Nearly 400 years ago, Samuel Gorton wearily checked his watch from inside the London haberdashery in which he found himself employed. He confided in his business partner that he missed roaming the woods that surrounded his home of Manchester. He missed his mother’s cherry tarts, and he found the nobility of the big city to be unbearably stuffy and vain.
His woe would soon turn to enthrallment, however, when his partner invited him to a performance of Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare, and Gorton met his future wife, Mary Maplett. His infatuation with Mary, an anomalously educated and well-spoken woman, would be a moment that forever changed Gorton’s trajectory in life - which ultimately altered the course of our history as a result.
“Forefathers & Founding Fathers” is a book that seeks to tell the story of Gorton and other crucially important historical figures that shaped and formed the early British colonies that would eventually give rise to the independent United States of America. However, unearthing history that has been lost to time or underappreciated in traditional accounts only makes for a compelling tale if you can get people to read it.
Which leads us to the opening anecdote for this story. Author Michael Gorton - an 11th-generation ancestor of Samuel Gorton and accomplished entrepreneur - found that towing a line between astutely accurate, historical research and a conversational writing style versed in modern English would be the equation necessary to write something compelling, something unprecedented and, most importantly, something fun to read.
“My personal opinion is that we've done this all wrong,” Gorton said of teaching history. “I always use the Kardashians as an example. You can walk into any high school classroom and almost every kid will know the names of all the Kardashian girls, but they may not know who Thomas Jefferson or Neal Armstrong is.”
“The problem is that we make fun of the Kardashians,” he continued. “What we should be doing is understanding what that show is doing right. Why are so many people watching that show? Let's figure out what that is and use it elsewhere.”
That effort has culminated in this work, officially categorized as “historical fiction,” however it may be more accurately summarized as history brought to life. If you allow for some creativity and suspend a little disbelief, what you’re left with is an historical account unlike any other - where the characters are portrayed as real people with real emotions and interactions rather than mere static names peppered throughout the pages of a dense textbook.
Gorton insists the heart and soul of the book is an immensely researched, cross-referenced and peer-reviewed historical account of Samuel Gorton’s arrival in Plymouth Colony and his harrowing journey to find religious and societal acceptance of ideals that - while they consist of the very foundations of what we consider to be American ideals today - at the time were punishable, taboo offenses far outside the realm of what was considered proper.
“I thought I was going to be writing a book about some derelict forefather that was always in trouble,” Gorton said. “It turns out I was right. He was always in trouble, but he was always in trouble because he believed in equal rights for women and no slavery and in freedom of religion.”
Gorton pondered if, had his ancestor not fled Plymouth along with fellow rebels like Roger Williams - the founder of Providence - would the United States be the same as it is today?
“Boston was on its way to becoming a very difficult theocracy,” he said. “If it weren’t for Rhode Island, who knows? The Providence Plantations and Warwick colonies really defined the future course of American history… You can make the argument that the Greenes and the Gortons really started what we now consider democracy.”
The book will have something for everyone who enjoys learning about local history. In addition to chronicling little-known facts about Samuel Gorton’s past, it goes into his persecution that ultimately led to the founding of Warwick, the Pequot War and the less fearsome relationships forged with Native American tribes and how Gorton’s past all connects up through the Revolutionary War, as it also delves into Nathanael Greene, who became George Washington’s most trusted military commander.
“The book for me was a personal discovery, as I went from thinking one thing to realizing I had been right but for all the wrong reasons,” Gorton said. “It corrected my understanding of how our democracy began.”
Gorton began writing the book in 2015 while his daughter was home from college on Thanksgiving break. He wanted to write a book with her before Christmas had passed. Admittedly an “insane goal,” Gorton wound up finishing the first edition at the end of January, 2016. He didn’t originally intend to produce it in large amounts, but was encouraged after close friends told him he had created something special.
Teaming up with Brown Books Publishing, he released an updated version that included more information about Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, two important female historical figures that interacted with Samuel Gorton during the foundational years of the American colonies. The updated version would go on to hit number one on the Amazon bestseller list in early 2017, Gorton said.
“Forefathers & Founding Fathers” is available for purchase at http://forefathersandfoundingfathers.com and on Amazon.