Monday, June 8, 2015

When an interview is your best evidence

In this case it isn’t an interview I conducted but rather one that was conducted in 1802. I am documenting the lives of three men, Rev. Daniel Marshall, his son Rev. Abraham Marshall, and Abraham’s son Rev. Jabez Marshall, three generations of Baptist preachers. The patriarch, Rev. Daniel Marshall, founded Kiokee Baptist Church in Columbia County, Georgia which is the oldest Baptist church in the state.  It happens to be four miles from my house.  I am not related to this family.  The reason I am interested, aside from the historic significance of this story, is that there is a lot of information out there about the Marshalls on the internet, in books, in magazines, and in church periodicals. The problem is that none of the published information (at least none that I could find) was sourced properly. I want to go back and reconstruct the family the right way.

The family starts in Connecticut.  I have all of the births and marriages I need from the wonderful town records they kept up there.  Once the family gets to Georgia I am good to go because the Richmond and Columbia County records are almost 100% intact (Columbia was formed from Richmond in 1790).  My problem is the time between when they left Connecticut and arrived in Georgia. 

The Marshalls were missionaries.  The preached to the Indians in remote locations.  No records were generated in these areas.  Some of Abrahams younger children were born on the trip down to the south.  Trying to piece together this time period, about 1744 to about 1770, is difficult. The family did make a stop in a populated area of Virginia and in South Carolina on the way down which does give me two more records reference points but I am still missing a lot of time and details.

The answer I needed was printed in the Georgia Analytical Register (a Baptist publication) in 1802.1 Rev. Abraham Marshall dictated a biographical sketch of his father Daniel to the editor of the GAR.  It is written in the first person.  Though it starts with Daniel’s birth in Connecticut much of the story is primary evidence as Abraham was an active participant.  I still consider his testimony of the events prior to him being old enough to have first hand knowledge as fairly accurate because he never left his father’s side until his father’s death.  This information is secondary but he would have heard the accounts over and over and over again from his father. The stories could certainly have been embellished a bit but the timeline is what I was more concerned with.

1 Henry Holcomb, editor, "Biography of the late Rev. Daniel Marshall, communicated to the editor by the Rev. Abraham Marshall," The Georgia Analytical Repository 1 (May-June 1802): 23-30; Georgia Regents University Library, microfilm 3578.


Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy to see your comment re: "The stories could certainly have been embellished a bit but the timeline is what I was more concerned with." I've listened to the "same" stories told over and over--both examples in my family and in my husband's family--and recognized subtle changes over time. Locations have changed, age of participants have varied, etc. It might be explained on my husband's side by the fact that all have been/are fishermen (wink). On my side businessmen and educators. As we age we tell stories about "that trip to Mississippi a few years back . . . six or seven years ago" but that trip was fifteen years ago. The markers (such as the fact that the trip was taken when one of the participants was in high school and he is now 30) help anchor the narratives. Enjoying the story of the grand adventure is always fun; using it from a family history point of view is another.