Students at St. Mary's College are encouraged to prepare a capstone project called the St. Mary's Project, or "SMP." Bonnie chose to research the circumstances surrounding the 18th century arson of Cokesbury College, which stood in Abingdon, MD (which is not far from home). The Governor of Maryland offered a $1000 reward for the identification of the arsonist that was never claimed.
During her research, which included visiting archives in Baltimore, Madison, NJ, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, she found that there had been an archeological dig in the 1960s that uncovered artifacts that were probably from the College. Problem was, the artifacts' location was unknown and there was no known report on the findings. In the best tradition of Jessica Fletcher (remember Murder She Wrote on TV?) Bonnie found the missing artifacts in Calvert County, MD (not far from St. Mary's). She took custody of the artifacts and conserved them at the Maryland Archeological Conservatory before arranging for their permanent care and storage at the United Methodist Archives located at Drew University in Madison, NJ.
Meanwhile, while examining old documents and letters written by Francis Asbury, one of Methodism's founders, and the driving force behind Cokesbury College, Bonnie discovered a riddle written by Asbury in a letter that leads, when compared to Psalm 1, to her astonishing conclusion that Asbury used the riddle to accuse James O'Kelly--a dissident former Methodist minister--of being the arsonist.
Bonnie's SMP (besides earning her an A+) attracted the attention of the College's PR department, who sent off some press releases. Soon, Bonnie was featured in a front page article in the Baltimore Sun, the lead story on the front page of the features section (called People, Places and Things) of the Aegis of Harford County, and was the subject of a television news report on WBAL-TV11--Baltimore's NBC affiliate. Bonnie was featured on Baltimore's Fox45 on Sunday, June 7 in conjunction with her appearance and talk at Cokesbury Memorial United Methodist Church, which is located adjacent to Cokesbuty College's location. She was alsointerviewed and photographed for an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. You can see the article here.
MSNBC has carried the story on its website and the story was distributed nationally by the McClatchy Tribune News Syndicate. Many blogs devoted to the United Methodist Church and Methodist history have linked to the stories, as has a blog that discussed various journalism topics, and TV stations in Charleston, SC, St. Louis, MO, Amarillo, TX, and Bismarck, ND have used the material. Websites as diverse as firehouse.com (for firefighters), the American Association of Collegiate Registrars, UnivSource.com and Archeology Today have linked to the stories. The facsimile of the Sun's front page appeared on this news site in Madrid, Spain. The WBAL-TV story was posted on You Tube, and information from the Aegis article is now a part of the Harford County Historical Timeline published by the Historical Society of Harford County. Most recently, the St. Mary's River Gazette wants to ran a story about her findings and that the Maryland Historical Magazine, a 103 year-old peer reviewed quarterly journal is potentially interested in publishing her findings.
Bonnie discussed her findings and showed some slides of the College and photos of
artifacts from the archeological dig to an enthusiastic overflow audience gathered at You can
see the photos here.
You can see the photos here.
Bonnie was interviewed on the WYPR-FM Maryland Morning with Sheila Kast program about her research on Deccember 22, 2009.
Click on the links above or to the right to see video from WBAL-TV ,the article from the Baltimore Sun, the article from the Aegis, the St. Mary's River Gazette, the UMConnection, photos from the presentation, the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, or the WYPR interview.