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Ephraim Pratt, Shutesbury, MA, age 116. It's carved in stone, documented in the Shutesbury Town History, various Worcester Historical Society publications, the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, and even documented in a volume of Travels in New England and New York by Reverend Dr. Timothy Dwight, the President of Yale College, who personally interviewed Mr. Pratt. His death and a brief story of his life and his amazing longevity was reported in many newspapers. Over two hundred years later, the story of Ephraim Pratt's life is easily found on various Internet sites and many online family trees.

Ephraim Pratt was a remarkable man. He lived to a remarkably old age. It just wasn't 116 years.

He was a remarkable storyteller.

Ephraim Pratt, Shutesbury, MA, age 116 or not.
His epitaph reads: Erected by the Town of Shutesbury in memory of Ephriam Pratt [sic] Born in East Sudbury Nov. 1, 1686. Removed to Shutesbury soon after its first settlement where he resided until he Died May 22, 1804 IN HIS 117 YEAR. He was remarkably cheerful in his disposition and temperate in his habits. He swung a scythe 101 consecutive years and mounted a horse without assistance at the age of 110.

He fooled me for a couple of years, too. Then I visited the Shutesbury Town Hall and mentioned that his cemetery marker was one of my favorites of all time. The Town Clerk said something like "You know it's not true, don't you?". I lied. I said I knew. I was too surprised and embarrassed to ask for more information.

It didn't take a lot of research on the Internet to find the facts. I just had to filter out nearly everything that told of his great longevity.

I was struck by the persistence of this story. Many references still tout his longevity even though he died over 200 years ago. His entry at findagrave.com accepts the marker as fact. Searching ancestry.com produces many submitted trees that are incorrect. I am pleased to see that many more trees are correct these days. My earlier searches didn't produce as many correct results.

I was surprised to read Rev. Dr. Timothy Dwight's report about his interview with Ephraim Pratt. There were several statements that should have clued him in to the false story. Rev. Dwight was a child prodigy and a brilliant man who ultimately became the President of Yale College. He was known by his students as a man who had a great memory and a keen perception. I suspect that Rev. Dwight wanted to believe that he was interviewing the man who was said to be the oldest living person in the country. He apparently had read about Mr. Pratt prior to his visit.

As today, a strong belief seems to seek confirmation rather than questioning the facts. Intellegence doesn't seem to be as much of a factor as it should be.

There is some good documentation about the controvery regarding Ephraim Pratt's longevity, the writings of Rev. Dwight, the newspaper accounts, and a published correction to the newspaper.

I found two well-known and reliable sources that document the situation. One is Ward's Genealogical History of the Rice Family: Descendants of Deacon Edmund Rice and the other is Savage's A Genealogical Dictionary of  The First Settlers of New England,
Before 1692
. It so happens that Ephraim Pratt married Martha Wheelock whose mother is Lydia Rice, a descendent of Deacon Edmund Rice. Some online trees show that Ephraim Pratt's father, another Ephraim Pratt married an Elizabeth Rice, also a descendent of Deacon Edmund Rice, although this is questionable. The senior Ephraim Pratt would have live to the age of 122 which is unlikely making this ancestry questionable.

Rev. Dwight says that he saw an advertisment about Mr. Pratt that prompted his desire to visit him in person. There were plenty of clues that this was a fabricated story, especially the story about the engagement to a 22 year old young lady (which was never actually published) and the need for the writer to assert that this story is true.

The advertisement spoken of by Dr Dwight may have been the communication published in the Windsor Gazette Vt and copied into the Massachusetts Spy printed at Worcester August 5 1801 from which the following extracts are made.

