From Ordinary to Extraordinary – The Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas

[Note to ID readers: Below is the first edition, or Part I, of a series of essays I wrote in March, 2018, under the heading above, and posted at the private family blog established by my elder children and their spouses in the same month, same year. This first edition published below – Part I of the series – was written as an explanatory article, or preface, to the series describing, in brief, how I first came to develop an intense interest in the subject at hand over two decades ago. What you shall read below and going forward is a slightly edited version of the original essays. NB that hereinafter all content enclosed in brackets [brackets] was not a part of the original writing; whereas statements enclosed in parenthesis (parenthesis) were originally included as such and remain in their original places. The word count rule I followed throughout the series, with one exception, was to not exceed 1,200 words per article, and to strive to hover as closely as possible to 1,000 words per article. This mainly to accommodate those readers with limited time to devote to reading articles or essays, while facilitating their ability to read the entirety of each part in a single sitting. Each essay is based on the contents of a chapter, or combination of chapters, of the book below mentioned. The book is written for adolescents at the sixth to eighth grade level; its chapters contain between 1,800 and 2,300 words. My plan going forward is to submit one part of the essay series for publication to the ID editors per week, unless otherwise instructed or advised. Without further ado. -TM]

(Note: The following is Part I of a series of short essays I intend to write and publish here at our little blog, commensurate with the book I am currently writing on the same topic.)

A short background on the idea for the book, and the upcoming essays:

Over twenty years ago [roughly 23 years ago] I was first introduced to the character of Matthew Fontaine Maury while engaged in a sort of self-directed private/independent study of the value and merits of homeschooling. Without getting into a lot of facts tangential to the topic at hand, I will just say that homeschooling the kids was not originally my idea at all, but that of my wife. I understood her reasons well enough, and knew there was merit in them as far as they went. Otherwise I was very skeptical [and not a little intimidated by the prospect]. However, I was soon to be enlightened on the subject. And with that enlightenment also came a growing measure of confidence over time. By the time [our eldest son] had advanced to about the third grade level, I had become very intrigued and impressed by the level of success my wife was having and began to do my own investigation. [She] needed a good dictionary for her fledgling little homeschool, and I took it upon myself to go in search of one. Not too awfully long after initiating that search would I run across the facsimile of Webster’s original 1828 edition of his famous dictionary. I placed my order, and eagerly awaited its arrival. When it finally did arrive a couple of weeks later, I began to pour through its rich contents. Included with the package containing the dictionary, though, were several fliers advertising what the authors were calling Principle Approach Education, and work they were doing preparing curriculum guides called The Noah Plan.

Not long after the announcement that the Noah Plan binder was complete did I procure a copy for our little homeschool. And it was from its pages that I first read of the subject of the current essay. When I read the entry concerning Mr. Maury, I was immediately hooked, and had to know more about the man. Thus began a twenty years-long investigation into the man and his character that I pursued whenever time would allow – nights and weekends, or whenever I could steal away a free moment aside from my other studies.

Several years ago [our eldest son and his wife] and I had been discussing interesting events in the life of Matthew Fontaine Maury; most likely in relation to something else or someone else, but I don’t recall the exact nature of those discussions offhand. Nevertheless, at some point during this discussion the idea was raised that I should consider putting these stories together in a book about the man based on my accumulated knowledge of his life and times, and of his voluminous writings. My initial reaction to the idea was basically skepticism as to my meager abilities as a writer, as with my initial reaction to [the wife’s] idea to homeschool the kids way back when. But as my kids (and their spouses) are wont to take “no” for an answer, they just kept working on me until, at length, I took up the motto of General Lafayette: Cur non – “why not?” So I set about to try my hand at writing the book.

As fate would have it, the initial chapters [the first six chapters] of the book were written within a short span of time only a couple of months before [our family] learned that something was seriously wrong with Dad. As we began to make plans and arrangements for moving the family back home to take care of him, the book naturally became relatively unimportant, and I put it completely aside and essentially forgot about it as such. A few months back, however, [our son and DiL aforementioned] began to hint around that they would like for me to finish what I’d started in the book. Eventually I got back into it, and we’re now ten more chapters [fourteen more, as of this date] in, with a glaring light at the end of the tunnel.

I have about [four to five more] chapters to complete before the book is finished. In the meantime, the remaining parts of this essay will be dedicated to highlighting interesting and leading events in the life of one of America’s greatest benefactors, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas. Hope y’all enjoy.

(to be continued in Part II…)

-By Terry Morris

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