My upcoming book, The Scattering of Stones, is the story of a Mary Hutton Carter’s migration from fear into courage and from Western Pennsylvania to the Ohio frontier, with stops and trials along the way. Descendant, Maggie Carter Smith, doggedly follows the heroine by examining obscure documents, clue by clue.
Any genealogist, amateur or professional, knows how essential historical maps are to researching an ancestor. As Mary’s story unfolded, it became clear to me (and my pal’s at The Writing Gym) that I needed a map.
As I perused map after map from the period, one thing became clear—maps are products of the times. The cartographers relied on current knowledge, the instruments of the time, guesstimates of distance, and a wealth of creative spellings. In fact, one dilemma I faced in writing my book was whether to spell Pittsburgh as it is spelled today or as it was often spelled in the 18th century (Pittsburg). I used today’s spelling in order to avoid seemed ill informed. The same issue arose for Allegany/Allegheny/Alleghany.
I came up with my best version of a map covering the territory in my story by grabbing from a variety of sources. But I do not draw worth a hill o’ beans. I would need something better. That is where Linda Zupcic came in. A fabulous artist in her own right, she agreed to turn my childish renderings into something better—much better. But first she wanted a sense of what I envisioned. So, what did I envision? I wanted a hand-drawn map; one Maggie the genealogist might have discovered long after the story ended. But what did that look like?
True to 21st century human sesibilities, I googled “Hand-drawn 19th century maps” and discovered an amazing world of very special maps. During the turn from the 18th to 19th century, school children, particularly young women attending “finishing schools,” learned geography and penmanship by drawing maps. These beautiful renditions included maps of the stars, earth, continents, countries, states, and counties. Some were meticulously rendered and others displayed an artful flair. There are a number of articles on-line about them. One is by National Geographic and another is by David Ramsey. You can see a slide show of his collection here.
These maps, made by teenagers, mostly girls, were my inspiration. In my imagination I saw a daughter creating a map of her mother’s travels. Not perfect, a product of time and circumstance, she tucked it away, for Maggie to find long after my story is ends. Linda captured it perfectly. It appears in black and white, in The Scattering of Stones. I offer it in its true beauty here, with thanks to a talent far surpassing mine.
Oh, one tiny tease—the map has a bleed through. You might wonder why.