Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pride and Shame: A Case in Point

Since completing An American Family Bible, I have continued my ancestral research and have discovered some interesting tidbits about the Dickey family. My readers will recall that this family appears in Chapter 2 of the book called Freedom and Chapter 4 of the book called Wanderings (both in the Old Testament). My new research regarding these tough Presbyterian pioneers evokes the same feelings of pride and shame that are ever present in the American experience.

In his article Concord Presbyterian Church & the Rev. James H. Dickey, Dr. Andrew Feight reveals that James Dickey (son of Robert and Mary Henry Dickey) was a vocal abolitionist during his tenure at this small Ohio church. see http://www.sciotohistorical.org/items/show/84?tour=10&index=11
The Reverend Dickey was instrumental in guiding this radical antislavery church to play a significant role in the emerging network that later generations would call the Underground Railroad. Moreover, when he left Concord, Dickey went on to Illinois and attempted to ignite and foster abolitionist sentiment in that state.

His son, Theophilus Dickey, would go on to serve in the Mexican War and do his part to help the United States make the northern half of Mexico's territory an integral part of what Churchill would one day call the Great Republic. Later, Theophilus would serve as a colonel in the 4th Illinois Cavalry of the Union Army during the American Civil War. In this connection, it is interesting to note the link to the story of Alfred and John Rutledge at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson - Dickey was part of the Union Army that captured those forts and made captives of those brothers. From there, Colonel Theophilus Dickey would go on to participate in the Battle of Shiloh and would later serve as a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court after the war (he's buried in the county in which I currently reside).

Theophilus' son, Charles Henry Dickey, would later move to the Kingdom of Hawaii and become a legislator there after the overthrow of Queen Lilioukalani (who was imprisoned in her own palace). Charles' son would go on to become an important Hawaiian architect, and his daughter (who was born on Maui in 1880) would eventually marry James Drummond Dole, the "Pineapple King."

These additional stories serve to reinforce the theme that runs throughout An American Family Bible - our story evokes pride and shame in equal measures. Like the country they helped to build, the story of our family is one of sin and righteousness. It is a human story that is full of both light and darkness. After all, we are talking about humans (subject to the same strengths and frailties which are common to all of us) and the imperfect lives and nation which they crafted. This is their legacy and our heritage. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Who is responsible for America's past?

An American Family Bible was intended by its author to offer some insight into the answer(s) to that question. Throughout the history of the United States, however, various people have answered that question differently.

At times, a kind of consensus has even emerged about this topic. In this connection, it is interesting to note that these popular notions have often focused on Divine responsibility. Early settlers believed that God was directing them to America to give them a new "Promised Land" or that He intended for them to build His kingdom in the wilderness. In the Nineteenth Century, many folks believed in a concept called Manifest Destiny - that it was God's intention that America extend from "sea to shining sea." In more recent years, many Americans have regarded both our origins and subsequent history as being guided/directed by the Divine hand.

Unfortunately, many Americans have taken this to an extreme and regard all efforts to talk about past mistakes, problems, sins and atrocities as almost sacrilegious. They point to the Old Testament and proclaim that genocide and conquest can't be regarded as sins if they were ordered or directed by God!

And, if they do acknowledge these sins and mistakes, they point to the people of past generations as the culprits/perpetrators. "I didn't do it, they did it!" they proclaim. This brings to mind something Jesus Christ is reported to have said on one occasion: "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.' But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?" (Matthew 23:29-33, New Living Translation)

An American Family Bible demonstrates that our ancestors participated in America's story. As a consequence, they share the responsibility for the glories and the sins. The truth is that Washington, Adams, Franklin and Jefferson had help in founding this nation. And, if we say that they were Divine instruments, we must also acknowledge that they were very flawed individuals (they were the same degree of human as you and me). Washington and Jefferson were exceptional men, but they also owned large numbers of their fellow humans and forced them to toil on their behalf.

In my book, I recount the story of my visit to Wounded Knee, South Dakota. The sign erected by the U.S. Government to memorialize what happened there referred to a "battle." The natives who lived on the surrounding reservation had marked through that word and scribbled in "massacre." For some, irrespective of the facts of what actually happened there, the correct term is contingent on whether or not you believe God was directing events toward some greater end.

