Of my five years writing weekly columns for the Daily Journal, this is the second hardest column I have ever written, the first being about my Mom.
In this column I would like to make a public apology to Mr. John Hutchinson and his lovely wife.
A few weeks back, a friend of mine at the Historical Society loaned me a story he had on the shelf at the Leak Wall House. Just glancing over it, it was a historical fiction story about Richmond County. Not seeing an author’s name or any other ID, I asked who wrote the short story? The answer was he didn’t know but someone had taken it off the internet and given him a copy.
I asked to borrow the story and carry it home and finish reading it. As I read the story, it was about the last hanging that took place in Rockingham, which took place in 1908.
After reading the story, I did a search on my computer, not finding anything concerning the story. Finally, I searched the computer archives and finally found an article about an inch square of a hanging that took place in Rockingham in 1908. Of all places, I found it in an old Robesonian paper from Lumberton.
With this record I knew that the story I was reading was based on a true event.
Still not knowing who had written the story, I thought the citizens of Richmond County might like to read about a little of their history. I took my own spin on the story and wrote it out to appear in three columns in the local papers.
The first part of the story was published in both local papers and I had sent the second part to them to be published. Well, bless Pat, on Monday, my friend John Hutchinson sent out a message on Facebook that he had written the story for his wife. He had spent a lot of time researching several parts of the story and was very displeased that the story had been published in the papers.
Until I read his Facebook posting, I had no idea who wrote the story. I am a storyteller, but I have unknowingly committed a cardinal sin for a writer and that is rewriting someone else’s story without tracking down the source. For this I am terribly sorry and ashamed and am making my public apology to Mr. and Mrs. John Hutchinson.
I have known John for several years and he is a great person and one of the best historical writers around. I respect him as a friend and would never knowingly do anything to tarnish that friendship.
Like John said, Henry Harvey may still have a curse on some people 110 years later.
I was not told to write this column but out of respect for John and his wife I feel it’s the least I can do to right a wrong. Again John, please accept my humble apology and please don’t let this incident keep you from your writing. I think I have learned from my mistake.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson County Writers’ Club, the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies and co-author of the new book, “Just Passing Time Together.”