I don’t know if this is a joke or a truism among authors: the first page you look at in your newly published book is the one on which you’ll find an error. The best you can hope for is that the mistake is a typo that was overlooked in the copyediting and proofreading processes. The worst, at least for someone who writes about historical “truths,” is an error of fact.
Sometimes, those more substantive errors don’t reveal themselves right away – usually not until you are deep into the research for another, unrelated project. Take, for instance, the whopping error in Oysterville, my second book for Arcadia Publications. The book was published in 2010, yet it wasn’t until yesterday while working on an article about place names, that I found I had totally confused two generations of Briscoes.
I was looking for information about the little Briscoe gravesite north of Long Beach. It’s to the west of the highway, about at 140th, and is surrounded by a white fence. I have always thought that it was a baby who was buried there but I found that there are actually two stones – one for Lucy Briscoe who died in 1881 and the other for John Briscoe who died in 1901 at the age of 88.
This information triggered a number of semi-related thoughts. I remembered my mother’s friend, Lucille Wilson (a descendent of the Briscoes) telling me that her ancestors had taken out a Donation Land Claim for that property in 1853. I remembered the identification on the back of a photograph given to me by Charlotte Jacobs: Briscoe House, Oysterville. And I remembered what I had written on page 38 of Oysterville:
Not far south of the Pacific House was the home of Judge John Briscoe, who served as the area’s fifth representative to the Territorial Legislature. In 1854, he was appointed probate judge by Gov. Isaac I. Stevens and was reelected to that position for some years. He and his wife, Julia, were highly respected members of the pioneer community.
My current thinking is that I’ve confused two John Briscoes, father and son. The elder was the homesteader near Briscoe Lake north of the present-day Long Beach, was elected to represent Pacific County in the Washington Territorial Legislature at Olympia, was appointed probate judge, and had a wife named Lucy. The younger John Briscoe lived in Oysterville with his wife Julia, served as postmaster here from 1874 to 1877, was a trustee of the Oysterville Methodist Church and, like his father, became a judge.
The 1860 Oysterville Census, which certainly could have included the Briscoe DLC, lists the Briscoe family: Briscoe, John, 47; Briscoe, Lucy, 43; Briscoe, Joseph, 11; Briscoe, John, 9; Briscoe, Pacific B., 5; Briscoe, Ida G., 1. Although I found one reference to the elder Briscoe as “John D,” I have yet to mind a middle initial for the younger John. I am still on the search for later census information.
So, my personal jury is out regarding the Judges Briscoe. All I know for certain is that I’m confused, and that if Oysterville ever goes into a second printing, some corrections are in order.