Friday, August 26, 2016

More about Marbury, Moon Eyes, and Wikipedia...

After all of my efforts working on the puzzle of Colonel Marbury yesterday (today, in fact, since I stayed up long past midnight), I realized that the whole argument as to whether he needs to have his own page in Wikipedia is a moot point, and nothing I need to concern myself with. For my own purpose (citing a fact in another article), all I really need to do is cite the fact from the source, and make a brief explanation (within the text of the original article) as to who Marbury was (therefore, qualifying the citation, so folks can judge whether to accept Barton's statement). And, assuming that Barton actually heard the myth from Marbury's lips, as he said (no reason to believe the doctor would make that up), then whether to believe that Marbury was knowledgeable about "Cheerake" myth and fact. He probably wasn't, that much. Just heard a few wild stories in his travel among them.

A correct citation doesn't prove or disprove the myth. Marbury may or may not have heard it from the Cherokee. It just pinpoints the probable source of a story that kept getting repeated on down the line. That's what a citation does. It shows that a man in Georgia, who likely had some contact with the Cherokee in the 1760s and 1770s (and probably a little before then), learned of a mythical people--possibly learned it straight from the Cherokee--and passed his rumor or opinion on to Dr. Barton. In order to have further proof of the so-called moon-eyed people, one would have to go to other sources, such as anthropological and archaeological studies, Cherokee myth (as documented and accepted), DNA studies, if relevant, and documented testimonies of explorers who were in North America before Barton and Marbury; if one thought such a myth could be tracked down. It's not a fact that could ever be proven, in my opinion, but by including the historical sources, we now know how the story made it into modern-day history books and pamphlets.

That's all Wikipedia wants to do--set the facts straight and document things in an objective way. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia (and one that I happen to strongly believe in). Wikipedia doesn't want vague, local-history pamphlets about mythical, romantic "moon-eyed people" who "pre-date the Cherokee." They want a citation for an 18th-century source, which mentions said "moon-eyed-people" and states an opinion, based on a rumor of the day, that said "moon-eyed-people" pre-date the Cherokee. It's all any encyclopedia wants. For those who want romantic associations and speculations about myths, there are so many other venues out there. (Get a blog.)

With the Barton and Marbury facts as a citations, the myth is documented and recorded. And, if it doesn't later get gleaned out through the collaborative vetting process, as unnecessary chaff or trivia or stuff unrelated to the subject, then it will be there for the next student or scholar or historian or myth-chaser who wants to then springboard off of it to track down some Mayan ruin or ancient civilization of cave dwellers, or whatever their discipline calls for. We only need a separate article on Marbury or moon-guys or Barton (who has already rated his own page, being a well-documented guy) if too many facts and important points start to accumulate to have any legitimate relation to the original subject, then the guy will get his own article.

Tracking Down Colonel Leonard Marbury, and Wikipedia Edits in General

Originally I posted this in my "Little Scraps" blog, but decided after all to "carve it in stone" here in Glimmers, where my rants and quandaries usually go...

This whole thing started simply enough. I logged into Wikipedia to do a minor edit, and ran across one of my first old query pages. Spent about an hour trying to figure out if I could and/or should delete the thing; got side-tracked onto the subject of the original article (which is stub-quality, W's polite term for "unimportant junk"). Found a request for a citation (which I hope to goodness I didn't put there--caused myself this long, long detour, if so). Figured I'd do a quick look-up for a citation, or else rewrite the sentence so that it didn't need a citation (something like "attributed to so-and-so").

Well, someone had found a citation on the "fact" I was chasing (references to moon-eyed-people, an old myth that has been utilized in local history marketing). So... simple. Reuse citation. But there was no link. Next idea: do a quick lookup on the old source--lots of those ancient books are being scanned and made available these days. That worked! Got a hit.

I was able to find a book by Benjamin Smith Barton (a slightly later edition), but it does have the reference to the moon-eye-people, and is quite likely the source that started the "fact" (or myth) being repeated in local history books and pamphlets down through the years.

Next plan: link that source, and cite it. Simple enough, except that I don't like a plain link as a citation. Links are so often broken. I like to cite the book and page number, if possible. But this presented a new problem. The numbering sequence in the old book was odd. I found the page easily enough using's search tool, but figuring out how to cite the page, other than using just a link, was more difficult.

The page is marked by small roman numerals. I wasn't sure whether to cite it using Roman or Arabic numerals. That took me into the realm of looking up "how to cite..." (sigh). I seem to live there these days. I am wearing out Google search on how to cite (for my Civil War book).

Not much luck. The three tutorials I checked didn't cover this exact case, but one came close: . It said that if a publisher uses Roman numerals in the preface, then cite using Roman numerals; if you cite in Arabic numerals, it will indicate that the page is in the main text, not the preface. Good enough.

Except... that it's still complicated. In this old book, there are at least three sections that use Roman numerals. In the first two (a patronage page and a preface), the sequence is continuous, so, no problem. But then, the book has another section called "Preliminary Discourse." It starts fresh with a sequence of "i" in Roman numerals. After that section, the text/main book starts on page one (Arabic numeral one).

Now, anyone looking up my citation would come to the first matching roman numeral (in the preface) and decide, "That's wrong! The fact is not in this source." So... should I somehow designate the section to let readers know they should continue past the preface, but not go on to the main text? I decided this would work.