In Shutesbury in Mass there is now living a man by the name of Ephraim Pratt who was born at East Sudbury in that State on the first day of November 1687. At the age of twenty one he was married to a young lady by the name of Martha Wheelock by whom he had six sons and two daughters four of his sons are now living the eldest of whom is 90 and the youngest 82 years of age a few years since Mr Pratt received a visit from four young persons who were the grand children of his grand children. His diet has been chiefly bread and milk He has not made a meal of meat for more than forty years past, never taken physic, never was bled, nor did he ever consult a physician. He is now 114 years of age was a widower at the age 92 He has rendered himself famous of late for his attention to the fair sex made suit to many young widows. At the age of 105 he formed a connexion with a young lady of 22 years. They were published and the day of marriage appointed but owing to the fickleness of youth the connexion was dissolved. His love and affection has since been divided among a multitude of the Fair The public may rely on the authenticity of this sketch as the writer received his information from indubitable sources as well as from Mr Pratt who is a man of veracity clear intellect and the most retentive memory. That communication containing the foregoing and many other remarkable of Mr Pratt one of which was that he assisted in building the causeway in Sud[bury]... was signed A Traveller

From Ward's book of Rice Genealogy, We find:
This was the Ephraim Pratt of Shutesbury mentioned in Dwight's Travels Vol 2 page 858 viz Rev Dr Dwight President of Yale College he visited Pratt at Shutesbury Nov 13 1803 and of the interview he had with him remarks, "He was born at East Sudbury Mass in 1687 and in one month from the date of our arrival would complete his one hundred and sixteenth year He was of middle stature firmly built plump but not encumbered with flesh less withered than multitudes at seventy possessed of considerable strength as was evident from the grasp of his hand and the sound of his voice and without any marks of extreme age About two months before his sight became so impaired that he was unable to distinguish persons his hearing also for a short time had been so imperfect that he could not distinctly hear common conversation His memory was still vigorous his understanding sound and his mind sprightly in its conceptions The principal part of the time which I was in the house he held me by the hand cheerfully answered all my questions readily gave me an account of himself in such particulars as I wished to know observed to me that my voice indicated that I was not less than forty five years of age and that he must appear very old to me adding however that some men who had not passed their seventieth year probably looked almost or quite as old as himself We were informed partly by himself and partly by his host that he had been a laborious man all his life and particularly that he had mown grass one hundred and one years successively the preceding summer he had been able to perform this labor During this season his utmost effort was a walk of half a mile in this walk he stumbled over a log and fell immediately afterwards he began evidently to decline and lost in a considerable degree both his sight and hearing in the summer of 1802 he walked without inconvenience two miles and mowed a small quantity of grass Throughout his life he had been uniformly temperate ardent spirits he rarely tasted cider he drank at times but sparingly He is naturally cheerful and humorous and not much inclined to serious thinking According to an account which he gave his host he made a public profession of religion near seventy years before our visit to him When he was ninety three years old he made a contract with his host who told us the story that he should support him during the remainder of his life for 20 [pounds]. Three or four years before this time I saw in a newspaper an advertisement written by a person who professed and appeared to be acquainted with him and his concerns in which it was said that his descendants some of whom were of the fifth generation amounting probably to more than 1500."

Ephraim Pratt's death was reported in the Spy newspaper and a correction was published in the next week's edition of the Spy.

The Spy of June 6, 1804 published the death of Mr Pratt at Shutesbury on the 22d ult aged 116 years 5 months and 22 days who repeated to a gentleman a short time since a part of a sermon he heard 90 years ago and the 55th Chapter of Isaiah and two Psalms.

The Spy of the next week contained a communication from the Rev Dr Sumner of Shrewsbury addressed to the printer in which he says, "In your paper of the 6th inst we are told of the death of Mr Pratt of Shutesbury aged 116 years 5 months and 22 days. We conclude it was Ephraim Pratt of whom we were told in your paper of Aug 5 1801 that he was then 114 years of age, that he at the age of 21 married to Martha Wheelock by whom he had six sons and two daughters. "
"As to his age at the time of marriage the person whom he married and the number of his children the account is doubtless correct. It agrees with the information of the family in this town from which he married his wife, the Rev Job Cushing's record, and the town record of Shrewsbury show that that marriage was solemnized July 9, 1724. His eldest child Tyrus was born Oct 1, 1725, Silas Dec 28, 1726, Ephraim Feb 7, 1728, Noah Jan 19, 1729, Micah April 5, 1731, Abel July 10, 1732, Rachel April 24, 1735, and Olive April 16, 1739.
"He was probably born 1703. He removed from Shrewsbury to Shutesbury about 1753 and was 101 or in his 102d year when he died."

