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Just Released... Charles Daniel Malone, A Life

Just Released... Charles Daniel Malone, A Life










On one level, this account may be viewed as little more than the simple narrative of the commonplace life of an ordinary man. But viewed from another, more expansive perspective, it can be seen as the singular chronicle of an individual who was extraordinarily faithful to country, family, and religion. The life of Charles Daniel Malone (1845-1927) spanned one of the most dynamic and volatile periods in American history. He exemplified a type of humble and persevering Everyman, who survived the Civil War and its attendant Reconstruction period, battled poverty and family tragedy, and eventually found his seemingly-destined place as a teacher and Episcopal minister in isolated, rural, coastal northeastern North Carolina.

Rooting out of the minutiae of his life may, in the view of some readers, border on deductio ad absurdum. To the contrary, however, a knowledge of all those minor parts leads to a better understanding of the major whole. This is written, then, in the spirit of the great Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, who believed that one must know the pots to know the pyramids. Additionally, rehearsal of the details of C. D.’s daily routine and community contributes to building a picture of the world in which he lived. An opening chapter sketches in his family background.

Having said this, it is important that I acknowledge the incomplete character of this narrative. As F. T. Wainwright noted in his book, Archaeology & Place-Names & History, anyone who aspires to writing a history must be aware that the assumptions and conclusions he or she makes are based on partial information, at best. The scope of any such narrative is limited by the availability of evidence. One can only mourn all the lost letters and conversations and images to which he does not have access. One can only apologize in advance for one’s inevitable errors in interpretation.

For the author, gradually, one detail after another came to light, and the general context and chronology began to take shape. Malone’s history cried out to be written, despite the handicaps presented by gaps in the historic record. If his story was not organized and put down, he was likely to be forgotten, surviving only as an inscription on a tombstone, a couple of lines in a genealogical essay. Its telling illustrates the maxim that there is no ordinary life, only those whose details have not been told.

It has not been possible to recapture certain of the aspects, lost in time, of this man, that one would wish to know. But, working around the missing puzzle pieces, the author has been able to cobble together an Impressionistic portrait, in words, of Charles Daniel Malone and the North Carolina world in which he lived.


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