The COVID Shutdown. By mid-March 2020 COVID was hitting the U.S. full blast. Everything was looking grim, and things were shutting down–including our community clubhouse. Naturally, that meant that all clubhouse activities were cancelled for the foreseeable future–including my May presentation about the Fountain case. Just about everything was screeching to a halt.
I had submitted a course proposal to a local speaker series for their fall 2020 semester. Unfortunately, their course schedule was full, due to having to go online with their courses. I was rescheduled for the 2021 Winter/Spring semester, when they shifted to virtual classes via Zoom. However, in the fall of 2020 the speaker series notified me that they would not be including my lecture because it was “a little controversial in the current political climate.” Another presentation cancelled!
Well, by that time I had already done a lot of research. Since the Talbot County Free Library was closed–along with the Talbot Historical Society, and just about every other “in person” research facility–I decide to do more online research. Through the Talbot County Free Library website and the Library of Congress website I found that I could access various historical newspapers. I searched for newspaper articles about the Fountain case and found hundreds of articles about the specific case and many more articles about interesting issues related to the main case. There was a lot more to Isaiah Fountain’s story than I originally realized.
The Maryland State Archives was my next stop to get information about the Fountain case. The archives was closed to the public due to COVID, but was still operating with a skeleton staff. I inquired about document relation to the Isaiah Fountain case. I was told that the archives did not have the trial transcripts of the case, but did have some Court of Appeals records and briefs documents relating to the case. However, since the archives building was closed, the staff had no physical access to the documents, so none of the documents could be scanned and sent to me electronically. Another delay!
With the reopening of the archives facility in October of 2020, I was able to order the available documents as a digital file. The archives sent me the file, but the pages were out of order and some were obviously missing. I had a lot of appeal documents, but had no ideal which pages belonged to which document.
I contacted the archives about the missing and out-of-order pages, but due to another shutdown of the archives facility I was not able to get an in-order, properly scanned copy of the Court of Appeals documents until mid-March of 2021. Delayed again!
While I was doing my research in the spring of 2020, a neighbor of mine gave me a copy of his autobiograpy that he self-published. Another neighbor let me read a self-published book that a friend of his had written. A light bulb went off in my head and I decided that I had enough information to write a very interesting book. After reading many books about local history events, I decided that the Isaiah Fountain story was every bit as interesting and significant as many of the other subject I read. I also thought that I could do a decent job of writing a book, just based on the fascinating material about the Fountain case that I had discovered. I just wanted to share Isaiah Fountain’s story. I never thought about making money from a book or even submitting it to a publisher. After all, I wasn’t an “author”, so who would want to publish my book? What chance did I–a “non-writer” and “non-author”–have of ever getting a book published?
The problem was: What did I know about writing a book, much less getting it published? Maybe ignorance is a blessing. I pushed on.