The Mill Creek Hundred History Blog (MCHHB) published by Scott Palmer contains interesting narratives about notable buildings, people and places in this part of Delaware. This platform, a virtual treasure trove of wonderful stories, is the place to learn about the Hundred’s past, as it fills in an “information gap.” It also provides a public commons as Scott invites readers to converse while sharing information, photographs, documents and good stories.
I have read the weblog for a couple of years, learning lots about the past in the Mill Creek area. And I particularly enjoy following his approach to local mysteries, as he puzzles together hard to uncover fragments of evidence. Scott takes a very precise methods approach to these investigations, summarizing what he knows and outlining whatever fragments of evidence he has unearthed. From that framework, he suggests possible answers, contemplates the gaps and inconsistencies, and considers additional ways to find fresh clues to validate the hypothesis. He also crowdsources his inquires, inviting others to contribute to the process.
Most bloggers sharing stories about the past in our communities produce concise, informative narratives. It’s almost as if in the style of that voice of unfolding history, Walter Cronkite, we say “that’s the way it is.” That is fine and adds great value for all of us interested in the past, especially as a new generation turns to the web to share memories and do research. It is so important that we broadly share our heritage stories and there are many excellent regional weblogs I follow using exactly this approach. Each of us working “in the past lane” comes at the work we enjoy so much in our own unique way, and I value this broad sharing of accounts.
But Scott frequently adds to these valuable narratives by sharing the unfolding, investigative process. Anyone who does analytical interpretations knows that matters aren’t always tidy. They are complicated and can be problematic, especially if we are critically assessing something or examining untouched subjects (there are many), as we struggle to puzzle together a fresh source based narrative. It isn’t always perfectly clear, nor is some of the evidence we want available or accessible.
MCHHB is currently mulling over a question about how Stoney Batter Road was named, which is what got me to thinking about the way Scott approaches his skilled passion for heritage studies. On this one he writes: “Due to the nature of the history in Mill Creek Hundred, and of the information available about it, almost never in these posts do we get all the facts or the whole story about any given topic. However, I’m usually able to cobble together a good framework of facts, even if some of the details are still a bit fuzzy. The one story that seems to consistently buck this trend though is the origin of some local place and road name” as they often elude attempt to pin things down.
Additional information frequently surfaces as people read the item and share the knowledge they have. Or Scott’s cold case work yields additional clues, after the original posts goes up. But for this particularly problematic question he writes: “I wish I had a good, definitive answer for you, but as of now I don’t.”
Moving on from the knowns and unknowns related to this inquiry, he uses a professional approach to the investigation, saying that he has at “least three separate, inclusive theories.” He outlined those and worked on cobbling together a framework of facts to support each hypothesis, even if some of the details were a bit fuzzy.
It didn’t take long before the power of the crowd yielded some more good pieces of evidence, and MCHHB had a second post on the matter. But there’s still more work to be done.
Thanks Scott for sharing your knowledge of Mill Creek Hundred with all your readers and for the professional way you approach questions, as you post thorough and thoughtful columns that explore the events, people and place in Mill Creek, and the process of interpreting the story.