This account of the matter given by Dr Sumner more than 50 years ago I [Ward] have recently seen for the first time and of which I had no previous knowledge. Had Dr Dwight have known of it when he published his Travels he would not have given credence to what he had been informed of Mr Pratt's age. His Travels in that particular have led others after a lapse of more than 30 years to adopt as true and give renewed publicity to an error that has occasioned long and unavailing researches to reconcile. It with their knowledge of other things Mr Pratt may not at that interview have himself deceived Dr Dwight respecting his age yet it is difficult to believe that he did not upon discovering that the Dr considered him to be much older than he really was connive at his mistake and confirm him in his error by not undeceiving him.

He was b. at Sud[bury] Nov 30, 1704 and was 99 years 5 months and 22 days old when he d. May 22, 1804

Repeat something loudly and often and it will have led others after a lapse of more than 30 years to adopt as true and give renewed publicity to an error that has occasioned long and unavailing researches to reconcile.

The right wing propaganda methodology circa 1804.

Floor's open.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ephraim Pratt, storyteller extraordinaire (15+ / 0-)

    How can one not love this wonderful old man?

    Ephraim Pratt is my 2nd cousin, 8 times removed.

    Our common ancestors are Deacon Edmund Rice and his wife, Thomasine Frost, my 9th g-grandparents.

    The Edmund Rice (1638) Association is another good resource for the many, many, descendents of this family.

    "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:37:44 AM PST

  •  Wonderful to have such a colorful family history (8+ / 0-)

    Even if he was only 99 when he died, that was pretty remarkable in and of itself.

    One of my two first cousins, who's about to turn 65, lives in Sudbury.

    •  I live near Sudbury (6+ / 0-)

      On weekends we look for somewhere to go for hike. This weekend Shutesbury might be in the plans.

      Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 11:36:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'd never been there until last fall (7+ / 0-)

        My cousin is several years older than I am and we were not that close when we were younger. But I was in Boston, had a rental car (and was hoping to catch up with my aunt and uncle who'd driven up from NYC but who unfortunately left before I could get out to Sudbury).

        Very pretty place. My cousin's house backs up to a creek; the road I took to get there goes past a couple of horse farms.

      •  This is a hilly area w/trails and state parks (6+ / 0-)

        I seem to have ancestors and cousins and other relatives who lived in just about every single one of these little towns. I'm still hoping to stumble across my 4th g-grandparents graves. Henry Evans and his wife, Sarah Fry. They're theoretically buried somewhere nearby. The Shutesbury and New Salem records are sparse.

        I was looking for these folks when I found Ephraim Pratt's wonderful cemetery marker.

        Just north of Shutesbury is Wendell State Forest and farther north is the Erving State Forest. Trails of various descriptions throughout. The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail traverses the Wendell Forest. Both State Parks are easy access off of Rt 2. Or you might consider checking out the Quabbin area.

        There are many burial grounds and cemeteries, too.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:31:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks! (6+ / 0-)

          We've been through the town before (I was on a mission to get my wife to all 351) but never lingered too long. I've gone out to the east side of the Quabbin a lot, including the Dana Common. We also saw the Pelham historic museum (Daniel Shays, etc.) but have spent comparatively little time in Leverett, Shutesbury, New Salem.

          Wendell State Forest might be the place.

          Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:42:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  findagrave (7+ / 0-)

    I've taken to sending in corrections there. It's fairly often that the listed dates don't match the gravestones. I photographed a few graveyards and started submitting the pictures. The non-picture entries were done from a spreadsheet. The lady who entered them was gracious about changing them.

    But still: there's any number of reasons the stone could be wrong. In one case, I have a handed down embroidered sampler. The nine-year-old girl, later maiden aunt, spelled her name Selina, but the grave stone said Celina. One probably needs to conclude that she got her own name right, and the chiseled in stone name was in error. Even if her sampler verse didn't fit quite right:

    In future years,
    Our eyes will see
    This proof of infant industry

    ... with the "stry" of industry much smaller letters to make it fit.

    "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

    by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 10:25:41 AM PST

    •  I've done a few corrections and submissions (7+ / 0-)

      Not many.

