About the Kountze Family Archival Project
Our group began this project with the intent to investigate the connections between Hillard Kountze and Justice Louis Brandeis. In the beginning stages of our work we learned a valuable lesson about the nature of archive work, namely, that if there is nothing in the archives, you have to shift your research focus. And so we did. We widened our lense and began to look at the Kountze family as a whole, and we have been delighted to find that the Kountze family serves as a wonderful example of the emphasis the West Medford African-American Community has placed and continues to place on community connectedness, civic engagement and responsibility, and the importance of education. Unfortunately, we have not had a great deal of luck accessing tangible documents which can be legally represented on this website. Nevertheless, our research has provided us with a great deal of what we feel is fascinating and enlightening details of the life of this prominent West Medford family.
While the Kountze family is extensive and there are endless members whose stories would be fascinating to research and tell, time restraints required us to focus our efforts on five members of the family, namely, Hillard Kountze (the first Kountze in Medford), his sons Mabray (”Doc”) and Elmer Kountze, and two of his grandchildren, Wallace Hillard Kountze (son of Elmer) and Ione Vargus. Through these figures, one can clearly make out the dedication the Kountze family had to hometown pride, to local as well as national public service. From scrapbooks on religious devotion, to newpaper articles on desegregation of baseball, from public lectures on community issues to books on the history of man and Medford, from dissertations to policy papers for FEMA, the Kountze family has displayed their devotion to knowledge and the power of the written word and their intense belief that it is the responsibility of every human being to give something back to the world in which they live, to improve it in whatever way they can. The efforts of the Kountze family has affected not just the small area of West Medford, but the country as a whole, in ways that deserve to be brought to light. Each Kountze we have researched has made his/her presence positively known in the wider political or judicial or military or educational circles of this nation.
We would like to encourage further research on the many other members of this family and though our research has focused on the Kountze family, we would be very interested in seeing further research done on the other families and particular notables of West Medford with an eye to these themes of education, public duty and community coherence.