Passing Down a Love of History…


Dear Reader:

Yesterday I went to the mailbox and had a letter from Beverly Parkinson…our talented note card creator and loyal blog reader. Her mother is in the process of throwing out lots of old magazines…one being the Victoria. Beverly happened to glance through it and found this wonderful article on a daughter’s tribute to her father who taught seventh grade history for almost thirty years.

Beverly said she immediately thought of me. As I read the article I was filled with such a connection of nostalgia about my time in the classroom with eighth grade history students. I especially liked the part where she said her father would introduce the Presidents to her and her mother at every meal and tell one interesting fact about a President. (I did that for almost 30 years too.)

*For as long as her father lived…he would call her up on January 7 and ask his daughter what day it was. Claire knew…Millard Fillmore…she never got one wrong.

Her father was a very popular teacher and being a handsome man always had the seventh grade female students giggling and flirting with him. They had crushes on him for thirty years. His daughter thought it was hilarious. He was just dad to her. But for years when she went to sign her name to something…the first question from the banker or sales clerk was…”Your father isn’t John Whitcomb is he? I had him for seventh grade history and just loved him”!!

At the end of the article Claire and her dad (1988) co-authored a book about their love of history called “Oh Say Can You See” Unexpected Anecdotes about American History and Great American Anecdotes.” (I found one still in circulation and ordered it)

One interesting tidbit in the magazine article caught my attention since I was the “Queen of Trivia” too and yet never heard this story…that Paul Revere rowed across Boston bay at midnight with oars muffled by “petticoats.”  I had to find out more about this and found it in another fascinating article that gives us all room for thought about our ancestry.

The story was in a blog –Find My Past by Frederick Wertz. The object of this story is to remind us that no one rarely accomplishes historical notoriety without a lot of help and Paul Revere is no exception. He had friends in place before the ride began, in fact, 12 people are singled out for helping him on the night of the ‘midnight ride.’ If he had tried to do this all by himself he would have failed. Today we might be able to trace our ancestry back to one of these people who did as much as Paul Revere without getting the fanfare.

A collective effort

Just because he didn’t act alone doesn’t make his feat any less amazing.

Paul Revere was a true patriot and an accomplished man – he was one of the most well-connected people in Boston and the surrounding countryside. Simply put, he knew everyone.

And this is what makes him so special, and why he ultimately was the only one who could have succeeded that night. But contrary to the popular conception of the event, his connections were the crucial factor to success.

Revere knew many of the people who helped him out, in significant ways or simply through acquaintance. Some came to him and offered their help; others Revere sought out himself.

This was perhaps Revere’s most significant talent – he knew the right Massachusetts community leaders to find on his ride. He efficiently raised the alarm through the countryside by finding just the right person in each village. As the community leader would raise his own town, Revere was already on his way to the next one.

Here are the names of the twelve people who should get credit for the success of the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

…”When his extensive network of city spies warned him that the British were planning a mission departing by boat, he sprung into action – but Revere didn’t  hang the lanterns himself!

Revere knew someone that worked in the Old North Church and was active in colonial politics, John Pulling. Another member of the church, Robert Newman – of a prominent North End family that had fallen on hard times – also agreed to help.

Revere alerted Newman and Pulling and even enlisted the help of one of his neighbors, Thomas Bernard. He set them on their task, which they completed successfully, and went on his way.

Even though the lantern signal was up, Revere still needed to get out of Boston, which was no easy task. He enlisted the help of two Bostonian watermen who agreed to help him across the river – Joshua Bentley and Thomas Richardson.

These men helped row him silently across the Charles River without being seen by any British ships. Fischer highlights an amusing legend about the help of a third party:

***Another folktale has it that as Bentley and Richardson prepared to launch the boat, they discovered that they had forgotten a cloth to muffle their oars. The two men knocked softly at a nearby house. A woman came to an upper window, and they whispered an urgent request. There was a quick rustle of petticoats in the darkness, and a set of woolen underwear came floating down to the street. The lady’s undergarments, still warm from the body that had worn them, were wrapped snugly round the oars. (Fischer, 104)

After Revere crossed the Charles River

he still needed a fast steed to outrace any British pursuit and he got it.

“John Larkin, a deacon of the Congregational Church, supplied Revere with Brown Beauty, one of the fastest horses in Charlestown and the pride of the Larkin family. Her speed came in handy early on in his journey. Soon after departing, he was chased by two soldiers who were left behind by Brown Beauty.”

The rest of the names associated with this famous night in American history were all leaders of different small towns along the ride who help spread the town alarm. Two were doctors...Samuel Prescott and Martin Herrick...then there were local Whig leaders and local militia…Isaac Hall, Richard Devens, Ebenezer Stedman, Benjamin Lock and Solomon Bowman.

Think about it…all of us can be related back to people who rose to the occasion to change history ….they just didn’t get credit for it at the time.

***(Another main source of this article came from David Hackett-Fischer)

I am so excited that my two oldest grandchildren both love history! (It is a little too early to tell with the other three age-wise…Jake is absorbed with cars, Lachlan with Paw Patrol, and Eloise with stuffed animals.:)

Eva Cate loves biographies on famous women…I think she is going to be an activist for women’s rights…You go girl! Rutledge loves historical periods and historical adventures. Both of them love dressing up in costumes and historical pieces….even things like Dr. Seuss Day or dress up like a 100 year old for 100 days of school.

So until tomorrow…”If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

For the Beauty of this Day….my latest porch additions just continue to add more additions with blooms galore…they love their location.



About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to Passing Down a Love of History…

  1. bcparkison says:

    Wow! You came up with a lot of new and interesting information. I’m so glad I came across this and sent it to you.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      All it takes is me learning new fun facts about an historical incident and I am and off and running…researching the facts, fiction, and folklore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beverly Dufford says:

    As always, I love, love, love it when you relate stories of history. A few of those names seem to ring a bell with me, but they were connected with other events of the period. Thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to hear stories from the book you ordered.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      I am excited about getting the book too….really miss teaching all the interesting tidbits that made history fun and personal.


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