      I've tried to get into the habit of looking up findagrave requests for photos before I head out. Sometimes they have the wrong cemetery or there's a missing or unreadable marker, but I've found some.

      Spelling?

      I gues I'm used to the old burying grounds everywhere in New England. Spelling is optional. It's bare phonetic is some cases.

      A familiy in my tree is names Parks. The town history make a big point about this family insisting on spelling the name Peircks (of all things). Their cemetery markers are all spelled Parks. The town vital records are all spelled Parks. I have no idea where it's written the weird way other than in the town history. I've not looked at church records, so maybe that's what it's about. It wasn't spelled differently by any other family members before of after that one family's generation.

      I've also seen three markers in a row for Stowell, Stoel, and Stoll. It turns out that this is the way the names are spelled in all the records. Somehow they kept it all straight.

      In case it slipped by, Ephraim Pratt's name is spelled wrong on his marker. They have Ephriam. The Shrewsbury written marriage record spells it Ephraim.

      Then there's Isaac and Issac, Eleazer, Elezer, Eliezer, etc.

      I might have enough pictures to do a diary showing all sorts of mistakes. Running out of room and using small letters is common. Using an ^ symbol is common. Breaking a name to the next line arbitrarily is common. I have a gg-aunt named Lucina. I've seen Lucena, Lusena, Lucinda, Lucie, Lucy, etc.

      So much fun and so little time....

      "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 11:46:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is so true. (7+ / 0-)
    a strong belief seems to seek confirmation rather than questioning the facts
    We'll believe what we want to believe (see Iraq and WMD), all evidence to the contrary.

    Still, a few months shy of 100 is nothing to sniff at.

    I've run into the age exaggeration thing a number of times.    A relation-by-marriage of my husbands was always said to have been Cherokee and died at 105.  This "information" was printed in every family history story written about him.  However, what I found was that every census beginning when he first showed up in 1870 indicated he was born around 1841, so when he died in 1933, he was 92 years old.  But I guess once to get up there in age, there's a certain prestige associated with getting over the 100 mark.

    Also, every census indicated he was either "black" or "mulatto", never Native American.  However, since he was a former slave, chances are that he could have been half-Cherokee, especially since he originated in far-western North Carolina where there was still a decent-sized Cherokee population (even after the March of Tears forced relocation).

    Interesting diary.  Thanks!

    •  I think some of it is youthful stupidity (7+ / 0-)

      Like the 15 yo who lies to join the military, for one. Once they've lied, there's got to be a fear of exposing your lie.

      I think you're right about getting close to 100 and realizing that it may not happen. Nothing to lose, really. The notes about Ephraim Pratt say that he has a good sense on humor. He enjoys telling people that he was engaged to a 22 yo woman when he was 105. Now, that's a classic style for a New England storyteller.

      I've only run across a couple of women who decided to be younger in the census records. I guess my ancestors weren't vain.

      Yes, I've been frustrated by the choices in the early census records as well. My bro-in-law's family has ancestors from the same region and into SC, GA, and FL eventually. We know there's Cherokee and AA mixed in with these families and it's nearly impossible to sort things out. B, M, or W. Not even "other".

      "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 12:05:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I haven't had much (6+ / 0-)

        of this either:

        I've only run across a couple of women who decided to be younger in the census records. I guess my ancestors weren't vain.
        The actress Josephine Hull, of Arsenic and Old Lace among other things, grew up about three blocks from where I now live. She was born in 1877 but, by the time she married a younger actor, had shaved off five years. Later in her career she shaved off another four years.

        I understand it in her case, since she might have faced professional discrimination. But the records are there to disprove it, and our local historical society had a write-up attaching the census showing her alive years before she claimed to be born.

        Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 01:36:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I came upon an interesting woman (5+ / 0-)

          Did a ton of interesting stuff. A dash of Zelig to her. One of the first to be a professional interior decorator, including the West Wing of the White House for Teddy Roosevelt.  

          A writer, first ladies' domestic advice, but then largely on international travel. Volunteered for Red Cross in Italy, where she was a nurse to Hemingway. Credited with being an important advocate for Oklahoma statehood and making tourism to Cambodia fashionable. Her books are still in print.

