiting for a reply once, Alley recalled writing him, “Do you hear the noises? It’s me banging my head against the computer desk because I’m so frustrated!”
“But we got through it,” Nunn smiled.
Both Alley and Nunn hope that the works can be a helpful resource for people who are interested in researching the city.

The two books are available at Chapters Bookshop, Snickerdoodles and Tech 109 in downtown Galax and Martin’s Mini Mart on West Stuart Drive in Galax. For more information about “Galax Remembered” or “First Families of Galax,” or other works by John Nunn and Judy Alley, visit www.galaxscrapbook.com.