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Piling up history

October 2, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

I have "piles." No, not that kind you are thinking. I am blessed with "research piles." Any flat surface in the house is a potential "pile" site, a place to accumulate books, papers, clippings, documents, photos, maps, etc. And, it appears, those piles are like a vacuum, once I take care of one, another immediately takes its place.

In my earlier days, I once visited the late Henry Van Avery, Mayfield historian. He did a great job of keeping history alive and wanted to share his firsthand account of living in the lost tanning village of Griffin. I am glad that he did, it was a good addition to the Griffin story that I wrote for Adirondack Life Magazine and have shared in lectures over the years. Firsthand accounts bring the stories to life.

One of the observations I made during that visit was Henry's "piles." Every chair, table, and floor space on that day was covered with a pile of documents, so much so, that Henry grabbed a pile from a chair so that I could sit down. He explained that each pile was a separate project-a gathering of research information into one location.

Now, I find myself doing the same thing. Someone calls me about an historic Adirondack happening of yesteryears, and yes, somewhere in my accumulation. (My large library has a 1 foot-wide path going through it and I also have some 80 large tote boxes of books and documents along with three floor of books of all kinds.) I have the old clippings, or photos, or documents, thus, the hunt is on and another pile appears. Photos and info need to be gathered for the current Arcadia "Image of America" book I am working on. Depending on the number of chapters there are five or six more piles; I gather them in the small plastic dishpans to keep the photos safe and put them under the couch. Something in a magazine or newspaper interests me or there is something that I need to share with one of our grandchildren, hence, another pile. And there is always a pile of article ideas to write for this Adirondack column along with newspaper to clip and save for future reference.

I have a special pile of information about the Great Sacandaga Lake so I can add to my narrative tour around that history. Another important pile, partially in a tote box, holds descriptive materials on each of my collection of antique tools. Once I find what they are and how they are used, I feel it is important to get it written down before the information is lost; too many of those who made and used the old tools have left us.

I also feel it is important to help other writers and those recording their family histories so I occasionally have a small pile of miscellaneous information. There is nothing more frustrating for a writer than to get something published and then to find out there is more to the story. Over the years, I have contributed free research to the late newspaperman/author Barney Fowler, the late prolific Adirondack writer of several great books, Barbara McMartin, the fire tower and other works of Marty Podskoch, college professor Charles Yaple's "Foxy Brown" book, a yet-to-be-published study of the Great Sacandaga river basin and Adirondack dams, among others, as well as several publications that drew on my published work for their stories. You might say, in the long run, it pays to have "piles!"



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