Those who are acquainted with the Judeo-Christian Scriptures will recognize this phenomenon. The Bible is full of examples of folks who used God to justify their activities. Nevertheless, even those of us who may not be as familiar with that book's contents should be able to discern the folly in using the Almighty to justify covetousness, greed, stealing and murder. We should all be able to learn the lesson of the story of Sarah and Abraham - that God doesn't need our assistance in bringing His plans to fruition!

I hope that the readers of An American Family Bible will see more of themselves and their ancestors in America's story and be less likely to attribute responsibility to God for what they and their ancestors should be willing to shoulder. And, hopefully, if we can begin to acknowledge our personal responsibility for (and involvement in) this story, maybe we can begin to correct some of these past mistakes. For, when we can acknowledge our culpability/involvement in this story, we can see that the problems we face are our responsibility to correct (and I'm sure that God would be willing to help us with that).

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What's this book about?

Have you ever wondered about how things got to be the way they are? Have you ever wondered about what it really means to be an American? Have you ever wondered about the role that your ancestors played in shaping this country? If you have ever asked yourself those kinds of questions, then this book is for you!

An American Family Bible is a novel that is based on real people, places and events. It is the story of a family and their contributions to America's story. It is a book about relationships, connections, race, religion, politics, love, hatred, prejudice, oppression, murder, war, theft, adversity, perseverance, survival and freedom.

This is a book of perspective. It tells the story of a nation from the vantage of those who actually lived it. It is not a history textbook. It is not a story of uninterrupted success and righteousness. It is also not a story about the usual cast of characters, though many of those "great men of history" do appear in its pages. This is a story about people just like you and me, and how they faced the many challenges which came their way.

The book is based on over forty years of research into the author's ancestral roots, and the family stories which he heard over the course of a lifetime from Southern grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. That rich tradition of storytelling also informed the way that this novel was organized (as a series of stories). Moreover, the title and organization of the novel also drew on the model of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures on which all of the characters depended as a guide for their morality and faith, and which they used to record the milestones of their lives.

An American Family Bible begins with the story of Native Americans, and their introduction to European settlers. It follows European settlement throughout the colonial period and recounts the circumstances which led those people to rebel against England. From there, the story of how the new nation expanded across the continent by taking land from the natives and enslaving Africans is retold. The Old Testament ends with the great cataclysm that we call the American Civil War, and the New Testament begins with the story of Reconstruction and the rebuilding of ruined lives. The book traces the nation's and the family's expansion westward, through two world wars and a Great Depression. The story concludes with the death of the family's matriarch, and the author's realization that the story never ends.




The Table of Contents

The Old Testament
Beginnings (1585-1660) 1
Chapter 1: Before Time, the Land 1
Chapter 2: Before Time, the Principal People 3
Chapter 3: 1585-1603, The Old World and the New 4
Chapter 4: 1607-1608, Tsenacomoco or Virginia 9
Chapter 5: 1620-1621, Plymouth 15
Chapter 6: 1621-1622, War against the English 24
Chapter 7: 1628-1640, The Genesis of Slavery 26
Chapter 8: 1629-1653, A Huguenot in Virginia 29
Chapter 9: 1632-1660, Puritans and Quakers 32
Chapter 10: 1635-1655, From Cambridge  to Ipswich
and Long Island 36
Chapter 11: 1635-1657, The New Haven Puritans 37
Chapter 12: 1638-1660, The spiritual  journey of a man
and his family 45

Journeys (1661-1765) 49
Chapter 1: 1661-1675, A Bristol merchant and his son 49
Chapter 2: 1661-1683, Free liberty of conscience 51
Chapter 3: 1677, The Quaker colony of West Jersey 55
Chapter 4: 1682, Blessed be the name of the Lord 59
Chapter 5: 1693, Kidnapped from Scotland 63
Chapter 6: 1687-1697, Struck by lightning 67
Chapter 7: 1698-1712, The Welsh Quakers 69
Chapter 8: 1702-1714, The Irish Quakers 73
Chapter 9: 1710-1717, A Maryland inn 76
Chapter 10: 1719-1740, The widow and the watchmaker 78
Chapter 11: 1740-1755, A foot in both worlds 80
Chapter 12: 1742-1748, Marrying out of meeting 81
Chapter 13: 1746-1754, A Quaker abolitionist 83
Chapter 14: 1750-1765, Delaware to North Carolina 86
Chapter 15: 1759-1763, Williamsburg 89

