With the help of the community, the legends of Chautauqua Lake’s rich historical background have been memorialized by two local authors.
Kathleen Crocker, a retired secondary English teacher who currently resides in Jamestown, and Jane Currie, a photographer who operates Cadwell’s Cheese House in Dewittville, have teamed up to publish their fifth book, “Legendary Locals: The Chautauqua Lake Region.” The book features 128 pages on nearly 200 individuals who have left their mark on the area, as well as more than 200 vintage and contemporary images.
According to Crocker, the majority of area residents that she and Currie interviewed were extraordinarily helpful and willing to provide as much information as they needed. One of the memorable interviews that Crocker and Currie held was with the mother of Amy King, the 1989 graduate Southwestern High School who was a flight attendant on the United Airlines Flight No. 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center on Sep. 11, 2001.
“I tracked down her mother, who works at the Celoron Moose, and she invited us to Thanksgiving dinner with her other daughters,” said Crocker.
Another favorite research topic of Crocker’s was the War Vets Club in Fluvanna. The land surrounding the club was originally owned by Mahlon C. Martin, a wealthy New Jersey industrialist who built a structure resembling a castle that has been the home of the War Vets since 1945.
“We found that Mahlon used to visit Fluvanna with his sisters and stay at what was the Temperance House,” said Crocker. “There’s a story that one of the sisters ordered an extra piece of pie, and they refused. He was furious and bought the place so he could cut it into three pie-shaped pieces.”
In order to adequately represent each place with a significant person, Crocker and Currie had to accumulate an abundance of research, much of which they didn’t use. The research process consisted of tracking down family members of the legendary locals to hold interviews, scouring libraries and public records, as well as utilizing local historical societies, community foundations and even Linda Carlson, archive librarian for the The Post-Journal. One person who was particularly helpful was Mary Jane Stahley, a retired Bemus Point librarian, who was acknowledged in the book for making significant contributions.
“In all of our books we honor someone, and Mary knows everything – there aren’t many of those people left,” said Crocker.
Also honored in the first chapter of the book are those who have diligently preserved the past, such as: amateur and professional historians, photographers and journalists.
Although the book is about people, and not specifically about places, places play an integral role in the development of the book. Each chapter focuses on a particular location including: Mayville, Dewittville, Point Chautauqua, Maple Springs, Bemus point, Greenhurst, Fluvanna, Jamestown Celoron, Lakewood, Ashville, Stow and the Chautauqua Institution. The places are then represented in the book by residents who aided in it the place’s growth, made significant contributions to, or who remain of interest for their uniqueness.
Some of the notable people represented in the book include: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; Bradley Anderson, cartoonist; Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape artist; Jim Roselle, broadcaster; Arthur A. Bestor, Chautuaqua Institution president; Charlotte Lenhart Johnston, hotel proprietor; Elizabeth Warner Marvin, philanthropist; Roger Tory Peterson, naturalist; Robert H. Jackson, supreme court justice, Reuben Eaton Fenton, governor; Natalie Merchant, vocalist; Russell E. Diethrick Jr., “Mr. Baseball;” Samuel Paladino, businessman; Reginald Lenna; civic center benefactor; Ronald Graham, co-founder of Chautauqua Striders; Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney; Joseph Gerace, supreme court justice; Jonathan O’Brian, director of Camp Onyahsa; Allen E. Peterson, farmer; and many others.
Yet, even though the book covers more than 200 individuals, Crocker said she feels that the book is still only a drop in the bucket as far as how many legends exist within Chautauqua County.
According to Crocker, after writing four books about places in Chautauqua County between 2001-06, the co-authors were weary of writing another book about a specific place. However, Arcadia Publishing, the publisher of the co-author’s four previous books, contacted them about doing a book on people for the “Legendary Locals” series, and the idea piqued their interest.
“I called Jane and I said, ‘This is about people,'” said Crocker. “I then thought to myself, ‘I’m not doing anything right now, and I’m bored to death,’ so I told Jane ‘Let’s do this.'”
The writing process began with a proposal, which informed Crocker and Currie that they were to find one to two photographs for each of the 128 pages of the book. If they only put one picture on a page, they could then write 350 words for that same page, which Crocker loved the thought of doing. However, they realized that if they were to put two photographs on each page, they would write 30 words per picture, and it would allow them to feature more people in the book.
“I wanted to write 350 words for each page, but then you’re only going to get half as many people in,” said Crocker. “Jane and I then looked at a map of Chautauqua Lake and went clockwise around it to the places that had post office boxes because those places were usually named after the family that founded the town. For example, Stow was named after the family that settled there.”
Crocker and Currie then began the search for photographs, which took two years and three missed deadlines. Part of what made the search difficult was that they were asked to only find pictures of people, and almost nothing else.
“One of the biggest problems was Celoron, because all we could find was pictures of the amusement park as it used to be,” said Crocker.
Crocker and Currie are also the authors of four other books about Chautauqua County, which were published by Arcadia Publishing as part of the “Images of America” series. Those books include: “Chautauqua Institution, 1874-1974;” “Chautauqua Lake Region,” “Jamestown” and “Westfield.” In addition to the new book, copies of the former publications are available for sale at Cadwell’s Cheese House, 5386 E. Lake Road in Dewittville.
Crocker and Currie will celebrate the launch of their book on Mother’s Day, Monday, May 12, from noon to 5 p.m. at Cadwell’s Cheese House. Then on Tuesday, June 25, from 5-8 p.m., Crocker and Currie will be featured speakers at the Chautauqua County Historical Society’s picnic at the Lucille Ball Memorial Park in Celoron. And, on Saturday, July 13, Crocker and Currie will host a booksigning that features Brad Anderson and “Jazz Train” and a Woodbury Winery tasting from 1-4 p.m. at Cadwell’s Cheese House.
A future edition of The Post-Journal will feature an op-ed piece written by Cristie Herbst, former editor, regarding her opinion of the book.
For more information, visit www.arcadiapublishing.com or search for “Books by Kathleen Crocker and Jane Currie” on Facebook.