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July 30, 2014
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Books bring community stories to life


Readers will recognize many familiar names and places while discovering new and interesting information. Reminiscent of community cookbooks, which often deliver nuggets of tantalizing trivia, the books are full of interesting notitia. For example, “Yulan townsfolk first requested the name Laurel, but the Post Office rejected their request because there were already too many towns named Laurel. Yulan, Japanese for laurel, was the compromise.”

Linda Leavenworth Bohs, today the pastor of the Eldred and Narrowsburg United Methodist Churches, provided the Civil War letters of the great-grandfather she shares with Smith—Sherman Stiles Leavenworth—which give a sense of the area and the times.

In the chapter, “Letters from a Soldier,” 1861-65, Sherman writes, “We are about 15 miles from the rebels, so close that their cannons can be heard when there is any battles fought. We were cheered all the way through New York, but when we came through Baltimore, we did not get many cheers.”

Other snippets, such as this one from the “Republican Watchman” in 1923, about raftsman William Hallock, reveal the types of concerns that marked community life. “Very unfortunately, Mr. Hallock caught a cold which settled in his eyes. The inflammation became so severe that the eyeballs swelled and bursted and he was blind for 25 years.”

In a letter from Nancy Wallace of Phillipsport, NY to Aida Austin in Eldred, Wallace writes, “Old Mr. Halstead is dead and was buried Sunday. He got cold sitting on the ground while the cow was eating.” She continues, “What do you think of the election? I think it was a regular cheat. I suppose we will have to starve for four years now.”

Following a 30-year teaching career, Smith now resides in Cave Creek, AZ with her husband, who was instrumental in producing the books, from design through production. Smith continues to research and write about family history from the letters, postcards and photos shared by family and friends. Smith’s books, blog and other resources are available at HalfwayBrook.com. She can be reached at info@halfwaybrook.com.