Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Importance of Oral Histories

The central story of Bridges of the Heart takes place in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, and is partly based on the life of Coker Lisonbee.

Coker lived in Chesterfield, South Carolina, was born illegitimate in 1804  endowed with a strong will. His father died in a farming accident before Coker's birth. Living in the time of western expansion, his mother and her family raised him until he (and perhaps they) moved south to Alabama, and then to Mississippi where he met the Mormon missionaries.

The reason we know his story is because he passed an oral history to his children--the name of his father and mother  and when and where he was born. Oral histories, even though they are heresy and often expanded upon, are important to our family history. So many of our ancestors didn't read and write but told family stories to their children.

Coker Lisonbee has a large posterity throughout the west. In the novel I have changed the spelling back to the original Lisenby. There is a pocket of Lisonbees in Mississippi who are descendants of Coker's Uncle William whom Coker either came to Alabama with, or followed him there. And the rest of the Lisonbees are Coker's descendants.

All the surname spellings in Bridges of the Heart are changed from the originals. It is to remind the reader that the story is fiction even though it is based on real people. And Lucretia felt so much better with a fiction name since I made her out to be a unforgiving old woman. She felt uncomfortable about being portrayed so, and I knew it, fretted about it.  The publisher and I changed the spellings at the last minute, and then I felt Lucretia's peace.

Bridges of the Heart is available on Amazon and at Deseret Book

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