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Getting the History Right in Historical Fiction — 2 Comments

  1. Deborah – It would take a “way back” machine to get history more than reasonably accurate. The problem with the history books such as John Reynolds, is that he was not living in Illinois during the time some of the events took place, such as the kidnapping of the two [Garretson]children in 1786. Mr. Reynolds’s source was more than likely the recollections of elderly settlers he interviewed. By then, the folks relating the information may have misremembered the specifics. Are we glad to have these accounts – you bet!

    In 1787, Bartholomew Tardiveau (acting agent for early IL landholders) compiled a list of inhabitants of the Illinois settlements in which he himself seems to have flip-flopped the names of Samuel & James “Garrittson”. Samuel Garrittson was on the list of men in Illinois in 1781, while James Garrittson was on the list of boys. James (Sr.) should have been on the list of men as he was still living at that time. Samuel (son of James) was then about 15-16 years old (baptized in PA in 1772) and should have been on the list of boys. Was there truly an adult male named Samuel Garrison/Garretson in Illinois in 1787 (whose children may have been kidnapped in 1786)? Probably not.

    As to Garrison or Garretson being the correct spelling, I would not spend too much time pondering this. Those names are spelled so phonetically similar that it does not seem a great problem. In a like instance, Stephen W. Miles, Sr. who built the mausoleum at Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery: his father was Thomas Miles, who was baptized in Brimfield, Massachusetts as Thomas Mighells. I understand this is a Welsh surname and the GH is silent, so the name is pronounced Mi-ells. Many branches of the Mighells family eventually adopted the easier, phonetic spelling of Miles. In those days, reading/writing was a luxury. Spelling correctly was optional.

    I enjoyed your book, Once Again, and find no fault with the historical accuracy. Your words have brought a past historical era to life!

    • I am tickled pink that someone so knowledgeable about the early history of Illinois a)read my book and actually enjoyed it b) found the history in it accurate c) and took the time to stop by and tell me so. Thanks!

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