In her newest book’s closing, Greenwood author Jean J. Park writes she is not a genealogist.
Yet, she’s done a very detailed job, sharing ancestry of her late husband, William John Park, a former president and CEO of Park Seed Co., and his family.
Folded into the family tree narratives are details of bygone times and places in and around Greenwood.
“A Promise Kept” is Jean’s now fulfilled promise to her deceased mother-in-law, Mary Barratt Park, whom Jean called “Mother Park” and “Gran” to finish the genealogy that Mary started many decades earlier.
“Gran was close to death and told me to complete her genealogy,” Park recalls. “She shook her finger and said to me, ‘Do you promise?’ That’s where the name of the book comes from.”
Now 96, writing and seeing to the publishing of a hefty 400-plus page hardback book, complete with lots of historic photographs, is no small feat for Jean, particularly when a global pandemic and a catastrophic house fire could have derailed efforts. Yet, neither did.
Jean had finished the book when the novel coronavirus pandemic emerged but cartons of printed books did not arrive when initially anticipated.
Jean’s home suffered a serious house fire. Luckily, copies of the book were not stored there.
Boxes of books arrived after Jean temporarily relocated to a town home while her house was rebuilt.
“Basically, it is the story of two families, the Jordans and the Barratts,” Jean said in an telephone interview with the Index-Journal.
The way “A Promise Kept” is organized, readers don’t have to read it from page one to the end. It is possible to skip and read chapters of interest, not in chronological order.
Jean culled through boxes of Mary Barratt Park’s family records, letters, photographs and even poetry, written by Mary’s grandfather, Joshua Sceva Jordan.
Jean learned about a female family member, who served as a Baptist missionary in China for decades.
She read about Mary Barratt Park’s great-grandfather and William John’s great-great grandfather, Dr. John Perkins Barratt, and Barratt’s friendship and travels with John James Audubon and other leading scientists of the day.
Dr. Barratt was a physician, naturalist, intellectual, agricultural leader and a president of Abbeville District Medical Society in 1835.
“Dr. Barratt proposed the theory of evolution before Darwin did in 1859,” Jean said. “Dr. Barratt proposed in 1846. He proposed it in front of the Erskine College Lyceum while speaking on natural sciences. He (Barratt) really shook ‘em up. And, anybody will believe there’s a heaven after reading about cousin Estelle Fleming, who was pronounced dead and came alive again.”
“I could not have written this book without finding a history of the Jordan family in her basement after she had died,” Jean said. “It was a big, brown book and went back to the 1600s, to the Rev. Robert Jordan, the seventh great-grandfather of my husband, William John. From there, I worked my way forward and went into the Barratt family, from the Jordan history.”
Those histories impacted more than just two families.
A science building on Lander University’s campus is named after Dr. John Perkins Barratt.
Details in the book highlight an array of people, places and things, including a heroine of the American Revolution, Nancy Butler Brooks.
The book also notes a Midlands area institution for the higher education of women in the 1800s and even glimpses from the last naval battle of World War II.
In the early days of research and writing, Jean let a few close family members and friends give feedback on chapters in progress. Local historian and author Ann Herd Bowen, who died in 2020 and consulted with Jean on “A Promise Kept”, told Jean that completion of it was imperative, because it records Greenwood history not recorded elsewhere and pictures many have never before seen.