The Devil Is In The Details

I recently read in an article about Carlisle School that “[T]he Friedmans attended the local Presbyterian church that Captain Pratt and other staff belonged to.” While not inaccurate, the statement leaves off much of the story. For starters, Carlisle had three Presbyterian churches: First Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian, and Third Presbyterian. Third Presbyterian no longer exists, Second Pres. flourishes in a modern building on the edge of town, and First Pres. sets on the square, where it has since its early days, not far from the Carlisle Indian School campus.

Because of its location and because some students from the school attended First Presbyterian, readers generally assume that Pratt and Friedman attended First Presbyterian.  But a local historian knowledgeable about such things informed me that wasn’t the case. Pratt attended Second Presbyterian instead of the historic First Presbyterian Church on the square where George Washington once worshipped. Wondering why he chose that church when he was raised a Methodist, I perused the Second Presbyterian Church website history section.

Sheldon Jackson was a well-known minister who set up over 100 missions and churches in the western United States and Alaska. He was also the brother-in-law to Rev. George Norcross, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church from 1869 to 1909. Jackson used Carlisle as a home base between trips and met Pratt when he was in town. That Jackson and Pratt had compatible educational philosophies probably established a bond between them that may have extended to Norcross. That Pratt attended Second Presbyterian could be due to meeting Jackson and finding his brother-in-law to be an acceptable minister.

The Devil is in the Details may not be an accurate analogy for researching history. The truth can be found in the details is probably closer to the truth. Sometimes the cause is something prosaic rather than something more exciting or nefarious. But some digging is required to find the details.

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