[Solution]: Benjamin Smith Barton, New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America, (Pennsylvania: for Benjamin Smith Barton by John Bioren, 1798), "Preliminary Discourse" (follows preface), xliv.

It's an unconventional citation, maybe, but I think people could then find the page, whether via the link, or by looking it up in a paper copy of the book, if available.

This source was better than expected. The author, Benjamin Smith Barton (Wiki article) was a doctor, a naturalist, and a professor in Pennsylvania--and he seemed to be an expert in his field for the times, not a quack. But, times were less exacting (the Age of Enlightenment notwithstanding). Here's his quote:
 "The Cheerake tell us, that when they first arrived in the country which they inhabit, they found it possessed by certain 'moon-eyed-people,' who could not see in the day-time. These wretches they expelled. This curious fact was communicated to me by Colonel Leonard Marbury, a very intelligent gentleman, who has put me in possession of much important information concerning the southern Indians. Possibly, the moon-eyed-people scalp. The term hunter is left ambiguous (Barton xliv)." 
(It goes on). As far as the quality of the author's knowledge (taking the document image at face value, assuming that the book really is a period book scanned from an original in the Library of Congress): Barton was legitimately a Colonial-era professor, and was making an honest attempt at presenting a true history of the natives of America. He did make a technical error by saying "The Cheerake tell us..." when actually, Marbury told him that the "Cheerake" said it.

Since Barton attributed his own knowledge to a conversation with Colonel Leonard Marbury, I did a quick search on Marbury, to see what his knowledge might be; and I could see, by previous edits and citations, that I wasn't the first one to go this route.

My first attempt at identifying Marbury was Wikipedia (as it usually is, my favorite source for quick lookups); not much help this time. It appears that there is an argument among users as to whether Marbury merits an independent article.

Next, I tried a general search on Google. Most of the results looked like carbon copies of each other, but this hobbyist/historian's site had a historic marker for Georgia:

Historic Markers Across Georgia: Battle of Brier Creek - Mar. 3, 1779
Short URL:

I've used it before, because it does have markers to some pretty obscure, local events and historic sites; which, though obscure to the rest of the world, are nevertheless important to the local historians, marketers, etc. Unfortunately, he doesn't distinguish between state-erected markers and privately placed markers; you have to judge by the photos. The structure of the site is difficult (navigational problems). I'm not happy with the long URLs, full of "%" and such like--so I shorten them using Bitlink. I'm always a little worried as to whether I've accessed a permalink or a temp. Also, the site or site host seems to be an offshoot of user pages on (or maybe some of the users migrated from or merged into that site; I find broken links when trying to backtrack to a source).

But back to the subject, or rather, the offshoot of my original subject. It appears that Colonel Marbury was a colonel in the Revolutionary War. Now, having done lots of research in Civil War history lately, I've realized that colonels are lowish on the totem pole of official records (but do occasionally write up good reports); and are high in the esteem of foot-soldiers, who are likely to be under the immediate, direct command of colonels. And colonels are typically out there in the field; so quite likely, this Marbury (if the historic marker is correct) ran into a Cherokee or two during his field trips. The thing I like about colonels, is that you can use them to follow your particular soldier, if you're researching one. I mean, the general may be sitting up there in Chattanooga or Nashville or wherever, but the colonel is out there slogging through the mud in front of your guy. So... you can sometimes find out what battle your soldier may have attended, if you can track down his colonel.

Now, whether or not he's a reliable source as to what the Cherokee believed in 1797 is one thing. Who can know? But he is surely the source for how the "fact" (or myth) came to Barton, and Barton is the source who put the fact in print; and if nothing else, the whole thing proves that, once a thing is put into print...

Which reminds me of the saying, "It's not carved in stone"; which always makes me laugh, because of the numerous errors I've seen carved on the tombstones of ancestral ladies whose ages do not come anywhere near to the age that the earliest census records of their existence imply them to be...

Then I went back and tried to read Wikipedia's guidelines, but got tired of learning terms like "snowball," "sockpuppet," and "speedykeep." A lot of controversy seems to be generated over new article titles (though it never ceases to amaze me that Wikipedia has no objection to reams of trivia about why Elvis smeared peanut butter on his toenails, or whatever). That being said, Wikipedia is still my first go-to on every subject under the sun!

Then I was going to ask one of the guys who did edits on the delete page and invited comments, but I could figure out where to comment on his user page, or whether he was still inviting comments after three years, or whatever.

So... Now my curiosity is piqued and I'm eager to know whether this Marbury guy should remain in the Who's Who of anything at all. But if he was even a minor figure in the Revolutionary War, seems like someone here or there will be desperate to find some reference to him for whatever little project they've got going. And I've forgotten all about the moon-eyed people. The whole Marbury thing has become more important to me than the myth of the moon-eyed people, which can't ever (at this point) prove to be anything other than a myth (outside of DNA and anthropological studies).

And I'm wondering what kind of medium-sized animal just whapped up against the side of my house at 4:15 a.m., in what sounded like a probable struggle, though it made no cry of any kind. That was scary.

I had more thoughts, but... it's late, I'm tired, and I really need to get to my real work, typing up some stuff for a company which actually pays me. I have procrastinated long enough...

Let's pick this up again later...