Jane March passionate about Zuni history

Published 9:12 am Saturday, August 3, 2013


ZUNI—Jane March says she doesn‘t care much about antiques, but if you mention local history, her face lights up.

March researched and wrote a book on the tiny village of Zuni in Isle of Wight County because, she said, the people who knew about its history were dying, and she worried that all trace of the settlement would be gone.

“I just felt like it was such a shame,” she said. “Zuni is one of the oldest settlements in Isle of Wight County, much older than any of the other small towns on Rte. 460.

“I found references that it was here as early as the early 1700s and used to be a bustling little village.”

Zuni has survived devastating fires, and on several occasions, floods that nearly washed everything away, March said.

“It also survived near bankruptcy when a soap company set up business and sold stock to almost every family in town, then disappeared with the money in the middle of the night,” March said.

“And it was an important Confederate post during the Civil War, with nearly 5,000 troops on the site.

March said that although she is not a native of the county, she has lived here since the 1960s and calls it home.

“I love this part of the county,” she said, adding that she came to Isle of Wight when she was in grade school.

“My family moved to Smithfield from Portsmouth because my dad worked in the Naval Shipyard, and it was closer to his work.”

After March’s first husband died, she met and married Homer Johnson, whose family owned land in the Zuni area. As time passed, her children grew and her interest in local, especially Zuni, history, began to take up much of her time.

“Some of the older residents would talk about their olden days,” she said. “It was absolutely fascinating.”

March said she began taking notes, saving old documents and pictures.

“The more I learned, the more I wanted to know,” she said. “Finally, I thought, someone should write this information down. That’s when the idea for a book came to light.”

March admits that she is not a writer, but with the help of a close friend and many, many other friends in the community, she assembled the information she had collected and published her book, ”Zoo-Nye: A Story of the Village.”

“It was a hit,” March said with a big smile. “But you know what? After the book came out, I’ve had so many other people talk about their lives in Zuni, and I’ve collected so much more information that I feel I must write another book.”

March said she is in the process of putting the book together now and expects the second edition tentatively titled “Zoo-Nye Revisited” to be published in the fall.

The active historian did not stop with a book, however. She was instrumental in founding the Zuni Historical Society a few years ago and is in the process of establishing a museum.

“So many people gave me items they had kept from years ago, that I actually did not have a place to store them. The society thought a museum would solve the problem, but we have not found a suitable place yet.”

March said she even thought about purchasing a used bus or some type of vehicle to both store and transport the items to different locations.

“That would solve our problem for now,” she said. “I’m still looking.”

NAME: Jane March

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: Marriage. I became the wife of Homer Johnson in the late 1960s and moved here from Smithfield.

HOMETOWN: Portsmouth.

OCCUPATION: I say that I’m retired, but I have many things that keep me busy, like delving into Isle of Wight County history, my horses, and so on.

MARITAL STATUS: Widowed, three times.

CHILDREN, AGES AND SCHOOLS: I have four children, all grown. Three of them have homes here on the farm and the other lives near Richmond.

FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: I enjoy plays, live theater, musicals, things like that.


FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Anything Italian and iced tea.

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: That I was born and raised in the city.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOURSELF: I am adamant about preserving the past.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST HABIT: Procrastination.

PETS: I have a horse and a half. Actually, my daughter and I each own a horse and then we own one together.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HOBBY: Local history and horseback riding.

PET PEEVE: The run-around you get from big businesses, doctors’ offices, government and places like that.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB: Veterinarian’s assistant.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As one who was a friend when needed.

IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: My topic would be our country and the way it has gone down. People should get out there and do something to get our country back to the way our forefathers meant it to be. My feelings are that we should change “God Bless America” to “God Save America.”