All of History is a Story

There are stories for every person, every conflict. A person tells his life as he or she sees it. People around them see and will tell a slightly different view of the first teller. Two litigants at court will sit in the same witness box and each tell a different version of the story they have come to tell. History is no different than the small stories of our personal lives. Big stories just have more observers, so the story becomes more complex.

As stories become more complex they tend to be mysterious. Part of the mystery is the lack of access to some of the witnesses over time, and the later appearance of others who previously were not know to be part of the story. Andrew Lang collected historical mysteries and included the stories in his Historical Mysteries. He even wrote about some of the mysteries more extensively in other volumes. Of particular interest as a big of background color to a developing nation of religious refugees is his James VI and the Gowrie Mystery. And again as background to King James, read John Knox and the Reformation. I have wanted to create a history of the reformation. As I have been reading I find it impossible to separate facets of history. History is one story with many facets.

When you begin reading history you feel you are wading into a small stream. Then you wade into another stream and find a connection. It is the same water traveled years or centuries down the stream bed, but now the stories connect and become a river. A small sample, Robin Hood for years was just a fun book for children, particularly boys. The story tells how Robin robs monks to get money to pay for the ransom of King Richard. Then you read about Gutenberg and how he came to create his printing press. The background of Gutenberg’s Germany explains Richard’s experience and being held for ransom centuries later. Two literary creeks have joined to become a river. Then you find a new release of Robin Hood that names the knights who traveled with Richard, and you recognize that one of the knights is your own ancestor. The river you read has become the ocean you swim.

Sometimes the stories you read are various sides of one story. Not all the stories about the event match. One story says there were no survivors. The other view says there were hundreds. Beyond a reasonable doubt these are different stories and both true. How do you reconcile the difference? And seeing two or three versions of the event, have you seen all? This is your task, to find or create a story to explain the differences and perhaps to find a missing view. You now must dive into the ocean of unknown and create your own point of view, a raft of understanding to keep you afloat in the mystery of life.


Thanksgiving Gone Wrong

The Pilgrims began arriving in Massachusetts Colony in 1620. They continued arriving in ships by fleet after fleet. One of my ancestors was a mate on some of the early voyages. Near the end of the Pilgrim era he became a captain in his own right. So to speak of his maritime career he is termed “mariner.” Less often he is termed Pilgrim or Immigrant.

John Hodges married in London. The chapel of his baptism and marriage burned down in the fire of 1666. As a child he may have played around London Bridge and skated behind the bridge in winter. His office when in England was a pub near the area known as Wapping.

Shortly after marrying and starting a family he shipped as a sailor or mate and started his maritime career. John’s second son was born in the colony in 1623 or earlier. Humphrey, in late court testimony, gave his age indicating being born in 1620 or 1621. That would make him a new-born or one-year-old at the time of the first Thanksgiving. He would have been handed from Pilgrim mother to Pilgrim mother so his own mother could eat and help with the cooking.

John Hodges and his son Humphrey settled in the Mystic River area. They carried goods for the English colony and the Indian village. The village of four to eight hundred men, women and children may have become a significant portion of the Hodges family trading business. John acquired many parcels of land in the area.

While the Massachusetts colony was growing with immigrants and births, trouble was brewing back in England. The persecution that had driven the Pilgrims way had swung like a pendulum. In Spain the Inquisition continued to persecute Christians and Jews. In Scotland John Knox had been preaching to incite riots against Catholics up to about 1560. Not long after the Pilgrims left England and other parts of Europe, the Puritans overcame the English government. There was a reign of terror in England until the Puritans could be expelled. The refugee Puritans poured into Massachusetts swelling the Pilgrim population. The Puritans also brought their army.

In 1637, a few local Indians took revenge on a family of dishonest English traders. The English leaders came to the local sachem and demanded that he turn over the killers. He did not. The English decided they would avenge themselves on the entire village. The two militias, Pilgrim and Puritan, supplemented by the Puritan army attacked the village at two o’clock in the morning supplemented by two jealous Indian tribes who coveted the land of the village.

It was a massacre. It was the first time the new colony considered that might makes right. In 1986 a conservative American President decided right makes might and gave the descendants of the victims a casino. It was the first of the Indian casinos.