          She was a passenger on the Titanic and her article about it was used for the movie. She did a lot of international travel, and she managed to get her passport to show her as ten years younger than she actually was, according to the many ship passenger records left behind. I have no idea how she pulled that one off.

          "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

          by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 02:18:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting (5+ / 0-)

            I think in those days you had to fill out an affidavit but didn't have to produce birth certificate, etc. Officials didn't freak out if someone fudged on the birthdate. I've seen countless WWI draft records where the year of birth is 1 or 2 off from what the birth certificate shows. In a lot of those cases they were making themselves older so they could serve, I think.

            Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

            by fenway49 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 04:36:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are also those who were just not (4+ / 0-)

              keyed to exact dates the way we are today. This is the WWI draft card of my 1st cousin once removed ... and I think it will likely remain one of my favorites:

              The line on the second page "Not sure as to his age - whether he was born in 1895 or 1896. Will get an affidavit from mother in Oklahoma."

              Either way, he was old enough to serve ... his birth year apparently hadn't been much of an issue before the draft.

              "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

              by klompendanser on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:33:33 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  In a similar vein (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                klompendanser, Jim H, GrumpyOldGeek

                I found a voter registration in Chicago.  Born in Canada, he was accepted as a citizen for voting, despite no information being provided as to naturalization.  The voter rolls, specifically, said "unknown" with regards to naturalization particulars.  That was around 1890, give or take.

                "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

                by Land of Enchantment on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:32:51 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  She lied - I found her passport application (5+ / 0-)

            on ancestry.com.

            She applied for a passport on 5 Jun 1920 which was granted on 8 Jun 1920. She was scheduled to sail to Japan and Hong Kong on July 1. pared. Since she was a well-known socialite, widow, famous person, and Titanic survivor, I doubt if she had to show any proof of anything.

            In 1920, passport applications outside of DC were processed by state approved passport agents; a lawyer. I assume she contacted her personal attorney.

            Everything she filled in seems to be accurate except the year of her birth. She clearly wrote 1868. It's not a sloppy '5'. She lied.

            In 1920, married women didn't need a passport if they were travelling with their husband. So she never had a passport in her name. Rather than providing proof of citizenship, marital status, and a birth certificate, she was allowed to provide an affidavit signed by a credible witness.

            Just who did she bring along to sign the affidavit? None other than the famous artist and genuine international hero of WW 1 , Claggett Wilson. Holy crap, Batman!

            Wilson swears that everthing is correct but says that he's known her for just 17 years. He's 30 years younger. How he can attest to her birthdate is beyond me.

            Apparently, this is one way to get away with lying on a passport application.

            Indeed, she was an interesting woman.

            "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

            by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 05:41:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  She was divorced in 1896 (5+ / 0-)

              She had an asshole of an abusive, drunken husband.  New York judge refused to grant her a divorce on those grounds.  Back then, you didn't go to Vegas for your "quickie" divorce.  Apparently it was Oklahoma, where she went and established residence to get her divorce.  And while there, she wrote a novel about Oklahoma, eventually becoming an advocate for Oklahoma statehood and settlement.  So it wasn't actually all that quick either.

              She was quite the enterprising character.  Invented herself, pretty much.

              "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

              by Land of Enchantment on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:03:04 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  My gg-aunt got a divorce in 1898 (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                fenway49

                But it was her husband who filed on the grounds of adultery. It was the MA Supreme Court that granted the divorce. It wasn't because she was an enterprising woman, rather this was a tragic scandal. She lived a quiet and solitary life after that, working in a shirt factory for decades. I wrote part of her story here.

                As for Helen Churchill H Candee's passport application, she's listed as a widow. Technically, I suppose, that's true since her ex-husband died in 1907.

                I can only surmise that she lied about her age due to vanity. It would have been a disaster to her career and social standing had she been caught. I'm glad that didn't happen.

                She was an amazing woman. Thanks for telling us about her.