Freedom (1765-1781) 93
Chapter 1: 1765-1771, The Regulators of North Carolina 93
Chapter 2: 1770-1776, Presbyterian Patriots 99
Chapter 3: 1775-1776, Delaware and Long Island 102
Chapter 4: October - November 1776, Retreat  and
the Battle of White Plains 110
Chapter 5: September-November 1777,  Brandywine
and Germantown 113
Chapter 6: Winter 1777-1778, Valley Forge 120
Chapter 7: June 1778, The Battle of Monmouth 123
Chapter 8: 1778, Callaway, Boone and the Shawnee 127
Chapter 9: June - December 1779,  Stono Ferry
and Savannah 135
Chapter 10: March-May 1780, The Siege  of Charleston
and imprisonment 139
Chapter 11: September-October 1780, King’s Mountain 144
Chapter 12: January 1781, A child at Cowpens 148
Chapter 13: July 1781, Fighting  Tories in North
Carolina and peace 150

Wanderings (1785-1825) 153
Chapter 1: 1785, The Cumberland Gap 153
Chapter 2: 1788, Lookout Mountain 156
Chapter 3: 1785-1792, An American  inventor goes
 to London 158
Chapter 4: 1795-1803, An awakening in the Wilderness 162
Chapter 5: 1800-1803, From Northwest Territory to Ohio 165
Chapter 6: 1801-1805, John Marshall and judicial review 168
Chapter 7: 1806, Friends, horses and a duel 172
Chapter 8: 1807-1811, Giles County in Tennessee 175
Chapter 9: 1807-1819, The settlement of Alabama 177
Chapter 10: 1814-1815, The War of  1812 in Alabama
and Georgia 180
Chapter 11: 1813, A mad dog’s bite 183
Chapter 12: 1810-1820, Lemley Mountain 185
Chapter 13: 1821-1825, Pestilence and orphans 187

Dwellings (1826-1860) 191
Chapter 1: 1826, A cabin in the Ohio woods 191
Chapter 2: 1827, The Georgia land lottery 194
Chapter 3: 1829-1844, The long road to Texas 196
Chapter 4: 1834-1835, The death of a slave 200
Chapter 5: 1830-1839, A trail of many tears 205
Chapter 6: 1837-1841, The Seminole War 211
Chapter 7: 1841-1844, A feme sole 220
Chapter 8: 1846-1847, The Mexican War 223
Chapter 9: 1852, Epidemic 230
Chapter 10: 1850-1854, An Ohio inn 233
Chapter 11: 1855, Blue Water Creek 237
Chapter 12: 1858-1860, The Department of Oregon 241

Voices (1860-1865) 247
Chapter 1: 1860-1861, St. Louis 247
Chapter 2: 1861, Kentucky 255
Chapter 3: 1861, The 30th Georgia Infantry 256
Chapter 4: 1862, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson 258
Chapter 5: 1862, Seven Pines and Mechanicsville 264
Chapter 6: 1863, The Battle of Chancellorsville 267
Chapter 7: 1863, The Battle of Chickamauga 272
Chapter 8: 1864, Calhoun, Georgia & Rock Island, Illinois 277
Chapter 9: 1864, Kennesaw Mountain 281
Chapter 10: 1864, Sugar Creek 283
Chapter 11: 1865, She met him on his way home 286
Chapter 12: 1865, The 18th Ohio Infantry 288

The New Testament
Gleanings (1865-1895) 293
Chapter 1: 1865-1870, When they didn’t come home 293
Chapter 2: 1865-1870, Randolph County after the war 297
Chapter 3: 1867-1875, Prosperity  and progress in
the North 299
Chapter 4: 1874-1884, Death haunts us 301
Chapter 5: 1876-1880, The Elk River to Rogersville 303
Chapter 6: 1876-1881, Marriage and loss 306
Chapter 7: 1885, A terrible accident 309
Chapter 8: 1886, An argument turns deadly 313
Chapter 9: 1885-1895, Brindlee Mountain 316