There are some unresolved issues. First the myths about survivors differ. There may in fact have been no survivors. The Indians on site years later may be descendants of the enemy tribes that attacked the locals. If so the President’s gift of a casino amounts to supporting terrorism.

Second, some of the English owned land was probably sold at a loss. Other parcels were never accounted for. Normally collateral damage in military acts is exempt from reparations. There normally is no recompense for loss of land value or loss of trade. Two things may turn the tide in the Pilgrims case. Some of the land of the English neighbors has never been transferred. This suggests a civil remedy to return that land to the rightful descendants.

Thirdly, the gift of the casino by the American government for a case involving an action by the colonial government suggests a case for the descendants to proceed against the government under equal protection. Isn’t it wonderful to live under a government of law instead of a government of men?

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

How Old Should A Highway Be Before You Tell It It Is Adopted?

I was having lunch at the local burger place when I saw the title above being flashed as a small sign on wall during a national TV sports show. It did not seem to be part of any sports story. Perhaps you came to this site because you searched the Internet for an explanation of the question. I searched and found an answer for myself.

I am tagging this as Story-Starter because it reminded me of a local highway. Well it is local in my neighborhood, but it could be local in your neighborhood or many neighborhoods across America. Here the highway has been labeled The Christopher Columbus Highway. Christopher Columbus, as you may know, thought he had discovered islands near an old continent. Well, not an old continent exactly, as the earth is young, but a previously known continent. It was not until his third or fourth voyage that Columbus and one of his mates started to suspect they were looking at an unknown continent. They were actually exploring South American as it would come to be known. Columbus discovered many of the Caribbean islands, including Cuba. Cuba was so large that Columbus mistook it for a continent. He never quite got to Florida.

If Columbus had been born later, he might have landed in Florida and heart heard of another distant shore. He might have traveled from the Sunshine State to the Golden State. Columbus was looking for gold, of course, and he would have traveled west looking for Beverly Hills. He kept looking for mythological golden cities, so it would make sense to look for the city in California of which it has been said, “All the gold in California is in a bank in Beverly Hills.” The myths Columbus sought had less foundation in fact.

OK, so if Columbus had done all that, it might make sense to name Interstate-10 “The Christopher Columbus Highway.” But let’s take a moment to learn about the sailors who found North America (probably not the first to do so). There is a rock near Newport, Rhode Island, that is engraved (in translation), “Sailors of Tarshish.” That is a standard way of establishing your arrival on landing and also, more than likely, the formula for claiming early in history. Tarshish was a city on the Iberian Peninsula. The Mediterranean Sea was blocked off to exit by other maritime kingdoms by 800 B. C. This has caused historians to date the stone engraving in Newport, Rhode Island as before 800 B. C.

Is there another way to date the inscription? Possibly. Tarshish is mentioned a number of times in the Bible.

  • Genesis 10:4 — Tarshish was a son of Javan, a son of Japheth, a son of Noah. Javan was the founder of Japan. Some of his descendants settled in what became Germany had have been erroneously labeled Levantines.
  • 1 Kings 10:22 — For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three year’s bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
  • 1 Kings 22:48 — Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
  • 2 Chronicles 10:37 — … And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.
  • Esther 1:14 — Tarshish a prince of Persia and Media who had access to the king’s face.
  • Psalm 48, not a Psalm of David — 48:7 — With the east wind Thou dost break the ships of Tarshish.

That Tarshish was mentioned in Psalms hints that the sailors of Tarshish were know as early as early as David’s time. However, this is not a Psalm of David. It is a psalm of the sons of Korah. Korah was destroyed in Moses’ time, but a few were spared and became servants of David, in fact an important division of his military. (see How Old Should A Highway Be Before You Tell It It Is Adopted? viewed 2015-11-25). So while the psalm was not written by King David, it is more than likely to have been written by one of his contemporaries. The bottom line is that it appears that sailors from Tarshish were blown ashore at least by the time of King David who reigned about 1000 to 960 BC. Columbus was not only born too soon, he was born too late!

Since the descendants of the sailors from Tarshish, or other later immigrants from Tarshish now live in California and south into Mexico, it probably is time to tell Interstate-10 it is adopted. It really should be named the Sailors of Tarshish Highway. (and maybe we should apply to the present day Tartessians for green cards instead of requiring them to have them.)