                "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

                by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 12:25:40 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Ah, yes. Elwood P Dowd's sister. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim H, fenway49, klompendanser

          I've lost count of the number of times I've seen local productions of Harvey and Arsenic. There are only a handful of plays that I enjoy watching again and again. These are two of them.

          Just because I can, I did a quick ancestry.com search for Josephine and found TWO marriage records. Sure enough, she claims to be 28 years old in Apr, 1910. Her husband, Shelley Hull, is listed as 26 years old. One marriage is recorded in Newton, the other is recorded in Chicago. She claims to be 27 years old in the 1910 census.

          She's 7 years older than her husband and over 30 when she married. It's a thought.

          She definitely lied to the US government. In 1930, she went to France using passport #205034 showing dob of 3 Jan, 1882, still just 5 years off.

          Her findagrave.com entry and her cemetery marker, carved in stone, lists her dob as 3 Jan, 1886, accounting for the full 9 years.

          It's not the 17 years that Ephraim Pratt claimed and it's the other direction, but I forgive her. I fell in love with her long ago. Her acting was magical.

          "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

          by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 03:59:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hello volunteers! Ready to host (6+ / 0-)

    a Friday GFHC open thread?

    Current Schedule

    Feb 8    fenway49
    Feb 15  open for adoption
    Feb 22  fenway49
    Mar 1    Jim H
    Mar 8    open for adoption
    Mar 15  open for adoption

    You can pick from any of the open dates above, or pick a date further into the future if you wish.

    Come on, there's nuttin' to it!  Impress your friends and family.  Sign up to take a date!  Whaddaya say?

  •  more of us saw more facets: (4+ / 0-)

    "As today, a strong belief seems to seek confirmation rather than questioning the facts. Intellegence doesn't seem to be as much of a factor as it should be."
    (this applies to a whole lot of current diary themes.)

    seeing original documentation is in itself exciting...
    being very familiar with particular family facts helps expose falsehoods or sloppy research...
    having no preconceptions to resist is the most exciting...
    knowing that you don't know nuttin' for sure, is the most important tool of all...
    staying on the trail, identifying the right track, while being tempted by other fabulously interesting unexpected sirens, is the sign of a good bloodhound. submitting to the siren call can occasionally actually map a shortcut or unearth a new clue, even while being mostly an unproductive diversion...

    i was born a skeptic, and i have had nothing to lose by being wrong. sometimes i have had much to gain. and, yes, i have been vaccinated against Eagle Plume. ;) only one encounter required.

    * Join: The Action: End the Bush Tax Cuts for Richest Two Percent * Addington's Perpwalk: TRAILHEAD of Accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 02:52:46 PM PST

    •  That was my underlying messaging goal (0+ / 0-)

      I had plans to write this with more of a focus on the relevance to current themes. But then we had a power outage and I got pressed for time. I'm too much of a procrastinator to start writing earlier.

      I must have spent 15 minutes wordsmithing those two sentences. The rest is mostly cut and paste. There's a couple of sentences from Ward's book (the Rice Family) that reinforce these points.

      I'm pleased that you and some others commented about the relevance to current issues.

      Yeah, I agonize way too much about tying these historical events and themes to current thinking and behavior. In my mind, it's important to address the nonsense being spread by the crazies and the factors of human behavior that lead to such things than it is to focus only on the genealogy and family stories themselves. It's all about cognitive biases, fear, emotional overload, manipulation, irrational thinking, fallacies, etc.

      It's easier to tell a story about an uneducated farm laborer who was able to dupe the smartest and most respected man in New England. Exactly the message that this story should send.

      Your point about nothing to lose by being wrong is another important message that some never seem to get. Bush 2, for one. He couldn't think of any mistakes he's ever made. Ever. And for some reason that I'll probably never understand, most right wingers fully agree with such nonsense. It's really their deep insecurities they're showing, but pointing that out is a threat to them.

      Speaking of unexpected sirens, I considered writing an entirely different story about Shutesbury. Google 'shutesbury hitler' and you'll learn about a horrible event in Shutesbury's history. I decided not to go there. The message would be lost because of the Godwin's Law reference. Besides, I couldn't find the evidence online.

      Anyway, I've had too much coffee. I'll stop now.

      "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 01:13:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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