Enemies (1896-1928) 321
Chapter 1: 1896-1901, The Ketchum Gang 321
Chapter 2: 1898-1904, The poorhouse 325
Chapter 3: 1899, Visiting and travel 328
Chapter 4: 1902-1904, Mending a broken heart 331
Chapter 5: 1904, A lynching at the courthouse 334
Chapter 6: 1904-1911, The Republicans in control 337
Chapter 7: 1906, Morality and religion 341
Chapter 8: 1911, Child labor and cotton mills 344
Chapter 9: 1914, Childbirth 346
Chapter 10: 1915, An Oklahoma gunfight 347
Chapter 11: 1918-1920, World War I 351
Chapter 12: 1924, Old memories 359
Chapter 13: 1925, Tuberculosis and the train ride home 361
Chapter 14: 1925, Football and mental health 363
Chapter 15: 1925-1928, Prohibition in Kentucky 365

Want (1929-1941) 369
Chapter 1: 1929-1930, Lockjaw 369
Chapter 2: 1931-1932, The things  hunger will make
you do 371
Chapter 3: 1933, Betrayal 376
Chapter 4: 1930-1934, A divorced, single mother 379
Chapter 5: 1934-1940, Hard work and privation 383
Chapter 6: 1935-1938, A miracle and the CCC 387
Chapter 7: 1937-1939, Murder 391
Chapter 8: 1933-1940, The WPA and tuberculosis again 397
Chapter 9: 1939-1940, Archaeology,  the TVA and the WPA 401
Chapter 10: 1938-1941, Restlessness 402

War (1941-1945) 409
Chapter 1: 1941, Pearl Harbor 409
Chapter 2: 1942, Rationing and a baby 410
Chapter 3: 1942-1943, Orphans 413
Chapter 4: 1943-1944, Training a soldier 415
Chapter 5: 1943-1944, Training Seabees 419
Chapter 6: 1944, Hawaii and the Palau Islands 425
Chapter 7: July-November 1944,  Life aboard the
USS PC -1187 427
Chapter 8: 1944-1945, New Guinea 429
Chapter 9: 1945, Manila, the Philippines 432
Chapter 10: 1945, The Northern Apennines Campaign 433
Chapter 11: 1945, The Po Valley Campaign 437
Chapter 12: 1945, A Marine, a dog and Hell 440
Chapter 13: 1945, Victory and the end of the war 443

Fullness (1945-1963) 447
Chapter 1: 1945, Starting over 447
Chapter 2: 1946, Neighbors 450
Chapter 3: 1946-1947, Heartaches, challenges and trials 453
Chapter 4: 1948, An election surprise 459
Chapter 5: 1949, A dirty little hillbilly 460
Chapter 6: 1950-1951, Declining health 462
Chapter 7: 1950-1953, The Korean War 466
Chapter 8: 1954-1959, Professional and personal success 473
Chapter 9: 1958-1959, The breaking point 475
Chapter 10: 1960-1961, A teen pregnancy and an election 477
Chapter 11: 1962-1963, Despair and hope 480

Boundless (1964-1987) 487
Chapter 1: 1964-1967, Hope and death 487
Chapter 2: 1968, Extended family 492
Chapter 3: 1969-1972, Lunar turbulence 499
Chapter 4: 1973, Gainful employment, a visit and a fire 502
Chapter 5: 1974, A resignation and a serial killer 506
Chapter 6: 1975-1978, The spirit of ‘76 510
Chapter 7: 1979-1981, Expanding horizons 512
Chapter 8: 1981, A ride with the devil and finding a job 519
Chapter 9: 1982-1984, Alabama beckons 522
Chapter 10: 1985-1987, An end and a beginning 529
Chapter 11: 1987-2017, The genesis of a book 536

An Oklahoma Gunfight (An excerpt from the book)

