Last week Brad Dinsmore's column in the Windham Independent mentioning corn husking parties reminded me of something I came across early in my genealogy research days. I thought perhaps sharing the story might be helpful to others exploring corn husking but more importantly, to those on the trail of ancestors in history books. I, like many others once thought that information found in town histories was unequivocally true. It probably should be, but what I didn't know was that sometimes, it can also be completely fabricated to the point of fiction in a non-fiction book.
My Baker ancestors go back to Concord, Massachusetts in the mid 17th Century. So you can imagine my surprise and the thrill of finding a story about "Goodman Baker's Husking Party" which I came across "in part" through an online source. The book was The History of Concord Massachusetts by Alfred Sereno Hudson (1904). I read the story with such amazement at first, clearly overcome by the treasure & loss of all common sense. I was thrilled! What a gem! How lucky am I? But when my senses finally returned, I thought...how could this record exist? Well, turns out, it doesn't exist.
I was missing an extremely important component to the story, the beginning & the context. I had not seen the very first page of the chapter that stated "As these huskings were great occasions let us suppose that we attended one of them, and that the following description fairly represents one of these Fall festivals." And there you have it, the major importance of context. Translated into plain English, Hudson is in essence saying, 'This is a fictional account of what might have been.' That said, the description is really interesting and likely somewhat accurate in content as it relates to corn husking. So, I've decided to share it here along with the full disclosure of my own complete stupidity many years ago.
The full pdf version of the book can be found on Google Books.
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy
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