Hello to family, friends and followers of Bartholomew Stovall. It’s been three months since my last posting and for this, I do apologize. I find myself in a place where life’s realities and my six-year-old grandson dictate my time. Most anything I do that involves our ground zero grandfather is surely a blessing during this period of my life. I would like to say thanks to all of you who have encouraged me with kind words, contacted me for information, responded to posts, or purchased our book.
But for the present, I’m sharing this post to provide insight on a certain story-line that stretched out over several chapters of our novel, Bartholomew Stovall – The English Immigrant. I will ask that you please bear with me while I try and unwind this true tale of how fiction is created.
The Tyndale Bible played a large part in the book of Bartholomew. When his Great Grandfather, George Stovold, received his copy in 1585, he understood that it was a holy book. For the remainder of his life, George wrote of personal experiences to reveal the truth in the scriptures. Sometimes he would underline a verse or jot down his thoughts and understandings in the worn margins of the book. By the time the Tyndale was placed into the hands of ten-year-old Bartholomew, it was filled with wisdom from three generations passed.
It is also written that, when Bartholomew reached the age of eighteen years, he made the decision to immigrate to Colonial America as an indentured servant. He was prohibited from carrying the Bible with him, so he asked his friend from birth, Sara Gentry, to watch over the book until he could give her an address to forward it.
Sarah Gentry kept the book safe for twenty years, but on Christmas Eve, 1704 she received a letter from her old friend requesting that she send the book addressed to: Bartholomew Stovall, Kennon Plantation, Virginia Colonies. As fate would have it, Captain Peter Pagan of The Booth, was flagged down on the street in London, England by a courier who offered him a sum to deliver the package from Sarah, to Jamestown, Virginia. When Pagan saw that it was addressed to Bartholomew Stovall, he consented to the transport.
Now, fast forward to the year, 1705. Elizabeth Kennon, John Worsham, and Peter Pagan are riding in a carriage from the Kennon Plantation bound for the home of Bartholomew and Ann Stovall. With them they carry a proposition that would award Bartholomew 320 acres on the James River in return for his farm in the wilderness. Although Bartholomew would not be able to refuse the generous offer, it was not the only prize that he would be given during their brief stay. Mrs. Kennon had intercepted the package from Peter Pagan and planned to return the coveted treasure from Bartholomew’s youth, the Tyndale Bible.
During the day long excursion to the “farm in the wilderness”, Elizabeth devoured the notes written in the Bible’s margin. She moved through each page but was particularly drawn to one underlined verse. Inserted in the pages, written in clear penmanship was the entire text of the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter one, verse three was underlined and read:
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.
When I was writing our novel, I thought this passage was the essence of Bartholomew’s story, but I was soon to realize that I had written an error.
During the initial writings of Bartholomew, I was sitting at my desk thumbing through KJV version, searching for a relevant verse for Elizabeth Kennon to find that would make her take notice. The task was taking too long and I became frustrated. I closed the cover of the Bible and thought. I remembered someone saying, if you have a question, just say a prayer, open to any page in the Bible, and put your finger on a verse. There will be the answer to your prayer. I stared down at the Bible and then reached for the lower pages. I flipped through until I stopped and then opened the book. Very slowly and deliberately I put my finger down to a verse and saw Ecclesiastes 1-3. When I read the text, I was… stunned. What were the odds of me finding this most relevant phrase? I knew that there was no need to look further and vividly remember transferring each word to my manuscript thinking how lucky, or blessed, to have found this scripture.
Several days later I was editing some of my work until I came to the words about Ecclesiastes. But the thought occurred to me that the Tyndale Bible don’t contain all the books in the KJV. It was a worrisome thought until it was confirmed. William Tyndale ran out of time before he could publish the book of Ecclesiastes. You see, while he was busy converting the scrolls to English, the Holy Roman Catholic Church had him arrested for heresy, and executed.
The thought never occurred to me to remove the verse, so I set about the task of writing around my mistake. I envisioned that Bartholomew should have copied the chapter from an original KJV of the scriptures and insert the pages into his Tyndale. Just like that, you have a Tyndale with a bonus of Ecclesiastes.
But it was only one of the several stories that needed to be written before Bartholomew was finished. Primarily, I wanted to bring Mary Wilkie into the story line. Mary was the beautiful lass, one year younger than Bartholomew’s 18 years, that traveled the passage aboard the Booth, from the Port of London. She was shy and kept to herself, but soon enough she and Bartholomew came to be good friends.
What I’ve not told you is that, I intentionally left small traces of her all throughout the book. I did this purposely because I planned for my next novel to be the story of Mary Wilkie.
But I had yet to drill into the details of her life. So, I crafted a tale of Bartholomew and Mary during the passage. Sometimes they would sneak away from the other servants at sea and climb up to the base of the mainsail. There, they would find a place in a bundle of rope and share stories.
Bartholomew would often question Mary about her past, but she never offered anything other than, “I had to leave.” But on one occasion, Mary would tell him of happier times in London, when she worked for a printer or the times she helped her Mother with the weaving of the yarn. But then her mood turned grievous when she spoke with disdain that, “It was all taken from me,” and that she was “forced” to leave.
During this same encounter, Bartholomew would tell her of his love for the Tyndale Bible that he had to leave behind. When he tried to explain to her how he separated the page spine and inserted his hand-written copy of Ecclesiastes, he was surprised when Mary asked him details of how he had done it. Evidently the young lady had a knowledge of binding and printing books, which led him to believe that there was more to Mary Wilkie than he first thought.
It took more than three pages to clarify one of my errors, but it also allowed me to ‘formerly’ introduce Mary Wilkie as a character. Those three pages also allowed me to tell a story of Bartholomew’s youth. Factually, nothing is written about Bartholomew Stovall from age ten to eighteen. I found it easy to fill in a short but relevant tale of fiction, and I readily admit that it was one of the most enjoyable writing sessions I experienced.
While creating our novel, I remember spending days, or weeks researching applicable subjects. I would assemble the facts and then translate them into an engaging story line. It was a tedious but rewarding progression measured sentence by sentence. But editing and crafting story lines, like this example, is much more rewarding for this author.
William Robert Stovall Sr.