So much had happened since the dawn of the new century. John Cannon remembered the stab of pain that he had felt when news reached him of his mother’s death. He could still feel the jolt of the wagon as it rolled over the rocks and ruts of Indian Territory on his way to Oklahoma Territory. A change of scenery would be just what his grieving father needed.
2 This southwestern corner of Oklahoma was all Greer County then. There was no Beckham or Harmon County in those days. In fact, there wasn’t a lot of anything in those days except prairie. A man could easily get swallowed up in all of that vastness.
3 Nevertheless, the hardy few who had settled here had worked hard and accomplished much in the years since then. John had presided as judge in the little town of Erick and was loved and respected by his neighbors. Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Harmon County was created in 1909, and the railroad came to Gould in 1910.
4 There had, however, also been loss and heartache. John’s wife had died giving birth to their only daughter in 1909. Martha’s parents had helped with little Mattie, but they couldn’t fill the hole that their daughter’s death had left in his life. Whiskey had helped a little, but it only provided some temporary respite from the loneliness that haunted him now.
5 His friend, William Hamilton, had recently been sworn in as the new deputy in Gould. He was eighteen years younger than John, but he was a solid family man.
6 “Congratulations Will!” John had roared as he slapped his friend on the back that day. “Thanks John, I appreciate that,” he replied. The very serious and thoughtful new deputy even permitted himself a brief smile as he shook John’s hand.
7 William and Etta Hamilton had eight children together. Lettie and Velma were a handful sometimes, but the couple clearly knew that Almighty God had blessed them in just about every way. William gently placed his hand on young Edgar’s head as he walked out the door and finished buckling the belt that held his holster around his waist.
8 It had been a fine December day – cold and windy, but clear and sunny. John had been in the saloon for several hours by that time. He hadn’t eaten very much that evening, but he had downed a lot of whiskey.
9 Although the alcohol had numbed the pain, it had not improved John’s mood that evening. The loneliness and sense of loss were biting hard tonight, and John was waving off all attempts to console him.
10 Tom, the bartender, had seen his friend in this condition on a couple of occasions before tonight. This wasn’t good.
11 “Why don’t you go on home John and get a little rest?” his friend suggested. “I think I’ll sit right here and drink a little bit, thank you very much!” John shot back with a snarl. “And you can tell those two loud mouths over there to shut the hell up!” he added.
12 Tom nodded to his wife and headed for the door. He hated to disturb the new deputy at such an hour. He knew that Will and his household would be relaxing and getting ready for bed, but he also knew that John could be very difficult to deal with when he was like this.
13 He was already back in the saloon when Will arrived. John was even more annoyed when he saw the deputy enter the room, and he gave Tom an angry look.
14 “How’s it going John?” Will asked as he approached John’s table. “Why just fine, Will. Why are you out so late?” John asked as he downed the shot glass in front of him.
15 “Don’t you think you’ve had enough for this evening?” asked the deputy ignoring John’s question. “Not just yet,” John replied. “Well, I’m afraid you have,” Will said without blinking.
16 The two stared at each other for a moment, and the saloon was quiet. “Well, I don’t need this shit!” roared John as he staggered to his feet and grabbed the bottle in front of him.
17 “You go to hell, Tom!” the judge offered as he headed for the door with Will following close behind.
18 John Cannon walked slowly down the dusty Main Street of Gould toward the town’s only drug store where he paused and took another swig from the bottle of whiskey he had grabbed when he left the saloon. Will calmly walked around him and faced him on the street. His piercing blue eyes looked at his old friend with disgust and cold determination.
19 It was a little after 7 p.m. and the street was dark and deserted. The only light spilled from the windows of the saloon they had both just exited.
20 “John this is embarrassing. How can you shame yourself like this in public?” the deputy demanded. “I haven’t done a damn thing to shame myself. What in the hell are you talking about Will?” John retorted.
21 “Look at what a state you’re in. I’d be embarrassed to be in such a state in a public place,” Will insisted. “Nobody wants to see you like this,” he pressed.
22 “I haven’t done anything, and I’m not done drinking,” the old judge protested. “You’re acting like a drunken fool!” the deputy retorted. “You take that back God dammit, or I’ll kill your ass!” John demanded.
23 At that instant, both men drew their guns and fired several times. The deputy collapsed on top of the judge as Tom and the others rushed into the street. The saloon keeper could see that John was dead as soon as he reached the men. Then he knelt down and cradled Will’s head against his stomach.
24 “Quick, get the doc!” Tom shouted to his wife. “Is John dead?” Will asked. “Yes,” he answered matter-of-factly. “That’s too bad,” the deputy offered seemingly oblivious to his own wounds. “Dead, dead, dead…” he trailed off as he stared blankly into the night sky.