OUR CLAYBROOK HERITAGE
(Madison County, Tennessee)
All people have their individual memories and perceptions of the communities that have special meaning for them. These may be the places where they spent their formative years or where they have lived significantly for any length of time as adults.
A basic task of the local historian is to furnish factual, objectively presented information which will enable a reader of local history to better understand what the most likely heritage may be for any given community. This information provides the essential background against which are then "played" those individual memories and perceptions already mentioned.
The local historian should provide some interpretive content about relevant persons and events; otherwise his account will simply be a collection of supposed facts or a chronicle of events. However, he is obliged to remember that his readers have turned to him for information about the "local" community; not, most emphatically not, "warmed over" state, regional or national history, with splotches of local history stitched into his narrative. His focus should be constantly upon local people and local events. The broader domains of history are brought into view in local history, depending upon the intended scope of the particular narrative being presented.
It sometimes happens that the local historian will take liberties with factual historical elements in order to enliven his text. It is very well to write engagingly, a feature readers may surely appreciate, but one should expect historians to adhere to "what is known" or what the most reliable evidences suggest has happened, thereby avoiding contrived situations, dubious speculations, distorted personalities and fabricated thoughts and conversations. Fictional history is an effort to "reconstruct" the past without much regard for documentable history.
The focus of this particular account of the Claybrook heritage, part of the community in northeast Madison County, Tennessee now generally known as the Liberty-Claybrook Community, is upon traditional CLAYBROOK. There were other nearby places such as the village of Spring Creek and the settlement just west of Claybrook once called Andersonville, both deserving of separate historical study. Spring Creek is still a distinct entity, an interesting community now as in the past.
As the author has from necessity kept a close focus on Claybrook, he would suggest that the reader who wants to place the Claybrook story in a broader context of Madison County history do so by reading HISTORIC MADISON (Jackson, 1946; subsequently reprinted twice), written by the county's premier historian, Emma Inman Williams (1906-1992).
A list of persons to whom I am especially grateful for their sharing of information useful in the preparation of this book will be found under "Acknowledgments" on page 61.
Jonathan K. T. Smith
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